brunch, desserts, snacks

chocolate-covered cherry, apricot, + walnut biscotti.

chocolate-covered cherry, apricot, + walnut biscotti.

It’s American Thanksgiving week, friends! Are you hosting this year? Are you stoked about your menus? Have you thought about what you’ll do with the leftovers yet? Of course you have, because that’s what food-centric individuals do this year: focus 100% of their efforts on the prepping, pre- and post-game, and general food merry-go-round which revolves around the main event happening this Thursday. Hooray for Thanksgiving, I say.

In a stunning break from tradition, I’m not making Thanksgiving this year. Mr. Table decided it would be a nice to “give us a break” this year (remember that phrase for later, folks) and booked us a house at the lake for a few days. We’re going to a full-blown thanksgiving buffet: something I’ve never before experienced, but I have high hopes, if only for the “now I’ve done it” reason. There’s some sort of bonfire happening later in the evening, with s’mores and cookies, and then I think there’s a tree-lighting, and then this girl will be spending the rest of the weekend alternating between the fitness center on the property and the plethora of books I plan on taking (any book suggestions are welcome). Overall, it should be a really relaxing weekend for all of us.

chocolate-covered cherry, apricot, + walnut biscotti.

Except for this: we are having Thanksgiving dinner at the restaurant, which means…right. Exactly. No possibility of leftovers. Do you know what Mr. Table’s solution for this is? I bet you do! Yes, friends: Mr. Table has decided it’s only right if I cook up an entire thanksgiving dinner ahead of time to take along with us. To use as leftovers. Can you feel what my face looks like right now as I type this? The slightly amused squint, the pursed lips, the head tilt, the “You make an excellent point, but I’d kinda like to strangle you?” thoughts running through my head? I know you can.

chocolate-covered cherry, apricot, + walnut biscotti.

So – as it turns out, there’s no escaping thanksgiving for food people, even when they physically leave town. And ultimately, I’m okay with that: making it ahead of time allows for more hours to execute and it doesn’t have to culminate with everything getting done at exactly the same time. And yes, okay, I get to cook Thanksgiving, and I do like doing that, so it works. I’m not mad.

Because of all this, I haven’t been so focused on the dinner plans, and instead I’ve found myself thinking about the things people don’t think to do on Thanksgiving. Sometimes breakfast falls by the wayside, maybe appetizers get overlooked, and so on. Baked goods normally make nice host/hostess gifts, but who honestly wants more food on Thanksgiving? Allow me to offer up a potential solution: nice gift to make for any gatherings you plan to attend, or maybe even just a nice gift for yourself for this weekend.

chocolate-covered cherry, apricot, + walnut biscotti.

Biscotti. Before you pshaw my idea, remember: if you’re thinking about store-bought biscotti, that stuff is terrible, and it doesn’t even remotely resemble their home-baked counterparts. Have you ever made biscotti? So easy…virtually impossible to screw up, and once you know the basic ratios, you can add anything you want to it. I made you this one: it’s supposed to resemble fall leaves. It’s got apricot and cherry running through it – two flavors you’re bound to miss from the summer and which also are exceptionally cold-weather appropriate – alongside toasty walnuts, all housed in an almond-tinged dough. Oh, and I dipped them in chocolate and sprinkled them with tiny leaf sprinkles, so there’s that too; a festive touch which you could leave off, but it does make them fun. I used Chocoley for this project, because hey; it makes it easier – their chocolate hardens so rapidly, you won’t have any weird-looking runoff, and they’ll look perfect from all four sides.

chocolate-covered cherry, apricot, + walnut biscotti.

Yeah, I know some biscotti is boring: this one is decidedly not. I packed it with things: this dough is at max capacity and I can guarantee that every bite will yield at least one or two nuts and one bite of fruit. One recipe makes 20 to 24 pieces, so if you have several places to go this weekend, grab 4 or 5, package them up and tie them with a bow, and you’re set, with a few leftover for yourself when you get home. They’re the perfect, not-too-sweet treat with your after-dinner coffee, or hey: go wild and eat them for breakfast. They’re also excellent with hot chocolate, which gives the kids something to dip them in. Fun for everyone, as Thanksgiving weekend should be.

chocolate-covered cherry, apricot, + walnut biscotti.

