Cranberry Oat Cookies With Almonds & Chocolate

My toddler likes to think she’s the original cookie monster. She can inhale a whole batch of cookies in a couple of sittings – if allowed to. Though I am not much of a cookie person myself, we do go through quite a few batches around here. I prefer baking cookies that have a savory quality to them. I also need them to taste less like a dessert and more like a healthy-ish snack that wont have me running to closest treadmill after snack time.

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Fortunately, my current food idol, Ottolenghi, has just what I need. His latest release, Sweet, is my favorite bedtime reading. I plan to bake my way through the book and this recipe is a great starting point. It has something for everyone. It is sweet without being excessively so. It’s chewiness is punctuated by the crunch of the nuts. The tartness of the cranberries plays beautifully with the bittersweet notes of chocolate.

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That’s not all. This recipe has the goodness of wholewheat flour and oats. The cookie dough doesn’t need to be chilled before baking and the cookies will stay good for up to a week in an airtight container at room temperature.

Have I convinced you to bake a batch yet? Let’s get started!

Ingredients

  • All purpose flour – 50 grams or 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp
  • White whole wheat flour – 25 grams or 3 tbsp
  • Old fashioned oats – 50 grams or 1/2 cup plus 1.5 tbsp
  • Whole almonds – 50 grams or 1/3 cup*
  • Dried cranberries – 42 grams or 1/3 cup
  • Orange zest – 1/2 tbsp or the zest of a small orange
  • Orange juice – 1 tbsp
  • Unsalted butter – 75 grams or 1/3 cup (softened to room temperature)
  • Granulated sugar – 34 grams or 1/4 cup minus 1 tbsp
  • Salt – a pinch
  • Bittersweet chocolate bar (at least 60%) – 3 oz or 90 grams

*I used slivered almonds instead of whole almonds while testing the recipe and they turned out just as good. You will need 2/3 cup of slivered almonds. You can skip the roasting step and add them to the recipe as is

Yield – 10 to 12 cookies that are 2.5 inches in diameter. Recipe can be doubled

Method

  • Preheat oven to 350 F. Spread the whole almonds out on a baking tray lined with parchment paper and bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes till they’re just roasted. Set them to cool on a rack. Once cooled, chop them roughly into bite sized pieces. Set aside. If using slivered almonds you can skip this step
  • Increase the oven temperature to 375 F or 190 degree Celsius and preheat
  • Rough chop the dried cranberries. Soak them in the orange juice for about 10 minutes
  • In a medium bowl combine the all purpose flour, whole wheat flour, oats, almonds and salt and set aside
  • In the bowl of a mixer cream the butter, granulated sugar and orange zest till it turns light and fluffy and increases in volume. This takes at least 5 minutes
  • Add the flour-almond mixture to the butter-sugar mixture and whip to combine
  • Add the cranberries soaked in orange juice and whip briefly
  • Lightly dust your work surface with flour. Turn the dough out onto it and gently bring it together into a ball
  • Roll the dough out between two sheets of parchment paper or cling film into a rough circle which is 1/4th of an inch thick
  • Using a 2.5 inch cookie cutter punch out the cookies. Using a spatula gently transfer the cookies onto a tray lined with parchment paper. Place the cookies about an inch apart. They do not expand in the oven
  • Bake in a preheated oven for 18 to 20 minutes till they are uniformly golden brown
  • Cool the cookies on the tray for 5 minutes then transfer them to a wire rack
  • While the cookies are cooling, melt the chocolate in a double boiler (set a small sauce pan with an inch of water in it over the stovetop on low heat. Place the bowl with chocolate over this saucepan and stir periodically till the chocolate melts). Set aside to cool slightly
  • Dollop about a teaspoon of chocolate on the cookies and spread it out evenly using the back of a spoon. Set the cookies back on the rack to cool completely and till the chocolate sets
  • The cookies will stay fresh in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week

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Recipe adapted from the Cranberry and Oat Cookies recipe from his latest book Sweet

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Pesto Swirled Bread

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I’ve only recently discovered how therapeutic bread baking can be. Right from activating the yeast to the kneading (oh, the kneading!) to watching it proof – the entire process is so rewarding. Of course it took me a quite a few failed attempts to get to this point. But it was all worth it. A freshly baked loaf of bread resets my mood. Slicing into a homemade loaf, toasting a slice with butter and topping it off with a fried egg….that’s how you need to start your day!

