Pear & Almond Cake with Amaretto Caramel Sauce

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My toddler loves pears. Which is why I buy them by the sackfuls. Which is also why I always end up with a bunch of pears that ripen all at the same time. There’s only that many pears we can eat per day! There are oh so many elegant pear desserts I want to try but this particular bunch had gone too soft. Hence this cake.

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You can use bottom of the bowl, overripe pears and still have this cake turn out stellar! It’s a very simple, no fuss recipe. The only work involved is whipping butter and sugar and that only takes about 5 minutes.

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This recipe was originally measured out in grams. I have converted them to cup and tablespoon measures. I have included the weight measurements in italics if you prefer to go that route.

This recipe also mentions Self Rising Flour. You don’t have to rush out to the grocery store to buy a bag, or worse, abandon this project altogether! You just need all purpose flour, baking powder and salt and you can make your own batch of self rising flour. Recipe for that is given below.

Ingredients

For the cake

  • Peeled and roughly chopped pears – 3
  • Unsalted butter* – 1 cup (200 grams)
  • Granulated sugar – 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp (125 grams + 1 tbsp)
  • Large eggs – 2
  • Self rising flour** – 1 cup minus 5 tbsp (100 grams)
  • Ground almonds or Almond meal – 1/2 cup plus 4 tbsp (80 grams)

*If using salted butter leave the salt out of the self rising flour recipe given below

**Self rising flour – Take 1 cup all purpose flour, add 1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt. Whisk to combine. Measure and use as directed

For the caramel sauce

  • Salted butter* – 1/4 cup
  • Light brown sugar – 1 cup
  • Vanilla extract – 1 tsp
  • Amaretto extract – 2 tsp (optional)

*If using unsalted butter add 1/2 tsp of salt to your recipe

Method

The cake

  • Preheat oven to 375 F or 190 degree Celsius. Grease and flour a 9 inch circular cake pan. Make sure all your ingredients are at room temperature and the butter is softened
  • In a medium saucepan melt 2 tbsp of butter. Add 1 tbsp of sugar and stir till it melts. Add the peeled and chopped pears and simmer till they turn brown and the sauce thickens a little
  • In a large bowl add the remaining butter and sugar and whip together using a mixer till it turns light and fluffy. This will take 5 to 7 minutes
  • Add the eggs one by one and whip thoroughly after each addition
  • Add the flour to this mixture in three batches and combine on low speed just until incorporated
  • Add the ground almonds or almond meal and using a spatula stir it gently through the batter
  • Pour the batter into the cake pan. Level with a spatula. Arrange the cooked pears evenly over the surface of the cake. Pour some of the sauce from the saucepan over the cake
  • Bake in a preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes till the cake turns golden brown and a tester inserted into the cake comes out clean
  • Cool the cake in the pan set over a cooling rack. Once it is completely cooled remove from pan

The amaretto caramel

  • Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat
  • Add the sugar and cream and stir. The mixture will foam up quite a bit. Make sure you use a saucepan with tall sides
  • Let it cook for about 5 minutes stirring constantly
  • Add vanilla extract, amaretto and salt (if using) and stir
  • Let the sauce simmer on low heat for 2 to 3 minutes till it reaches the desired thickness. For this cake I prefer an unsalted, slightly thin caramel sauce that pours easily over the cake without clumping

Assembly

  • Place the cooled cake on a cake stand or plate. Pour the amaretto caramel sauce generously over the cake and garnish with additional chopped or slivered almonds

This cake can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for 2 days. Anything longer than that, it will have to be stored in the refrigerator.

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Recipe adapted from Frugal Feeding

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Apple Cinnamon Scones with Maple Glaze

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Is it September already?! I know ‘time flies’ and all that but this year, in particular, has driven by at top speed. I enjoy summer and I’m not ready to say goodbye yet. If there is a silver lining to this whole autumn-winter business it is that baking season is just around the corner. That can never be a bad thing right? Apples, figs, pears and all those warming spices? Yes please! Though, I have to admit, that was not the inspiration for this recipe.

 

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These scones came about because dear old husband bought the wrong brand of applesauce, which the toddler disapproved of in no uncertain terms, and I needed an excuse to use it up. That and the lone apple languishing in my fruit bowl. Don’t be fooled by these humble origins though. These scones are legit!

Tender and crisp on the outside, soft and crumbly on the inside and flecked with  juicy bites of apple that pop in your mouth – this may be my favorite scone version yet!