Happy holiday week to you! I may see you again before the Big Event, but it depends on how fast Mr. Tables Leftoversgiving comes together. Wishing you a very happy weekend, and good luck to you cooks! Not that you need it, but just remember to breathe, and let yourself enjoy the day: it’s a statistical probability that you massively screw up one dish. Last year, I had to scrape marshmallow ashes off the sweet potatoes, so it happens. You can do this.

Basic dough recipe adapted from Canadian Living Magazine (because Movita Beaucoup sent me their holiday issue one year and it still lives on my cookbook shelf because I love it that much), but I take full credit for the flavors found inside.  Oh! This is also the part where I tell you that Chocoley doesn’t pay me for this: I actually really like their product. In fact, I’ve done way more experimenting with melted chocolate things thanks to how easy it is to work with and how beautiful it looks. And the flavor? It’s legit chocolate, people…none of that inferior candy melt stuff. Besides, it’s a family-run small business, and I dig that about them.

Chocolate-Covered Cherry, Apricot, + Walnut Biscotti*

  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 teaspoon pure almond extract (I love Penzey’s almond extract for this; it has less of a candy-like flavor than most)
  • 1/2 cup dried tart cherries
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots
  • 1 cup walnuts, rough chopped
  • 12 to 14 ounces Chocoley Bada Bing Bada Boom Extra Dark Candy and Molding Formula, for dipping (or use regular dark, or even milk chocolate: this is about you and what you like)
  • Mini Fall Leaves edible confetti (which I also received from Chocoley: if you’ve been on their website, you would know that their sprinkle game is TIGHT) – optional, but fun

*I mean it when I say these biscotti could be anything: go wild! The world is your biscotti. To customize, simply switch out a) the extract, b) the fruit, and c) the nuts. I plan to do a future post with some suggestions, but use the ratios and build your own from there: be sure to think about how everything will work together. You can also add citrus zest here too, if you feel like it: I’d go with a max of 2 teaspoons for this recipe.

And a little side note, to make sure you see it. I mention this at the bottom, but if you plan to give these as gifts but you make them way ahead of time, I would suggest freezing them (as needed: depends on time frame) without their chocolate coating. A day or two out from gifting, thaw them and then chocolate/sprinkle them: that way the chocolate is fresh, there’s no condensation issues, and everything looks and tastes the best. 

Make the biscotti:

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line a half-sheet pan with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt, set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar and eggs until combined. add melted butter and almond extract and stir to combine; mixture should be homogenous.

Add flour mixture into wet ingredients, folding the batter with a rubber spatula until combined. Add in dried fruit and nuts and fold to incorporate: at this point your dough will have a lot going on, so it’s important to make sure everything is evenly distributed. Patience and a firm hand is required, but it’ll get there.

Pat dough into a round ball and divide into two equal parts. Shape each dough into a long rectangle – 10 inches long and 3 to 4 inches wide – on the prepared sheet pan (it’s much easier to work directly on the pan versus transferring after the fact). Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 to 22 minutes, until lightly golden and cooked through. Remove and transfer entire pan to a wire rack for 10 minutes.

TURN YOUR OVEN TEMPERATURE DOWN TO 300˚F. I don’t mean to yell that, but if there’s one thing I forget to do  in recipes, it’s to turn the oven down when I’m supposed to.

Once cooled sightly, carefully (support the biscotti!) transfer one loaf to a cutting board. Using a large, sharp, thin knife (I like a Santoku for this), slice into 3/4-inch slices at a 45-degree angle. Have a slightly damp towel at the ready for wiping the blade: a crumb-free blade makes for clean slices. Lay each biscotti (biscotto?) cut-side down on your prepared sheet pan (like the sheet pan the biscotti loaves just came off of). Leave a 1/2 inch or so between them: they won’t expand any more, but they need a little breathing room. Repeat with the other biscotti loaf.

