Baking for Christmas and New Year

Sugar and Spice Nuts, Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti, Cranberry and Pistachio Biscotti

Today I’m sharing 3 great recipes in the one post! OK, so I really did this baking a couple of days before Christmas to share around over the busy Christmas period and give away as gifts, but being a busy time I didn’t have a chance to make a post! These treats will be just as tasty for New Years if you’re doing some baking to feed family and friends. The great thing about these recipes is that they can all be made in advance as they last for several weeks in an airtight container.

The Sugar and Spice nuts taste and smell like Christmas! They are sweet with a bit of kick and make for a very easy nibble, either before a meal, or afterwards with a coffee. Biscotti are twice-baked biscuits originating in Italy, they are dried out, sweet and crunchy and are great dipped into a nice hot cup of espresso. The red and green in the Cranberry and Pistachio Biscotti make it look really festive, and as for the Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti (with a hint of espresso)… need as say more? Deliciously moorish!

Sugar and Spice Nuts

1/3 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
Generous pinch of cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pound walnut or pecan halves or whole peeled hazelnuts (I used all of the above, as well as almonds!)
1 egg white, room temperature
1 tablespoon water

Preheat oven to 150 degrees Celsius. Mix sugars, salt, cayenne, and cinnamon, making sure there are no lumps; set aside. Beat egg white and water until frothy but not stiff. Add walnuts, and stir to coat evenly. Sprinkle nuts with sugar mixture, and toss until evenly coated. Spread sugared nuts in a single layer on a baking tray covered with baking paper. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from oven, and separate nuts as they cool. When completely cool, pour the nuts into a bowl, breaking up any that stick together.

Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti (makes 20-24 biscotti)

2/3 cup white sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 cup of shelled, unsalted pistachios, coarsely chopped (note, if you can only get salted pistachios, just don’t add the 1/4 teaspoon of salt mentioned above)
1/2 cup dried cranberries.

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius and place the oven rack in the center of the oven. Line a baking sheet with baking paper.

In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the sugar and eggs on high speed until thick, pale, and fluffy (about 3-5 minutes). At this point beat in the vanilla extract. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add to the egg mixture and beat until combined. Fold in the chopped pistachios and cranberries.

Transfer the dough to a well floured counter and roll into a log shape, about 30cm long and 9cm wide. You may have to flour your hands to form the log as the dough is quite sticky. Place the log on the baking sheet and bake for about 25 minutes or until firm to the touch. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 165 degrees Celsius. Transfer the log to a cutting board and cut into about 1.25cm slices, on the diagonal. Place the biscotti, cut side down, on the baking sheet. Bake for about 8-10 minutes, turn slices over, and bake for another 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool.

Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti (makes about 30 biscotti)

1 cup hazelnuts
120g cooking chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 3/4 cups plain flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder (unsweetened is preferred)
1 tablespoon of instant coffee powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. To toast hazelnuts: spread on a baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes or until lightly browned and fragrant, and the skins start to blister and peel. Remove from oven and cover the nuts with a clean dish towel. Let the nuts ‘steam’ for 5 minutes and then briskly rub the towel (with nuts inside) to remove the skins from the nuts. Cool and then chop coarsely.

Reduce the oven temperature to 150 degrees Celsius. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a food processor, fitted with the metal blade, place the coarsely chopped chocolate and brown sugar and process until the chocolate is very fine.

Then, in a large bowl, sift or whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder, baking soda and salt.

In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the eggs and vanilla extract until combined (about one minute). Add the chocolate/sugar mixture and the flour mixture and beat until a stiff dough forms, adding the hazelnuts about half way through mixing.

With floured hands divide the dough in half. On a lightly floured surface roll each half of the dough into a log shape about 25cm long and 5 cm wide. Transfer the logs to the prepared baking sheet (space them at least 8cm apart as they will expand when cooking)Bake until almost firm to the touch, about 35 -40 minutes. Remove from the oven, place on wire rack, and let cool for 10 minutes.

Using a long spatula transfer the logs to a cutting board. Using a serrated or sharp knife cut the dough into slices 1.5cm thick on the diagonal. Arrange the slices cut-side down on the baking sheet. Bake 15 minutes. Turn the slices over and bake until crisp and dry, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool on wire rack. 

(These great recipes are inspired from and

One Response to “Baking for Christmas and New Year”
  1. Nicki says:

    These recipes look great -I shall file them away for next Christmas- Thank-you

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