Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Cinnamon Sugar Biscotti

It's starting to get way too cold to exercise here (the high for the past couple days has been in the 30s) so I've done a 180 in my new favorite way to pass the time - baking! Every Tuesday and Thursday, our coffee break features a baked goodie, so last night I jumped in the kitchen and tried out this incredible Cinnamon Sugar Biscotti recipe from Annie Eats (who got it from Joy the Baker). The cinnamon/sugar combination seemed just right for the cool fall weather and they were perfect dunked in coffee.

I started out with a major problem. The hand mixer doesn't work. Which means I had to mix by hand...and by the way, is that stuff butter? I have no idea but it's close enough.

Pretty sure Tony Horton (founder of P90x) would be proud of the arm workout I got from creaming and beating everything together. Voila - uncooked "logs"

After a whirl in the oven:

Annnddd a second time. "Biscotti" means twice-baked, of course!

I didn't get a chance to take a picture of them in all their serving-tray-glory but they looked adorable and tasted fabulous. Thanks Annie!

Annie's Cinnamon Sugar Biscotti
Yields: 20-24 cookies
For the dough:
2 cups all-purpose flour (I think I used cake flour but it was all we had and I don't know French)
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup sugar
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large egg, plus 1 large egg yolk
1 tsp. vanilla extract

For the topping:
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon (I may have used a little more. I LOVE cinnamon)
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Preheat the oven to 325 F (165 C but I guestimated - our oven is not that exact). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, baking powder and salt; whisk to blend and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer (...or just another bowl...), cream together the butter and sugar on medium-high speed (or give your arm a workout) until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes, scraping down the bowl as needed. Blend in the egg and then the egg yolk, beating well (pain is beauty, baby, stir that thang!) after each addition. Blend in the vanilla until incorporated. With the mixer on low speed (trust me, your arm will be on LOW speed by this point), blend in the dry ingredients just until incorporated and a dough is formed.

Divide the dough into two halves. Shape each half into a log 9 inches long by 1 1/2 inches wide on the prepared baking sheet, spacing the logs at least 3-4 inches apart. In a small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon for the topping and stir to blend well. Lightly brush the tops of the logs with the beaten egg, and sprinkle generously with some of the cinnamon sugar mixture.

Bake for 40-45 minutes, rotating halfway through baking, until the tops are golden brown and slightly firm to the touch. remove the pan from the oven but maintain the oven temperature. Once the logs are cool enough to handle, slice on the diagonal (this is easier said than done) into 1 1/2-inch slices (about 10-14 per log). Place biscotti cut side-down on the baking sheet and sprinkle with more of the cinnamon sugar mixture. Bake an additional 10-15 minutes, until crisp and golden.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

There's More to Switzerland than Chocolate....Right?

They say that there is more to Switzerland than watches, chocolate and the lucrative banking industry but I'm not so sure. While we haven't really been buying any watches (and I admit I already own a Swiss watch) or putting our savings into secret accounts, we have been taking full advantage of all the chocolately goodness that this great country has to offer.

Last week we took a "date day" just go to play and ended up at my favorite spot on earth - IKEA! If you think that it is overwhelming and confusing in America, you need to try it in a country where you can speak about 3 words of the local language. I have a gift card I need to use but had no idea how to ask anyone about it. We managed to make it home empty-handed, except for....

Chocolate! They have these fabulous ice cream machines that will load your cone with the perfect mix of vanilla ice cream and chocolately syrup. Amazing.

 But then, we went to Nyon, and discovered Rapp. Holy Cow. The website is in French, but it is worth taking a peek at just for the incredible pictures (choose "Galerie" or just click here). Our pictures don't do justice to the experience of being completely surrounded by chocolate but here's an idea of just how incredible Rapp is (and I think you can click our pictures to make them bigger).

 They even had marzipan fruit and veggies! 

We limited ourselves to 1 thing and ended up with this chocolate mousse thing. It actually tasted a lot like heaven a rich chocolate cheesecake with a chocolate crust and white chocolate shavings on top.

 In other chocolate news, David has been buying and trying a different chocolate bar every week (which is about how often we make it to a grocery store). It's relatively cheap (all food here is expensive) and fun - there are a million different brands and flavor combinations. Here's his most recent sampling:

 Last night, part of our school came home from a camping trip, so we welcomed them back with a big sign and....dark chocolate brownies! I used this recipe for Dark Cocoa Brownies from Vintage Victuals and they turned out pretty well, especially for my first real attempt at navigating metric conversions and an industrial-sized oven. The powdered sugar helped to cut the richness of the cocoa powder and they went great with hot French press coffee.

We have a few guys here from South Africa too, so I went out on a [major] limb and tried to tackle a traditional melktert. Our friend, Mandy, made one for us while we were living in WPB but she wasn't around to help us. She did send us the recipe though, and we ended up with this: 

It took a few tries to get the custard right (and we made scrambled eggs once....oops) but I think it turned out okay for our first try. If you need a little South African flair in your life, here's Mandy's recipe:

250ml cake flour
5ml baking powder
1ml salt
80 ml sugar
100 grams butter
1 egg, beaten

750ml milk
80 grams flour
1ml cake flour
1ml salt
4 eggs, seperated
100ml sugar
5ml vanilla extract
Ground cinnamon, to taste

For crust: 
1. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt. 
2. Add sugar and cream with butter. 
3. Add beaten egg and mix well.
4. Press into 2 greased pie dishes (we used 1 big springform pan).

