Friday, March 11, 2011

Snack Series: Black Tea and Biscotti

Today's featured snack is classic: tea and biscotti and a couple of dried figs. My friend Sarah gave me and Justin three different types of biscotti earlier this week, just because that's what our foodie friends do. She made Walnut Pepper, Lemon Anise, and classic Almond. All were delicious, but I especially like how the almond biscotti pairs nicely with a cup of black tea. I can choose to dip the biscotti to soften it up a bit, or enjoy it crunchy.

Almonds (found in my biscotti) can help lower the risk of heart disease, help keep your cholesterol levels happy, provide lots of magnesium (which helps the flow of oxygen, blood, and nutrients in your body), and potassium (which helps with nerve transmission and muscle contraction).

And the figs, well, let me share with you the top five health benefits of figs: relieve constipation, treat asthma, improve sexual weakness, help with weight loss, and control high blood pressure. News to me, too. I eat figs because they're delicious. And if they make you think of yucky Fig Newtons, well, just try a dried Turkish fig or a fresh fig. You'll love them.

Tea has so many health benefits! Did you know? Most tea studies have been focused on green tea, but black tea has about the same amount of health benefits. (Herbal teas may have benefits too, but I'm specifically talking about tea that comes from the Camellia Sinensis plant.) Tea is high in antioxidants. We've all heard a lot about antioxidants, but what do the really do for us? According to this article, they scavenge cell-damaging free radicals in the body and detoxify them. Wow. Now when you drink a cup of tea, you can think about the little battle going on with your cells. Another article said that tea can help wipe out certain viruses in your body, may prevent stomach, prostate, and breast cancer (essentially, a compound in tea causes cancer cells to die out before they spread), and can help prevent stroke and heart attacks by improving blood vessel functioning. I knew tea was good for you, but I had no idea just how powerful it is. If caffeine is an issue for you, decaf tea has the exact same health benefits as regular.

Other post you may like:

Nutty Coconut and Cherry Granola

Fig and Provolone Sandwiches

Two Fig Breakfasts


Blueberry Squash Muffins

Updated 3.21.11: Added almond biscotti recipe!

Classic Biscotti
From The Joy of Cooking (1997), slightly adapted by Sarah Ramsey
Makes about 3 dozen 3x1/2-inch biscotti

3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour (Becky's note: use half whole wheat!!)
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Whisk together thoroughly. Position rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375F. Grease a cookie sheet.

1/4 cup canola oil
1/1/4 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 egg whites
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest or 1/8 teaspoon of lemon extract
1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest or 1/8 teaspoon of orange extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup of chopped almonds into the recipe (make sure they're chopped because whole almonds will wreak havoc when you cut the logs into slices later)

Beat on medium speed until well blended.Gradually stir the flour mixture into the egg mixture until well blended and smooth. (This will be annoying if you are doing it by hand because it gets very, very sticky.) Shape the dough into 2 smooth, evenly shaped 11 x 1 1/2-inch logs, either by wrapping each log in plastic and rolling it back and forth until smooth, or by shaping it with lightly floured hands. Arrange logs as far apart from one another as possible on the sheet and press to flatten slightly. (And, this is the trickiest part. I use my hands and a wooden spoon; I put the dough onto the cookie sheet as I shape it. The key is to handle the dough as little as possible because heat from your hands will make it stickier and you'll end up wearing a few cookies worth of dough. I find patting or smacking the dough works best. Other biscotti recipes have you chill the dough for a little while, but I've never tried it with this particular one. Mostly because I want to eat it sooner.) Bake for 25 minutes. Remove the sheet to a rack. When the logs are just cool enough to handle, carefully transfer to a cutting board and cut crosswise (use a serrated knife, trust me), on a slight diagonal (I never manage to keep a diagonal so I cut straight), into 3/8-inch-thick slices. (I make this very mathematical. Cut each long in half, trim the ends, and then continue to cut the pieces down with equal cuts so I get an even 3 dozen.) Lay the slices flat on the cookie sheet (I use a clean, non-greased one). Return to the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Turn the slices over and bake until lightly browned, 5 to 10 minutes more. Transfer to racks to cool.

2 comments:

tsippor said...

I've been dunking my biscotti in my morning coffee. I love getting them to that soft, melt-in-your mouth texture. MMm.

I've never tried fresh figs...but I think we might get them this year with our CSA.

Also, you can think of antioxidants stopping a chain reaction of free-radicals. Free radicals are called that because they have an unpaired electron and "steal" electrons from relatively stable compounds, which then produces more free radicals and so on. Antioxidant can give their electron to a free radical and still avoid becoming a free radical in the process. Exciting stuff. =)

Becky Smith Kuk said...

Wow, that's fascinating. Antioxidants are a good model to live by -- instead of stealing, give. Then everybody is happy.