Slide the pan back in the oven and bake for another 20 to 22 minutes until biscotti are crisp; not darkened, but they’ll be firm, like a crispy cookie. Remember they firm up even more once cooled, and you don’t want people breaking their teeth on them. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Dip the biscotti:

Here’s where you listen to me, because I really have my dip game down. First, throw any sheet pan large enough to hold all your finished biscotti in the freezer for 10 minutes. Line it with parchment when it comes out.

In the meantime, melt your chocolate according to directions: it’s a simple heat the water in a double boiler / remove from heat /set chocolate in on top of the double boiler to melt / stir process…you know the drill. When it’s ready, transfer the top of the double boiler to your work area and grab a regular spoon, which you’ll use with the chocolate. Pour sprinkles into a small bowl (they’re easier to sprinkle with your fingers versus shaking them out of the jar). Make sure everything in your work area is a) ready for action and b) arranged in a reasonable and practical way.

Remove your frozen sheet pan and line with parchment. One by one, take the cooled biscotti and hold it at the top. Hold the biscotti over the top of the double boiler and use the spoon to scoop and pour the liquid chocolate over all sides of the biscotti bottom, coating maybe the bottom 2 inches of it, turning it round to make sure everything is completely coated. Once that’s done, hold it vertically and wiggle it to shake off any excess chocolate drips – this keeps the chocolate from making a mess and also keeps crumbs from getting in the chocolate below. Hold the biscotti over the prepared sheet pan, grab some sprinkles in your pinched fingertips, and sprinkle it over all sides of the biscotti, rotating until it’s decorated the way you want. Set onto the baking sheet. Repeat until everything is coated and decorated, then place entire pan in the fridge or freezer to completely set for about 15 to 20 minutes…it goes pretty fast.

Once set (and as long as your house isn’t achingly hot or humid) these can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for 1 week – or two, but I prefer to freeze them if they’re going to be out any longer than that. Alternatively, if you ARE making these enough ahead of time that you know you’ll be freezing them, I’d suggest freezing them without their chocolate. When you’re ready to package them up, simply remove, thaw, and cover in chocolate.

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  • Reply Faygie November 24, 2014 at 1:35 pm

    Yum! I’ve only made biscotti once before and I loved them! I’ll need to give these ones a try.

    This Thanksgiving is going to be interesting – it’s my first as a vegetarian, and I’m making a completely meat-free meal. I can get away with it because we don’t have any guests coming 😉 The husband didn’t sound so thrilled about it, but oh well. I figure that since I’m the one who plans the menu, shops for the food, and does all the cooking, I can make what I want 🙂 So on Friday he’s going to make a big pot of beef chili for himself and the girls to have for dinner that night (I’ll happily eat leftovers from Thanksgiving). I’m keeping the menu small – just a main, 2 sides, and dessert – but I’m really looking forward to it!

    Wishing you and your family a wonderful (and relaxing) holiday!!

    • Reply shannon November 24, 2014 at 4:34 pm

      They were really good: i was surprised by how much the apricots (which sometimes are so subtle) really came through, and the cherries also. a nice set of flavors, i think.

      I’m stoked about your vegetarian thanksgiving! Dana just said she’s doing vegetarian thanksgiving also, and i want to hear the full rundown of how it goes and what you do. Tim would be less than thrilled if i did a meat-free thanksgiving, but the only meat we have is the turkey, which i have set aside in favor of a plateful of sides. He’ll be okay: i trust your cooking is amazing, and will distract from the absence of meat. I bet he’ll be pleasantly surprised. Happy thanksgiving to you and your family! Hope you get some relaxing in as well. 🙂

  • Reply Dana Staves November 24, 2014 at 1:55 pm

    How lovely! Homemade biscotti is such a game-changer – this recipe looks fantastic.

    I went to a Thanksgiving buffet in high school. My parents took us to a bed & breakfast, and all the guests (and the family that owns the place) went to a buffet. It was AWESOME. But yeah, no leftovers. This year, we’re doing vegetarian Thanksgiving. Should be interesting. We’re seriously excited.

    But books! For your trip! I recommend 2AM AT THE CAT’S PAJAMAS, YES PLEASE (Amy Poehler’s memoir), and ROOMS by Lauren Oliver. Recently read all of those and thoroughly enjoyed them. 🙂

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family! I hope you have a blast!