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They are surprisingly easy to make. You need simple ingredients. You don’t need to bring any of them to room temperature. No need for fancy equipment or elbow grease.

Just add all the ingredients to a bowl, mix till you get a slightly wet dough. Form into two circles and cut into wedges. That’s it! You’ll go from dreaming about scones to having them with your morning coffee in about half an hour.

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Yield – 12 scones

Ingredients

For the scones

  • All purpose flour – 2 cups
  • Granulated sugar – 1/3 cup
  • Baking powder – 2 tsp
  • Baking soda – 1/2 tsp
  • Cinnamon powder – 1 tsp
  • Cold butter – 1/4 cup*
  • Unsweetened applesauce – 1/2 cup
  • Chopped apple – 1/2 cup
  • Half and half – 1/2 cup**

For the glaze

  • Icing sugar – 1 cup
  • Milk – 2 tbsp
  • Maple syrup – 2 tbsp

*I used salted butter. If using unsalted butter add 1/4 tsp salt to the dry ingredients

** If you do not have half and half you can use an equal quantity of milk

Method

  • Preheat oven to 425 F or 218 degree Celsius. Shred cold butter using a grater and place it in the freezer while you get the dry ingredients ready
  • In a large bowl combine all the dry ingredients and whisk to combine
  • Add the shredded butter to this bowl and cut it in using a pastry cutter or a fork. The flour mixture should begin to look a little like sand with pea sized bits of butter still visible
  • Add applesauce and half and half to this mixture and stir with a spatula to combine. You should arrive at a soft dough that is just a tiny bit sticky and still wet. If the dough is too wet add flour one tablespoon at a time till you arrive at the right consistency
  • Add the chopped apples and gently fold them through the dough with a spatula
  • Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and divide it into two halves. Do not knead. Using floured hands flatten each half of the dough into a circle approximately 6 inches in diameter. Cut each circle into 6 wedges
  • Place these wedges on a parchment lined baking sheet at least a couple of inches apart. Sprinkle the tops with a bit of granulated sugar. Bake in a preheated oven for 15 to 18 minutes till they turn golden brown and a tester inserted into a scone comes out dry
  • Transfer them to a cooling rack
  • For the glaze – Add all the ingredients to a bowl and whisk till smooth.
  • Top the scones with glaze while they are still warm and allow the glaze to set for about 5 minutes

These scones are best eaten fresh out of the oven while they are still warm. You can store them at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Warm them up in the microwave for 20 seconds before eating!

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Recipe adapted from The Kitchen Magpie

Almond & Oat Cookies

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I don’t bake cookies as often as I should. I have a long list of cookie recipes that I want to try but have not gotten round to yet. These cookies are on the top of that list. These cookies should, in fact, top every cookie list out there. They’re crisp on the outside and chewy in the middle. They are thin and light. They are rich and buttery. They have almonds and oatmeal (my favorite cookie ingredient).

You see what I’m talking about!

 

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Heads up – this cookie uses up a lot of butter and sugar – that’s where the ‘rich and buttery’ trait comes from. But let me tell you, this cookie is worth every single calorie. I have had half a dozen of these over the weekend and I have no guilt! None.

So quick and easy to make. Just whip butter and sugars, add egg and vanilla and then add the all purpose and oat flour mixture.

 

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Stir chopped almonds through the dough and you’re ready to scoop!

 

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They go oh so well with coffee! I am definitely making these again. With Amaretto. For sure.

 

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Yield – 32 cookies

Ingredients

  • Salted butter – 3/4 cup*
  • Light brown sugar – 1/2 cup
  • Granulated sugar – 1/3 cup
  • Large egg – 1
  • Vanilla extract – 1 tsp
  • All purpose flour – 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp
  • Oat flour – 1/2 cup (directions given below)
  • Finely chopped almonds – 1/2 cup

*You can use unsalted butter too. Just add 1/8 tsp of salt to your dry ingredients