For filling: 
1. Heat milk and butter in a heavy saucepan.
2. Sift flour and salt and mix to combine with egg yolks. Beat well.
3. Slowly add some of the hot milk to the egg mixture. Stir until well combined, and then add back to the saucepan. Let simmer for a few minutes, until thick, stirring constantly.
4. Remove from heat and add vanilla extract.
5. Beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold lightly into the cooked milk mixture.
6. Pour filling into pan(s) and sprinkle with ground cinnamon. Bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees Celcius (about 350 F) for 20 minutes. 

While I was baking it up yesterday, I also ventured into the world of muesli. This stuff is all the rage in Europe and now I know why - it's delicious and you can really customize it to whatever you like. We make enormous batches of it at the base because it is so great with yogurt for breakfast, so I made some with and without dried fruit (raisins and apricots).
Since we make so much of it, there isn't really a real recipe but here's the gist of it.
 corn flakes
unsweetened coconut
sliced almonds
dried fruit

1.In individual pans, toast coconut (10 min), oats (25 min) and almonds (15 min). 
2. Dump into a big bowl and mix with unsweetened corn flakes. 
3. Throw in whatever dried fruit you have lying around. Or chocolate chips - whatever your heart desires
4. Heat honey so it's nice and soft. 
5. Drizzle over mixture and stir well. You want it kind of clumpy.
6. Let cool before storing

I think it'd be awesome with dried apples and cranberries and pumpkin pie spice. Or yogurt-covered raisins.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Picture This

Ah! I'm terrible at posting - I think of things I want to share with the blogger world (all 3 of you out there) but then stuff comes up and my total lack of attention span takes over. So, instead of a witty, deep, or even informative post about how great our time has been here or how much we have been learning, I'll just let the pictures do the talking.

1. Camping - As promised, here are some camping pictures. It was cold and primitive but beautiful and we really had fun with the kids - especially since they all spoke English. It's amazing how much I have come to appreciate the English language after struggling to understand French everywhere we go.

Making s'mores - the marshmallows here are weird and pretty much melted in the fire....and we didn't have any chocolate or graham crackers, so they weren't exactly s'mores but...close enough.

Home sweet home: 1 cabin (with 1 bathroom) and 3 giant tents
Park entrance

This sign is probably very informative. If you speak French. I don't.

Early morning jam session

Playing with fire. Literally.

2. Mont Blanc - For some reason, it is almost impossible to capture this in a picture but our view (when "the mountains are out") is incredible. At 15,782 feet, Mont Blanc is the highest mountain in the Alps and is popular for snow sports. You can read more about it on Wikipedia here if that kind of thing spins your shorts. You can click on the pictures to make them bigger but it's still just not the same as seeing it in person....hint, hint....

3. Nyon - Nyon (pronounced NEE-OWN - now you know as much French as us!) is the town closest to us that actually has stuff to do. It's on Lake Geneva and beautiful when the sun is out. We've been a few times, and a bus from the base goes every Saturday, so expect lots of Nyon pictures. They have an adorable farmer's market every Saturday too. Love, love, love.

Please take note of the ENORMOUS selection of gelato flavors. I love you, Europe!

All the Swiss girls from our class...and me. Since we can't communicate, we take pictures. Ice cream is a universal language. 

Rotisserie chicken at the farmer's market! America could learn a thing or two from these people...

Obviously there is Asian (?) street food too....?

A few ridiculously expensive vegetables (insight: Switzerland makes the BEST tomatoes ever. They are incredible!)

And lots and lots (and lots) of meat! "No refrigerator?!" you ask? Don't worry, it's that cold outside.

So European. Props to David for all the good pictures.

The castle. You can walk around inside and read about it...if you can read French.

4. Vineyards! - There are a TON of vineyards around us and the grapes here are awesome. Last week we took a field trip down to learn about how wine is made in this area, and see some of the process. We watched them dump grapes from the field into a giant press and then had incredibly fresh grape juice and wine. Of course, our cameras were dead but our fabulous friend Carolyn snapped our picture in front of one of the oak barrels that they ferment the wine in.

Annddd that basically brings you up to speed with our life here in Burtigny! Happy Friday!

PS This is only a tiny sample of the pictures we've taken - if you want to see the rest, you can check out our Snapfish Album here!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A New Obsession & Town Tour

This weekend we went camping with a local (English speaking) church's youth group. It was cold, fun, encouraging....lots of fabulous things. But most of all, it was enlightening....because I discovered the single greatest thing about Europe:

This picture just doesn't do it justice. They are little chocolate cereal things filled with soft chocolately, nutella-like goodness in the middle and they make my heart sing. Since it was so cold, I conveniently pretended like I don't understand European nutrition facts (or that "sucre" means sugar....) and ate about half a box of this stuff. It is especially amazing around a campfire.

Here are some pictures we took last week from all around the town of Burtigny:

 David and Toffee. Her family just moved here from South Africa and they are all incredibly awesome. Toffee is just like Colby except shorter and she actually listens.


The only restaurant in town

 A family in our DTS is staying in the top 2 levels of this building but the bottom is the weight room, for those of us who are obsessed with working out. Hooray!

One of the many town fountains.

The town clock

I have no idea what this place is, but it looks nice, right?


The city church, some horses and a few mountains.

The road into Burtigny

If you look really close (or click on the picture - it gets bigger), you can see the mountain tops. This is heading out of Burtigny and looking towards lake Geneva and the mountains are the French Alps.

The YWAM base

Crazy cows on the way to the camping trip

There are a lot of camping pictures from this weekend, too but they'll have to wait for another day. The suspense is rough, I know...