    • Reply shannon November 24, 2014 at 4:30 pm

      I AM NOW TOTALLY AMPED FOR THANKSGIVING BUFFET! thank you! I’ve been apprehensive only because being skeptical is just something i do, like a hobby, but you just never know. Now i’m eagerly anticipating it.
      Vegetarian thanksgiving! I’m interested and i want to know what you end up making and how you like it. I always feel like i halfway do “vegetarian thanksgiving” myself b/c i have forgotten to eat turkey in favor of sides, all of which are vegetables, no meat. I can’t wait to hear the rundown! Happy thanksgiving to you and Amanda and your families! I’m sure it’ll be a great one.

      Book recs! When i typed that i thought “i really hope Dana sees this b/c she’s going to be my person for this request” and you came through! the telepathy worked; what would i do without you. There was one also you read a few months back (i wrote it down) that i was thinking about as an option too, but the title is escaping me. i’ll find it. Thank you!

      • Reply Dana Staves November 24, 2014 at 9:52 pm

        Happy I could help! And I’ll be writing about my veg Thanksgiving because I’m determined to get back to my blog and quit making it so precious and just do it, you know?

        But in the meantime, enjoy the family time and the food and the books! 🙂

        • Reply shannon November 25, 2014 at 7:39 am

          I hate to be dramatic (lie: i LOVE to be dramatic) but you just said the words i needed to hear regarding blogging. Evidently you and i are both suffering from Precious Disease. I’m almost POSITIVE this will spawn an email to you so look out. 🙂

  • Reply Ashley November 24, 2014 at 2:24 pm

    I can totally picture the face when you learned you were leaving to take a break but still needed to make an entire Thanksgiving dinner for leftovers. It’s genius, of course, because we love T-day leftovers. But it’s hilarious.

    I participated in my first Friendsgiving this year and got to make whatever I wanted…which turned out to be from scratch green bean casserole, the traditional cranberry chutney (of your dreams), and an entirely new recipe for pumpkin pie (crust and filling) that I’d wanted to test out but was afraid I wouldn’t like it. It’s funny, I don’t mind “wasting” a new recipe on others, but am too afraid to do so for myself. For actual T-day, I’m in charge of 2 pumpkin desserts (pie and cheesecake), a Brussels side (from BA magazine), and corn pudding for Eric. You’re so right (as usual), this is what we’ve been obsessing over and planning leftoversgiving. Then it’s on to Christmas cookie plotting…

    Hope you and the family have a wonderful holiday!

    • Reply shannon November 24, 2014 at 4:25 pm

      i mean, mr. table had a point: leftovers are everything. hard to argue. but yes, totally the way it was presented. like “OMG YOU DESERVE A BREAK NO COOKING!” and then like, cue the magical leftovers? lol.

      Oooo, Friendsgiving: i don’t know that i’ve ever done one of those (maybe because the vast majority of my friends live across the nation/globe) but i’d love it. that sounds amazing! Very ambitious, and i agree: i don’t like ‘wasting’ a recipe on myself either…a group is much better for that. I don’t know what sounds better: the Friendsgiving or the actual thanksgiving, but can i come to both? i wish. 🙂 Let me know how it all turns out! We need to catch up anyway, girl. Happy thanksgiving to you and Eric!

  • Reply natalie @ wee eats November 24, 2014 at 2:59 pm

    I love this biscotti and those ADORABLE sprinkles! Dipping it in chocolate really does take it to a whole nother level. and I can’t wait to hear about your thanksgiving buffet! and the trip! I say you buy Mr. Table a premade thanksgiving plate from Trader Joes and let that serve as his leftovers THIS IS YOUR VACATION TOO! <3

