Thursday, December 20, 2018

Gingerbread Brittle

Gingerbread Brittle is a sweet, spicy, melt in your mouth confection perfect for sharing with Santa... Or keeping all to yourself!

When it comes to the finishing touches on my gift baskets every Christmas, I always make sure to include some sort of candy. Some years, I've made as many as 8 different types - from licorice caramels to lemon drops - but since time and space was at a premium, and my giftee list was slightly smaller, I stuck to just a few this time around. Usually, I'm not a huge fan of toffees and brittles - they're too sweet and cloying for my taste, and frankly I'd much rather have a sour key or square of dark chocolate. However, other people seem to love them, and who am I to deny the people of what they want?

This year, I found probably the best option to cover both bases - Gingerbread Brittle. While it is still, undeniably, candy, it is swirled through with a medley of warm, rich spices and has a hint of classic gingerbread bitterness from the molasses as well. Since I used a high-fat European style butter, the brittle had a sheen and almost butterscotchy note too, the best of all worlds! Perfect for last minute gifts or a dessert potluck, it cooks up in a flash (mine was done and cooling in under 10 minutes) and makes enough for a crowd or for wrapping in little plastic bags. As with any sponge toffee or brittle, this uses baking soda to help give it an airy, melt-in-your-mouth texture, and frankly it's my favourite part of the whole brittle making process (hearkening back to the days of baking soda and vinegar volcanoes). After cooling for a few hours, the whole slab looked like textured marble, and it broke up neatly into pieces.

The tiny bit I was able to taste was heavenly - think a lighter, spicier Werthers - and those who received it waxed poetic on it's taste as well. I've even given out the recipe a few times, so now I'm sharing it with you!

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Carrot Cake Biscotti #CreativeCookieExchange

Season's Greetings! Now that we're in the home stretch before the hullaballoo that is Christmas Day, I've been spending days and days packaging up all my gift boxes for friends and family. Of course, being part of a stepfamily that is born and bred Italian, one of the cookies that always finds it's way into the arsenal is biscotti. Like years before, I try to make a variety of more "unusual" flavours, and one of them is an echo of one of my favourite desserts - carrot cake!

The original recipe comes from Colleen of Souffle Bombay - and I must default to her should you be searching for photos of the finished cookies, as I packaged mine up  before remembering to take a photo! However, I can vouch that they look - and smell - fantastic and very much like their namesake. I did make a few changes to the original so that all my guests could enjoy them - namely making the cookies nut free and vegan - but you'd never be able to tell. The chopped raisins add a delicate, fruity sweetness less intense than dates, while the whole wheat flour and oats add a hint of nuttiness that blends perfectly with the spices. Aquafaba (chickpea brine) replaced the eggs and canola oil stood in for the butter, making the batter delicious (and taste-testable!). In place of a glaze or icing (because let's face it I'd never remember to do that) I topped the logs with coarse sugar before baking, lending them a subtle crunch and crust.

Of course, one of the great things about biscotti - any biscotti - is that it lasts a good long while in a tin or sealed bag. The rest of the #CreativeCookieExcange group this month has also come up with some ingenious bake now, serve later options for the holiday tables that I plan on trying out in the new year, since there is always a good reason for cookies!

The #CreativeCookieExchange is baking Cookies That Last in a Tin this month, and we’d love for you to join us!

You can also use us as a great resource for cookie recipes. Be sure to check out our Pinterest Board and our monthly posts (you can find all of them here at The Spiced Life). You will be able to find them the first Tuesday after the 15th of each month! If you are a blogger and want to join in the fun, contact Laura at thespicedlife AT gmail DOT com and she will get you added to our Facebook group, where we discuss our cookies and share links.

Almond Flour Sugar Cookies from A Baker's House
Carrot Cake Biscotti from What Smells so Good?
Cinnamon Chocolate Shortbread from Food Lust People Love
Mexican Chocolate Cookies from Karen's Kitchen Stories
Oatmeal Lace Cookies from The Spiced Life

Monday, December 17, 2018

Orange, Carrot and Rhubarb Preserve

Orange Rhubarb and Carrot Preserve tastes almost like the plum sauce you find in restaurants but with a hint of earthy flavour from homegrown carrots.

While I may not have been up to the usual glut of preserving this year, I did pull in an impressive haul of both rhubarb and carrots. Since there are few recipes that use a ton of either ingredient, I had to do some extra scouting, and what I found I couldn't have been happier with! The original recipe from my old church cookbook called this an "Orange Rhubarb Jam" but the consistency and taste weren't quite what I would call "toast toppable". Instead, what the concoction reminded me of most was a slightly winter-spiced plum sauce. Thick enough to stick onto potstickers, samosas or chicken fingers, thin enough to mix into a stir fry, it's sweet, sour, and just a touch earthy. In fact, the un-canned jars of this combination found their way into all sorts of savoury meals, both as an ingredient and as a condiment.

Whatever you call it, it's definitely a unique addition to the holiday table, and one I would feel 100% comfortable pairing with roasted veggies (like carrots! Or Brussels sprouts) as well as the main meat or protein (this is awesome over baked tofu too). Most importantly, it helped me use up my haul of heirloom carrots and rhubarb before they went bad in a way that didn't take up freezer space - after all, we had to shove a 15 lb turkey in there somehow in with all the other day-to-day items!