Method

  • Make sure all your ingredients are at room temperature. Preheat oven to 350 F or 177 degree Celsius
  • Pulse half a cup of rolled oats or old fashioned oats in a food processor till you end up with a fine powder. This is oat flour
  • In a medium sized bowl combine all purpose flour and oat flour and whisk to combine
  • In a larger bowl whip butter and sugars together with a mixer till it turns light and fluffy. This takes 5 to 7 minutes
  • Add the egg and vanilla extract and whip again for a minute till they are thoroughly combined
  • Next add the dry ingredients to the wet in three batches, whipping briefly each time to combine
  • Add the finely chopped almonds and stir them through the cookie dough with a spatula
  • Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Using a 1 tablespoon measure as a scoop, drop cookie dough onto the sheet with a gap of at least 3 inches between each scoop. Gently flatten each scoop of dough just a little. These cookies spread a lot!
  • Bake in a preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes till the edges turn golden brown
  • Allow the cookies to cool on the cookie sheet for at least 5 minutes. Then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Do not attempt to move the cookies while they are still warm. They may break. They harden only when cooled
  • Store in an airtight container. If you find that the cookies soften after a couple of days put them back in a 350 F oven for 2 to 3 minutes and they will crisp up again
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Recipe adapted from Chocolate, Chocolate and More

Parmesan-Thyme Focaccia

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I can probably bake cupcakes in my sleep but the thought of baking bread gives me nightmares. After three failed attempts I had almost given up on breads. But like with anything worth having, persistence pays. So does common sense!

Lessons learnt so far- start with simple, basic recipes. Pay attention to technique and the most important one, have patience! Baking bread is so much more rewarding than baking a cake (did I just say that?!) I truly enjoy the process. If you have not done this before, I urge you to give it a shot. It is so worth it!

 

Focaccia is a great place to start. It’s simple and superbly flavorful. You can play around with your choice of herbs and spices. It is a very versatile bread too – you can make sandwiches or just dip it into your favorite soup for a very comforting meal.

You can also bake it in any shape you like. I divided my dough in half after the first rise. Rolled out half into a rectangle to be baked on a sheet tray and sectioned the other half and baked it in my cast iron wedge pan

Yield – One 9 x 14 inch rectangle

Ingredients

  • Warm water (between 110 and 115 F) – 1 and 1/3 cup
  • Honey – 2 tsp
  • Active dry yeast – 1 package (0.25 ounces)
  • All purpose flour – 3 and 1/2 cup + extra as needed
  • Extra virgin olive oil – 1/4 cup plus more for drizzling on the bread
  • Grated parmesan – 1/3 cup
  • Sea salt – 2 tsp
  • Fresh thyme – 6 sprigs (you can use dry too)

Method

  • Take warm water in a bowl. It is advisable to measure the temperature with a thermometer. The optimum temperature for yeast is 110 to 115 F. Add honey to water and stir to dissolve. Sprinkle yeast on top and mix briefly. Set this aside for about 5 minutes till the yeast blooms and the water turns foamy
  •  Use a stand mixer or hand mixer with the dough hook attachment, run it on low speed and gradually add the flour, olive oil, salt and parmesan to the water and yeast mixture. Once it’s all added in run the mixer on medium speed for about 5 minutes
  • If after 5 to 7 minutes, the dough doesn’t pull away from the sides and gather around the dough hooks, add more flour, a tablespoon at a time till it comes together. The dough should not be too sticky
  • Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and gently bring it together into a ball
  • Grease a large bowl and dump the dough ball into it. Now flip the dough ball in the bowl so that the entire ball now has a coating of oil

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  • Cover with a clean kitchen towel or greased cling film and leave it in a warm place to rise. This takes about an hour and the dough will almost double in size
  • Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and gently roll it out into a rough rectangle till it is between 1/4 to 1/2 an inch thick. Place it on a greased baking tray, cover with a greased cling film and let it rise again for 15 to 20 minutes

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  • Preheat oven to 400 F or 204 degree Celsius
  • After the dough has risen, poke deep holes all over it with your finger. Drizzle olive oil generously over the entire surface of the dough. Sprinkle thyme and sea salt over the entire dough

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  • Bake in a preheated oven for 20 minutes. The focaccia will be slightly golden and will easily slide around on the tray when done
  • Slice and serve with more olive oil

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Recipe adapted from Gimme Some Oven

Baked Churros

That’s right! Baked, not fried.

I’ve been wanting to make a baked version of these insanely addictive treats for quite some time now. My mom absolutely loves them and I so wanted to bake her a batch while she was here, visiting us. But every time we went out to eat she would skip the entree and order a plate of churros for herself. I did not want to double up on those calories so I kept delegating this recipe to the bottom of my baking to-do list.

Then I found the perfect motivation. I made a batch of Smitten Kitchen’s Hot Fudge Sauce. This stuff is indeed the bomb. I want to put it over everything! And what goes better with chocolate sauce than churros?

I mean, just check this out!

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It’s easy to make – half an hour from beginning to end – and it’s something you can easily whip up for company. Best part is, no special equipment needed. Just a saucepan, spatula and some elbow grease!