    • Reply shannon November 24, 2014 at 4:21 pm

      yay! i like those wee fall leaves also: such pretty colors, and i really want to throw them onto a cake next year. i think the dipping makes them fancy: they’re sort of fancy anyway, but it’s like you really cared b/c you took the time to dip them…sort of like those chocolate-dipped candy canes.
      Well, so here’s the compromise: i’m not taking and cooking anything there: i’m cooking it tonight and tomorrow, freezing it, and then packing it in a cooler for the drive. so does that count? b/c when i sit my booty in the car seat to head down there, all cooking will be DONE. and yes, i will then be on vacation. 🙂

  • Reply John@Kitchen Riffs November 24, 2014 at 3:44 pm

    Thanksgiving is our favorite meal to cook! And when we’re guests at someone’s house for Thanksgiving–as we are this year–we’ll make the same dinner anyway a couple of days later. Second Thanksgiving, we call it. It’s fun! After all, we can’t do without leftovers–they’re the best part of the meal! 😉 Oh, and terrific looking biscotti! I almost never make this, and should–you’re right that the store bought stuff is terrible. This, however, is the polar opposite of terrible

    • Reply shannon November 24, 2014 at 4:19 pm

      I love hearing that you’ll make your own thanksgiving even AFTER going to someone else’s thankgiving! That’s food love right there. Leftovers are really the best, which is why i can’t complain: it seems wrong to just eat thanksgiving at a restaurant and be done with it.
      Thank you! I get frustrated with the store bought sort – more so when people assume that’s what all biscotti tastes like. A shame, really, when it’s super easy just to make it at home. 🙂 I hope you and Mrs. KR have a happy thanksgiving!

  • Reply Monica November 25, 2014 at 9:22 am

    Hi Shannon – I’m loving your no-cooking/still-cooking Thanksgiving! I have a somewhat similar story. I have been on turkey duty the last handful of years, trekking my turkey, gravy and other contributions to my brothers. Cooking that turkey has been getting on my nerves, to tell you the truth…love the sides but I wanted to pass the turkey baton on. Long story short, I am not on turkey duty this year so I am much more relaxed. The sides and desserts are way more fun. However…this will sound contradictory but I had a pre mini-Thanksgiving at home on Sunday, just the 3 of us…I roasted a small turkey breast and such…it was nice and relaxing. : )
    And I love biscotti!. I may be the only person who likes the break-your-teeth kind but I think it’s time to try the ones like yours that have a bit of butter and is softer. They sure look delish!

    • Reply shannon January 6, 2015 at 9:26 am

      Hi Monica! I think it’s great that you passed the turkey baton on to someone else this year: truly, any part of thanksgiving that seems tedious can drag down the whole experience of making food, so i think it’s great that you got to focus on sides and not the main event (they’re always more fun anyway, i completely agree.) And you know what, that’s not contradictory at all: there’s so much less pressure (and usually less in the way of time constraints) when you just do a mini-thanksgiving for your own family, don’t you think? i actually had fun this year making our “portable thanksgiving” over a few days’ time versus all at once; much more relaxing, and i’m happy your holiday was too. it’s like we did twin thanksgivings! I’m definitely considering making it our new thanksgiving tradition. 🙂
      I’m cool with the break-your-teeth variety too: in the world of baked goods, there’s something to be said for extra-crispy things, i think. but these are yes, a little easier to handle for those of us who aren’t willing to put our dental work at risk. 🙂 They were a hit, for sure! i think the generous amount of dried fruit and subtle almond flavor went over really well, even with those who weren’t super big fans of biscotti. I’ll definitely be making them again.

  • Reply Brianne November 25, 2014 at 8:06 pm

    I love that you’re getting away for the holiday. I didn’t know that was a thing, and I’m so into it. I’m into these biscotti, too–I had a terrible experience with the first and only batch of biscotti I’ve ever baked and have been hesitant to try it again. This sounds like a contender for a second attempt. I just read Like Water for Chocolate–an oldie, but a goodie. This weekend I’m starting The Bees, a dystopia set in a honey bee hive. I love dystopias and I love bees, so it should be good. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!!

