My Holiday Tradition

Throughout my childhood, I made at least 30 different kinds of Christmas cookies with Annie, my maternal grandmother, and Oma, my great-grandmother. It was a family tradition and one that I always looked forward to.

We'd start baking Thanksgiving weekend and every weekend until the week of Christmas. Then we'd package the assorted cookies in hand-decorated coffee tins (Annie worked on these all year long and some people returned them in the hopes that their names were "still on the list," while others collected coffee tins for her throughout the year to score extra points!) and we'd give them as holiday gifts from the heart.

This is truly one of my most cherished childhood memories and one that I continue to uphold, in my own way. Although, I admit I do miss Annie reminding me of certain things and giving me hints on how to tell if the dough was "just perfect" or "don't roll the dough too thin or it will burn." But, if I am quiet enough, I can still hear her voice.

In 1993, I started making my own homemade goodie-baskets for friends and each year I change it up a little. Of course, I make my personal favorites (granola, biscotti, rugelach, Oma's date cookies, overnight cookies, chocolate-covered almond macaroons, etc.) and add a few new things (truffles, gluten-free cookies, flavored oils or vinegars, homemade vanilla)—it all depends on my mood or what I think people will like.

I have two recipes for biscotti—one traditional and one double chocolate (that uses cocoa and chocolate chips) and each year I tweak the recipes a bit. But what I love most about the traditional recipe is that it doesn't call for any butter...and in my world, that's a great thing!

Today, I whipped up a batch to sell at tomorrow's farmers market, although if the final product is as good as the dough—they may not make it to the farmers market!

Biscotti is one of my favorite holiday treats and, now, I hope it will be one of your favorites as well.

Buen provecho!

Cherry-Walnut-Pepita Biscotti
Adapted by The Cowgirl Gourmet from the December 1992 issue of Gourmet magazine

Print Recipe

1 1/3 cups (4 ounces) dried cherries, tart
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
Zest and juice of a naval orange
1 cup walnut pieces and halves, toasted
1/2 cup pepitas (raw pumpkin seeds)
1 large egg, beaten, with 1 teaspoon water, for egg wash
1/4 cup demerara sugar (raw, coarse cane sugar), for sprinkling on the top of the logs

Soak cherries in boiling water to cover in a bowl until softened, about 10 minutes. Drain, then pat dry with paper towels.

Put a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Butter and flour a large sheet pan or use a silpat so biscotti logs do not stick.

Whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt and orange zest in a large bowl. Add eggs, vanilla and orange juice and beat with an electric mixer at medium speed just until a dough forms. Add cherries, walnuts and pepitas and mix at a low speed. Dough will be a little wet.

Turn out dough on a well-floured surface and knead several times to incorporate all of the fruit and nuts evenly. Halve dough. Using floured hands, form each into a slightly flattened 13x2 inch log on baking sheet, spacing logs about 3 inches apart. Brush logs with egg wash and sprinkle liberally with demerara sugar for added texture.

Bake until golden, 25 to 35 minutes. Cool logs on baking sheet for at least 20 minutes, but leave the oven on.

Transfer a log to a cutting board and using a serrated knife (preferrably off-set), cut on the diagonal into 1/2-inch-thick slices.

Arrange slices in one layer on the baking sheet, and it's fine if the slices are touching.

Bake, turning once, until golden and crisp, about 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer biscotti to racks and let cool.

Note: You can use cranberries in place of the cherries and pecans or almonds for the walnuts. And feel free to drop in a few white chocolate chips as well or dip half of a biscotti in white chocolate. Be creative. Store biscotti in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week and keep in mind that, like soup, biscotti gets better after a day or two.
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