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The pesto swirl just kicks it up a notch. Pesto and bread are a match made in breakfast heaven. I made my own spinach-kale-basil pesto but a store bought pesto will work just as well. Make sure it is not too watery. If it is, cook it down on the stove top on a medium-low flame till it reduces to a thick spread-like consistency. You don’t want any extra moisture or water in your bread, trust me!

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If you’re not a pesto person then go ahead and substitute it with whatever spread you like. Or jam. Or applesauce and cinnamon. It’s a very versatile recipe.

The instructions will seem a little too long and complicated but the actual process is anything but. This is definitely something you can try if you’re new to bread baking.

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Ingredients

  • Warm water – 1 and 1/2 cups
  • Active dry yeast – 2 and 1/4 tsp (one packet or 7 gm)
  • Light brown sugar – 2 tbsp
  • Unsalted butter at room temperature – 3 tbsp
  • All purpose flour – 3 to 4 cups divided*
  • Salt – 3/4 tsp
  • Pesto – 1/2 to 2/3 cup

*You may not need all 4 cups of flour. Start with two cups and add flour gradually  till the dough is just formed as per the instructions given below

Yield – 2 loves each approx 8×4 inches

Method

  • Warm water on the stove top or in the microwave till it reaches 110 to 115 F (43 to 46 degree Celsius). Stir in the brown sugar and sprinkle yeast over it. Stir gently and set aside for 5 to 10 minutes to let it activate
  • In a large bowl add butter, salt, 2 cups of all purpose flour and activated yeast and using a mixer, knead it on medium speed for 3 to 4 minutes
  • With the mixer still running add more flour to the dough 1/4 cup at a time. Stop when the dough starts pulling away from the sides of the bowl and starts to gather around the dough hook
  • Feel the dough between your fingers. It should still be a little tacky but should not stick to your fingers
  • Take the dough out of the bowl, place it on a lightly floured surface and knead with your hands till it turns smooth and elastic. If you feel the dough is too sticky add flour 2 tbsp at a time and continue to knead till it turns smooth. Make sure you don’t add too much flour
  • Grease a large bowl (you can use the one used to mix the dough) and place the ball of dough in it. Turn it once so that both sides of the dough ball are now lightly greased. Loosely cover the top of the bowl with a cling film and set it in a warm place to rise. It should double in size. This takes approximately 45 minutes
  • After it has doubled in size take it out of the bowl onto a floured surface, punch it down and then divide it into two halves. I used two 7.5 x 3.5 inch pans. If you’re using a larger loaf pan you may not need to divide your dough
  • Roll each half of the dough out into a rough rectangle about 1/4 inch thick
  • Spread pesto evenly over the surface of the dough and starting from the short side, roll it up as tightly as you can
  • At this point you can pinch the ends together and place it into a greased loaf tin. You will get spiral swirls of pesto. If you’re looking for a little more drama then you can braid the dough as described below
  • Cut the rolled up dough in half lengthwise leaving about an inch from the top still joined. Twist each cut portion of the dough outwards a couple of times. Then loosely braid these two portions over each other and pinch together at the free end. It will get a little messy but that’s okay. Place this loosely braided dough in a greased loaf tin. Repeat with the other half of the dough ball.
  • Loosely cover the loaf tins with greased clingfilm and set aside in a warm place to rise again till they double in size. This takes 30 to 40 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 F or 180 degree Celsius while they proof
  • Bake the loaves in a preheated oven for 40 to 45 minutes till they turn a deep golden brown on top and sound hollow when you knock lightly on the bottom of the loaf. If they don’t feel hollow put them back in the loaf pans and return to the oven for a further 5 minutes and then check again
  • Once done take the loaves out of the pans and set them on a cooling rack to cool down completely
  • Once cooled you can store them at room temperature covered in two layers of aluminium foil. They will stay fresh for a couple of days. If you need to store them for longer then I would suggest freezing slices of bread. Though I have not frozen bread yet, I’m sure they last much longer that way.

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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