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Cate’s Favorite Christmas Cookie: Soft Biscotti

Cate’s Favorite Christmas Cookie: Soft Biscotti

I am not a baker. I love to cook… experimenting with flavor, different equipment, various techniques… all of it. I love it.

Baking? Eh. Not so much. In fact, my teenager’s first “job” was to do all my baking, since she loves it. Birthday cakes for her siblings, cookies for bake sales, cupcakes for class parties — she did it all.

Except at Christmas. There’s something about tradition and the smells of cinnamon and almond and cloves that helps get me in the mood for the holidays and willing to roll up my sleeves, don my mother-in-law’s Christmas apron, and plug in the KitchenAid. Pretty much the only time of the year it gets used.

I try new treats now and then, but I have a standard repertoire of favorites. Pfferneusse, ginger crinkles, spritz, jam thumbprints, and stollen lead the pack. Of course we also make sugar cookies, but that’s for the kids. I’m not really a big fan. Same with peanut butter blossoms, you know, those cookies with the Hershey kiss stuck in the middle? No thank you.

I’ve also made quick breads, fudge, bark, and biscotti, mostly to give as gifts. This year, I happened upon a soft biscotti cookie recipe while looking for something quick and tasty to whip up for my oldest son’s book club. Which was happening the next day, of course. I was thisclose to just buying a bag of Milanos and calling it a day, but I’m so glad I didn’t because–

Oh. Mah. Gawd.

They were so flipping delicious. Soft, sweet, melt-in-your-mouth goodness. I had to make them again. And again.

Now, one of the reasons I prefer cooking to baking is the ability to improvise. Cooking is art; baking is science. And I am not a scientist. However, I did make a few improvisations with this recipe and to my delight and surprise, they worked very well!

So here is the recipe for Soft Biscotti Cookies, adapted from The Merchant Baker. I highly recommend checking out her original recipe — she has video tutorials that will help even the most novice of bakers master this one!

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Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 sticks salted butter
  • 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla butter nut flavor (*It’s come to my attention that vanilla butter nut is now known as “Cake Batter” by the McCormick brand. Just FYI)

For the icing:

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • In a mixing bowl, beat butter for 30 seconds or until softened, then add sugars and beat until combined.
  • Add eggs and vanilla and beat until incorporated. Then add flour and baking powder and mix on low until combined.
  • On a lightly floured surface, take a scoop of dough and roll out into a long log about 3/4″ thick. Cut long roll into 2″ lengths.
  • Place on your cookie sheet about an inch and a half to two inches apart.
  • Bake for 6-10 minutes. Cookie should be firm and set to the touch, but not too brown on the sides or bottom.
  • Cool for a couple of minutes on the cookie sheet, then remove to a wire rack to finish cooling. Make icing by combining ingredients until mixture is smooth and thick enough to hold to cookie. If too thick, add more liquid. Too thin, add more icing sugar. A little at a time!
    To ice: Dip top of cookie into icing mixture. Scrape off any excess on side of bowl. Place on cooling rack over a cookie sheet (to catch drips). Sprinkle before icing sets. Once firm (about 2 hours later), store in fridge or eat right away!

Great-Grandma Rose’s Secret Lemon Cake

When I first met my husband, my culinary skills were limited to Hamburger Helper (Tuna Helper, if we wanted to be fancy), chicken breasts covered in Italian dressing, and Chicken Paprikash (my grandmother’s recipe, which is still a favorite in my house). He, on the other hand, had a wealth of kitchen knowledge to draw upon thanks to his mother. And thanks to her, I slowly learned to broaden my repertoire and become more comfortable in the kitchen. Since those early newlywed days, I’ve become much more creative and savvy, and it’s primarily thanks to my mother-in-law. Also Gordon Ramsay.

Writing Juliet and Nate’s story, Love Me Harder, was so much fun because I got to indulge in my foodie-loving side. For research purposes, of course. I also wanted to pay homage to my mother-in-law in a small way. Mom Tayler loved lemons, so when I had to come up with a recipe from Nate’s family to incorporate into the story, I chose a lemon cake.

In the story, it’s Nate’s Great-Grandma Rose’s Secret Lemon Cake. It serves as his brother’s wedding cake and Nate bakes one for Juliet to show her his love. Unfortunately, he doesn’t get to properly present it to her and is forced to leave it cooling in her kitchen. It’s the one thing of his Juliet keeps after their “black moment”. (You’ll have to read for yourself what happens!)

Here is Nate’s Great-Grandma Rose’s Secret Lemon Cake with Lemon Butter Frosting. I’ve adapted the recipe from a couple of different sources, including the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book. See if you can guess Grandma Rose’s secret ingredient. And no, it’s not love.

GREAT-GRANDMA ROSE’S SECRET LEMON CAKE

Ingredients

  • 2 ¼ cups cake flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tbs limoncello
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • Lemon zest or candied lemon peels for garnish. Can also use sliced almonds or ground nuts, or crushed graham crackers, for a little crunch.

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350⁰F
  2. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl and whisk together.
  3. Add eggs, oil, lemon juice, and limoncello. Beat until smooth.
  4. Add sour cream and beat until smooth.
  5. Divide and pour batter into two 8-inch pans.
  6. Bake for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick or knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  7. Cool completely on rack before frosting. Garnish with zest or peels.

Lemon Butter Frosting

  • 6 Tbs butter, brought to room temperature (real butter, no margarine)
  • 4 ½ cups powdered sugar, divided and sifted
  • ¼ lemon juice, plus ¼ more set aside if needed
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 ½ tsp vanilla

Directions

  1. In a mixer, beat butter until fluffy.
  2. Gradually add half the sifted powder sugar, mix well.
  3. Beat in lemon juice, zest, and vanilla.
  4. Gradually add the rest of the powdered sugar, mix well. Add the additional juice, a little at a time, until frosting is of a spreadable consistency.

Bon appétit!