    • Reply shannon January 6, 2015 at 9:33 am

      I’ve never been away for Thanksgiving: like ever, unless you count the one year we went to FL for thanksgiving, but that was just with my family so it was sort of the same thing. I had never once been ‘out” for thanksgiving, however: always a home-cooked meal. There were definitely pros and cons to this year’s Thanksgiving. was the food as good? Nope, which made mr. table extra happy that i had brought our own miniature thanksgiving feast. Was it way more relaxed and fun? YES, girl, YES: I didn’t lift a finger except to throw rolls of cinnamon and orange rolls from a tube into a dish to bake them that morning, we got to hang out in a frigging ARCADE with SKEE BALL in between thanksgiving dinner and the bonfire that night, and i shopped, ran laps on a dock overlooking the water, there were seagulls, and i didn’t have to clean up one. single. thing. I would do it again, but i would also take the food again, as well. 🙂
      I’ve had some bad biscotti situations here, but i’ve had some good ones: the bad ones do make you hate life for a second, and they definitely would make me not want to try it again, too. but if you do, this one is a solidly good recipe, and i don’t think it will disappoint you: it’s what biscotti should be, which is packed with fruit and not super tough. also pretty easy to throw together, which was nice.
      Like Water for Chocolate! That is an oldie, for sure, but i loved that book. I”ll have to look up The Bees: i sort of love dystopias too (part of my continuing love for sad, melancholy stories or terrifying glimpses into the future), and it sounds like i’d like that book.
      happy everything to you and your family too! obviously it’s been 8389 weeks since i wrote this post and it took me way too long to get back into the swing of things, so i hope in the meantime you had a lovely holiday season. 🙂

  • Reply Jennie @themessybakerblog December 4, 2014 at 10:59 am

    That clever Mr. Table. So, what he meant was Mr. Table gets a break while Shannon cooks? That sounds like Squirrel. There’s no way he’s missing out on leftovers. So, how was said buffet?

    • Reply shannon January 6, 2015 at 9:37 am

      i don’t even know how they do it, Jennie but they do, right?

      The buffet was…a buffet. lots of choices, but those choices were somewhat mediocre. Some of that could be chalked up to sentimental flavors you’re just used to on thanksgiving, but other times (stuffing that was almost liquified and was so utterly devoid of flavor it actually felt like you were eating less than nothing), it was just food you’d expect when a restaurant is pumping out gallons of servings at a time, i guess. No standouts, except for a random bread pudding filled with apples and cinnamon that was the star of the show. It was like they tried, but i think this buffet was “tradition” for a lot of people b/c it was in one of the big resorts where we were, and it had a lot of things to do on that day aside from the actual eating. so less about the food, more about the good time, and we certainly had a great time, despite the food.

  • Reply elizabeth December 5, 2014 at 9:12 am

    I have to say that your reaction was far more measured than mine would have been. 🙂 But one the nice things about not having to cook the meal is we can focus on other parts of it, like appetizers and desserts (both which we provided this year, come to think of it). It’s an easy way to mix things up without upsetting Tradition.

    Can’t wait to hear about your Leftoversgiving!

  • Reply shannon January 6, 2015 at 9:44 am

    You know, at some point you just have to go with it, i guess: or i did, knowing that it felt more relaxed than the alternatives (staying and cooking the big dinner here, having to listen to grumbling when mr. table realized there would be no leftovers, etc). 🙂 I think my biggest beef is that we just don’t have the massive crush of people needed to make my thanksgiving food dreams worth it, if that makes sense: I want to make all the things, and really, it just ends up being a ton of work and food for like 6 people, which kinda sucks because at least if there was a huge gathering, maybe that time would feel more “worth it.” aaaand that’s me complaining. 🙂
    focusing on apps and desserts would be totally fun: it’s nice to have maybe a section of the meal to really throw your efforts into rather than spreading them out over the whole thing, i agree.
    our Leftoversgiving was really great: a nice break in the day to day action around here, a refreshing day for me because i didn’t break out in a sweat trying to cook everything all at once. The buffet was mediocre (that’s being generous) but the day and the activities of the day were wonderful: it felt like an actual day off holiday, for once, for ME, and that was pretty amazing. it was unseasonably warm here as well, which made the decision to head to a lakeside condo brilliant: i got to run on the docks by the water, there were seagulls and a warm sun, etc…so pretty delightful, overall. I would do it again.

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