Let’s get started

Yield – 24 Churros each 4 inches long

Ingredients

  • All purpose flour – 1 and 1/3 cup
  • Large eggs – 3 (at room temperature)
  • Unsalted butter – 1/2 cup (If using salted butter leave out salt from the dry ingredients)
  • Light brown sugar – 1 tbsp
  • Granulated sugar – 2 tbsp
  • Salt – 1/4 tsp
  • Water – 1 cup
  • Vanilla extract -1 tsp
  • Granulated sugar with 1 tsp of nutmeg or cinnamon for dusting finished churros – 1/3 cup

Method

  • Preheat oven to 400 F or 205 degree Celsius
  • Add butter, granulated sugar, light brown sugar, salt (if using) and water to a medium sized saucepan and place it on medium heat. Stir occasionally till the sugars and butter melt completely
  • Let the liquid come to a boil and then take it off the heat
  • Add in the vanilla extract and flour to the hot liquid and stir vigorously till a smooth dough is formed and it begins to gather around the spatula
  • Make a well in the center of the dough and and the first egg. Stir vigorously again till the egg is completely incorporated. It takes a couple of minutes. You will see the dough getting smoother and shinier after the egg is mixed in
  • Mix the other two eggs one at a time stirring thoroughly after each addition. Here’s a visual guide. The image on the right was taken after the three eggs were added

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  • Fill the dough into a piping bag fitted with a wide open star tip and pipe the dough in straight lines on a parchment lined sheet tray. I piped them about 3.5 to 4 inches long

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  • Spray or lightly brush the piped dough with oil. Bake in a preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes
  • When done the churros will be crisp and golden brown on the outside and will slide around easily on the tray
  • Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes
  • Take granulated sugar and nutmeg (or cinnamon) in a wide bowl and mix. Toss warm churros in the sugar till they are lightly coated. Serve!

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Notes – These churros are best eaten fresh, right out of the oven. You can dip them in any sauce of your choice – melted chocolate, salted caramel, fudge – all work great! If you want to make these churros in advance, cool them and store in an airtight container. Just before serving, warm them in a preheated oven at 350 F or 180 degree Celsius for 5 minutes and then toss them in the sugar – nutmeg mixture 

Recipe adapted from Cookie Dough and Oven Mitt

Fig Loaf

When your toddler refuses to get within 10 feet of anything that even remotely resembles a berry or dried fruit, you grumble a bit, blame it on her daddy’s genes and then, if you’re like me, you get baking. I find loaf cakes are excellent for camouflaging all kinds of those ‘too healthy to eat’ ingredients that your toddler and/or husband actively avoid. That’s how this Fig Loaf came to be.

It’s extremely easy to make. It goes excellently well with tea or coffee and it makes a great breakfast too! I like it lightly toasted with some chocolate spread and sprinkles on top. Now tell me that didn’t entice you!

This recipe requires you to make a fig puree or ‘jam’. You then add this puree to the batter which gives the loaf cake its pure fig-ey taste. It is a simple process that takes about 10 minutes start to finish.

If you want to forget about the loaf cake and just settle down with a bowl of this and a spoon, that’s okay too. I won’t mind.

UPDATE! I tried baking this recipe with Aquafaba, which is basically water in which chickpeas have been cooked, with fantastic results. Just substitute the egg in this recipe with 3 tbsp of aquafaba and follow the recipe as is. It turns out perfect as you can see from these mini loaves

Ingredients

  • All purpose flour – 1 and 1/2 cups
  • Baking soda – 1 and 1/2 tsp
  • Salt – 1/4 tsp
  • Egg – 1 large
  • Oil – 1/3 cup (Any neutral oil will do. No olive oil)
  • Granulated sugar – 3/4 cup (Can increase to 1 cup for more sweetness)
  • Buttermilk – 1/4 cup
  • Semi-sweet chocolate chips – 1/3 cup
  • Chopped dried figs – 1 heaping cup
  • Brown sugar – 1 tbsp
  • Lemon juice – 1 tsp
  • Water – 1/4 cup
  • Vanilla essence – 1 tsp

Method

First we make Fig Puree

  • In a small saucepan combine figs, brown sugar, lemon juice and vanilla essence and cook over medium low heat. Once the sugar has melted add the water to the figs and cook them down, stirring occasionally. Make sure the figs don’t stick to the bottom of the pan and burn
  • Once the figs turn mushy and begin to break down, take the pan off the heat and allow to cool. Puree the fig mixture, using very little water if necessary, to form a chunky ‘jam’. Set aside

