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Lovin’ from the oven – Sweet Spiced Pecans and Cornmeal Anise Biscotti

December 21, 2009
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Cornmeal Anise Biscotti

Cornmeal Anise Biscotti

“Nothin’ says lovin’ like something from the oven, and Pillsbury says it best.”

—Poppin’ Fresh, The Pillsbury Doughboy

It’s hard to believe that little song has been around for almost 50 years. Poppin’ Fresh is one of the most enduring and endearing advertising icons of all time, with appeal as big as the Jolly Green Giant.

Many Sunday mornings in our house when I was just a little sprout, refrigerator biscuits and cinnamon rolls from Pillsbury graced our breakfast table. If I was trying to “sleep in,” the smell of that cinnamon got me movin’ pronto. They are always best hot and fresh out of the oven with that luscious, sugary icing just melted.

I regularly walk with friends and when the Oregon weather discourages outdoor walks, we head to Salem Center, a downtown mall laid out in five buildings connected with second-story enclosed walkways. The food court there has a Cinnabon® franchise whose ovens begin pumping out the wafting aroma of cinnamon long before the stores open. The heavenly smell still gets me moving. This time, however, I summon up all my willpower to move past the sirenic seduction of the warm cinnamon buns.

Sweet Spiced Pecans was probably the first homemade holiday treat I made from the oven. Jan Crisanti, principal flutist with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, introduced them to me as a gift many years ago. I’ve been hooked ever since and have never missed a year making and giving them. One year for a Lunar New Year party, we substituted the regular spices with Chinese five-spice powder with great success. We either called them Peking Pecans or Nanjing Nuts.

The recipe hails from the Container Store and it’s so popular, it’s still on their website today. I mentioned this wonderful store in my previous post on Holiday Gifts, and I can’t say enough good things about it. It’s obvious from shopping there that it is a wonderful place to work. The service is always pleasant and the employees enjoy their work. If you don’t live near a store, visit them online.

Sweet Spiced Pecans
Adapted from a Container Store recipe

Sweet Spiced Pecans

Sweet Spiced Pecans

  1. 1 egg white
  2. 2 tablespoons (30 ml.) water
  3. 1/2 cup (120 ml.) sugar
  4. 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 ml.) ground allspice
  5. 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 ml.) ground cloves
  6. 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml.) cinnamon
  7. 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml.) salt
  8. 2 1/2 cups (600 ml.)  pecans
  • Preheat the oven to 300º F (150º C).
  • Beat together the egg white and water until frothy.
  • Beat in the sugar, spices and salt and let stand until the sugar dissolves.
  • Stir in the nuts and mix well. (I always push the amount of pecans up by gradually adding more as long as they’re still being coated.)
  • Spread on a foil-lined baking sheet or pan and bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.
  • Cool, then break up and store in an air-tight container.

Makes about 2 1/2 cups (600 ml.)

Make lots – they disappear fast. Good as a cocktail nibble, snack, sprinkled on ice cream and salads.

Cornmeal Anise Biscotti
Adapted from a Zuni Café recipe

I have been making these wonderful biscotti almost as long as the Sweet Spiced Pecans. I do remember getting the recipe from either Bon Appétit or Gourmet and for awhile it was on http://www.epicurious.com. On my copy, I made a note that credited Judy Rodgers of Zuni Café. Many websites have published this same recipe but none that I have found include attribution to the source.

  1. 1 1/4 cups (300 ml.) toasted almonds
  2. 1/2 cup (120 ml.) unsalted butter, softened
  3. 1 cup (240 ml.) sugar
  4. 2 eggs
  5. 1 tablespoon (15 ml.) anisette liquor
  6. 1 1/2 tablespoons (22.5 ml.) baking powder
  7. 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml.) salt
  8. 2 1/4 cups (540 ml.) all-purpose flour
  9. 1/2 cup (120 ml.) coarse yellow cornmeal
  10. 1 1/2 tablespoons (22.5 ml.) anise seeds
  • Preheat oven to 325º F (165º C).
  • Butter 2 cookie sheets or line with Silpat®.
  • Coarsely chop 1/4 cup (60 ml.) almonds.
  • Cream butter and sugar until well combined. Beat in the eggs, liqueur, baking powder and salt.
  • Stir in 2 cups (480 ml.) flour, cornmeal, then the whole and chopped almonds and anise seeds.
  • If dough is sticky, mix in some of the remaining flour, 1 tablespoon (15 ml.) at a time, until the dough is smooth.
  • Shape dough into four long flat logs about 2-inches (5 cm.) across X 3/4 inch (2 cm.) thick.
Cornmeal Anise Biscotti shaped for first bake

Cornmeal Anise Biscotti shaped for first bake

  • Bake on prepared sheet until pale golden on edges, about 35 minutes.
Cornmeal Anise Biscotti after first bake

Cornmeal Anise Biscotti after first bake

  • Transfer logs to racks and cool 10 minutes. Leave oven on at same temperature.
  • Place logs on a work surface and cut diagonally into 1/2 inch (1.25  cm.) slices.
  • Arrange slices, cut side down on baking sheets and bake again until very light brown, about 10 minutes.
  • Remove again to a rack and cool completely. Will keep for up to 1 week in an airtight container.

Makes about 4 dozen.  Great with coffee or a dry red wine such as pinot noir. Try dipping them, your teeth will love you for that.

Bon appétit!

— Charles

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. December 22, 2009 12:22 am

    That is so yummy-looking! I had only the text to go by, but the pics!! Oh dear, this was NOT the thing to read right before one heads to bed. Hmmm … perhaps I shall have sugar-plums dancing in my head!

  2. December 22, 2009 12:23 am

    P.S. I love the falling snow. You two are ingenious!!

    • Charles permalink*
      December 22, 2009 8:14 am

      Thanks Jen – Wish I could buff my nails on my chest and take credit but the snow is a simple feature that WordPress is offering until the 1st week of Jan. All we have to do is simply turn it on or off. The photo of Mt. Jefferson in the current title photo, however, was taken from our back yard with the aid of a telephoto lens.

      • vpanichkul permalink*
        December 22, 2009 9:05 am

        Did you notice the snow falls in the direction that you drag your mouse?

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