Friday, March 26, 2010

The Food Desert Project - Toaster-Oven Trail Mix Biscotti

A healthy, on-the-go breakfast is a challenge anywhere, let alone the Food Desert.  I love biscotti, and had been searching for a recipe that yielded the light, crispy cookies I like best but they eluded me.  Finally, one day, I asked the owner of a local upscale Italian bakery - she smiled and said, in her lilting accent "you know, it's only cake!"  Of course - biscotti (Italian for twice-cooked) is really toasted cake, and the lightest cake there is is angel food cake, based on healthy, protien rich, fat-free egg whites!

If you love to dip pastry in your coffee, I challenge you to try out this recipe, which I've not only adapted for the food desert, but also adapted to make in your toaster oven (provided you have a good one that comes with a thermostat - I linked ours below, we're happy with it.)  It's far, far healthier than a doughnut, but still satisfying.  While you can make this recipe in a standard metal loaf pan (don't use pyrex here) or I suppose double it and use a small jelly roll pan, I discovered that the perfect pan for the recipe is a brownie pan I have that's designed for the toaster oven that is 9 1/2" x 6 1/4," just a tidge wider than your average loaf pan. A good serrated knife is also crucial to the success of this recipe; it will be impossible to cut with a straight blade.

My original recipe called for white flour, but I realized that it isn't crucial for success - so why not use whole wheat and get a bit of extra fiber?  Nutrition for this recipe will vary depending on which trail mix you use - this time I used a nuts, seeds, and raisins mix I picked up in a single-serve pack at the Aldi, and a single-serve pack of Welch's Berry Mix.  You can even use the packages that have chocolate chips - but before cutting, you'll want to cool your loaf in the refrigerator.  I recommend against trail mixes with candy-coated chocolate, as the colored candy tends to melt, bleed, and stain your cookie (which may not bother you)

Makes 18 cookies - Nutritional information

4 large egg whites (I prefer to buy these, if you can find them, in an aseptically-packed container.  They freeze well and then you don't have to feel you're wasting egg yolks, which aren't that good for you)
2/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup (2 ounces, or 2 single-serve packages) trail mix of your choice, large chunks diced
1/2 teaspoon vanilla  (or just use vanilla sugar)

Other than baking these twice, this is a pretty simple recipe:

VERY IMPORTANT: Line the entire inside of your pan with aluminum foil or parchment. Leave no gaps, as this stuff has the tenacity of a limpet.  Really, I mean it - you might never use that pan again, even if it's non-stick.

Whip the egg whites until they reach soft peaks. I am fortunate to own an immersion blender (linked below) that has a whisk attachment which enables me to do this in a tall cup with minimal spattering.  (I own the cheaper Braun, but my friends all swear by the KitchenAid, so I included it, too.) Egg yolks and sugar have nothing on superglue.
Add the sugar and continue to beat until the meringue is stiff and glossy.

Whisk remaining ingredients except trail mix to combine, and fold them into the meringue, then gently fold in trail mix.

Spread gently to a level thickness in the prepared pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown and springy on top.

Remove from oven and carefully remove the batter in its liner from the pan. Allow to cool completely and gently remove the foil or paper (if your batter contains chocolate, you might want to consider refrigerating it to make the next step easier.)

Using a gentle sawing motion, slice your loaf into 1/8 thick slices,

and lay the slices out on your toaster oven rack (or a cookie sheet.)

Return to a 300 degree oven and bake until golden brown and crisp, about 20 minutes. Enjoy.

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