Now onto the bread

  • Preheat oven to 350 F or 180 degree Celsius
  • Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl and set aside
  • In another bowl whip the egg using a hand blender till it turns frothy
  • Add the sugar to the egg and whip till the mixture becomes very pale and fluffy. This takes 2 to 3 minutes
  • Now add the oil and the fig puree to the egg-sugar mixture and whip till it is thoroughly combined
  • Next add half the flour mixture and whip briefly to combine
  • Add in all the buttermilk and whip again
  • Add the remaining half of the dry ingredients and whip till it is all incorporated
  • Using a spatula gently mix in the chocolate chips and make sure there are no streaks of flour in the batter
  • Pour the batter into a greased and floured loaf pan till it is 2/3 full
  • Bake in a preheated oven for 45 minutes. At the 30 minute mark, check on the loaf cake. If the top is too dark, tent the loaf pan with foil and continue to bake till it is done. This ensures that the top doesn’t burn while the cake bakes
  • The loaf cake is done when a tester inserted into it comes out clean or with very few crumbs attached.
  • Allow the cake to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes on a cooling rack
  • Gently invert the pan onto the cooling and let the cake slide out and then allow it to cool completely

NOTES – I used a 7.5×3.5×2.5 inches loaf pan and had a bit of batter left over that made 3 small cupcakes. Every oven is different. Keep an eye on your loaf cake after the 30 minute mark to make sure it doesn’t over bake. Store the loaf cake in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days. Then store it in the fridge.

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This recipe is based on the Fresh Fig Bread recipe over at thespruce.com

Double Chocolate Almond Biscotti

Biscotti has always been popular. With me. I found it puzzling then, that I had not bothered to dedicate even a single post to the perfect coffee companion. The situation had to be remedied.

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I intend to bake a batch every few weeks in the name of recipe testing and if I’m able to hold on to them long enough to take a few pictures, I intend to blog about them too!

I was so excited with the way this batch turned out that I immediately invited a couple of friends over for a session of coffee and taste testing. Huge success!

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When, after downing a couple of biscottis each, they showed no signs of slowing down I grew alarmed. I had to snatch the tray out of their hands and escort them to the door. HA! That saved the day and this blog post.

It’s super simple. Just cream butter and sugar together, add the eggs and whip until fluffy.

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Add the dry ingredients and the chocolate chips and mix just until combined. Shape into a log and bake.

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 Cool and then slice the log.

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Bake again till done. Don’t let the double baking scare you. It’s easier than it looks.

Make it but don’t invite any friends over. At least not the first time.

Ingredients

  • Salted butter at room temperature – 6 tbsp (If using unsalted butter add 3/4 tsp salt to the dry ingredients)
  • Granulated sugar – 3/4 cup
  • Large eggs – 2
  • Vanilla extract – 1/4 tsp
  • Instant coffee powder or strong brewed coffee – 1 tsp
  • All purpose flour – 1 and 1/4 cup
  • Almond flour – 3/4 cup
  • Cocoa powder – 1/2 cup
  • Baking soda – 1 tsp
  • Semi sweet chocolate chips – 3/4 cup

Yield – 20 cookies

Method

  • Preheat oven to 350 F or 175 degree Celsius
  • Cream butter and sugar together with a mixer until light and fluffy
  • Add the eggs in one at a time and whip well after each addition
  • Mix the instant coffee powder with a teaspoon of water and add it to the sugar-butter-egg mixture along with the vanilla. Whip briefly to combine
  • In a separate bowl add the all purpose flour, almond flour, cocoa powder and baking soda and combine with a fork or whisk
  • Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients in three batches mixing well after each addition
  • Fold in the chocolate chips using a spatula
  • Line a cookie tray with parchment paper or foil or a silpat mat. Dump the dough onto the tray and shape it into a log approximately 12×4 inches
  • Bake in a preheated oven for 30 minutes. The log will develop cracks on top and should be firm to the touch
  • Cool the log on a rack for 5 to 10 minutes
  • Carefully slice the log at an angle into 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick slices. You’ll get approximately 20 slices. It is okay if the insides are still a little soft
  • Transfer the slices back to the cookie sheet carefully. Place them cut side down in rows and bake in the oven for 5 to 6 minutes. Turn the slices over and bake again for another 5 minutes until the slices are firm
  • Transfer them onto a cooling rack to cool completely before storing them in an airtight container

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Recipe adapted from the chocolate biscotti recipe at Chocolate Chocolate and More