Broken clouds
Broken clouds
28.4 °F
December 12, 2017
River Reporter Facebook pageTRR TwitterRSS Search

Happy endings

Hazelnut Brown Butter Biscuits have all the rich taste of traditional holiday desserts, but more nutritional value.
TRR photos by Laura Silverman

December 23, 2015

Although I generally advocate a healthy and sensible approach to eating, I firmly believe that into every life a little sweet must fall—especially during the holidays! But I try not to lose my head entirely, since loading up on sugar and empty carbs for weeks on end is a sure way to wind up feeling naughty and not nice. I find it’s best to have some pragmatic treats on hand that can shield me from the peppermint bark and pecan rolls that materialize at every turn. When it’s time to celebrate, no one wants to feel deprived, but there are ways to feel virtuous without compromising on pleasure.

Among my favorites are crunchy little biscuits that contain no gluten or sugar. Made with hazelnuts, brown butter and cacao nibs, they are rich and satisfying. Nut flours work very well in baked goods, where they add a lush density and plenty of protein. The brown butter has its own toasty, nutty taste. (The French call it beurre noisette, literally “hazelnut butter,” so you can see how it makes perfect sense here.) The ingredients are combined into a stiff dough and formed into a log that gets chilled firm and then sliced into thick coins. You can bake just a few at a time as the dough will keep, well-wrapped, in the fridge or freezer. True to their name, these biscuits have the dense snap of a biscotti. Extremely versatile, they can be added to a cookie plate or a cheese plate with equal success.

Fruit is a wonderful option for dessert during the holidays, though it might not be an intuitive choice both because of the season and because of other more knee-jerk temptations. Pears are abundant right now, and they are sweet and delicious. Comice pears, sometimes known as Christmas pears, are creamy and aromatic, and Bosc pears are crisp with a winey perfume. Either is wonderful poached in red wine along with a little orange peel and warming spices like cinnamon, cardamom and star anise. Cook them just until tender, then pull them out and reduce the wine, with a little sugar or honey as needed, into a silky sauce. A dollop of crème fraîche provides contrast to their intense garnet color and deep flavor. Pears are also divine roasted. You can serve them with ice cream or a smear of softened blue cheese and a few toasted walnuts for a sophisticated end to a special meal.