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Cheap and Elegant Christmas Cookies: Vanilla Biscotti

How can you have cheap--okay, frugal--yet elegant Christmas cookies? You can do so by limiting the number of fancy, expensive ingredients in your cookies and concentrating on baking techniques that, though simple, create delicious results. Vanilla biscotti don't require pricey ingredients--not even butter. Yes, vanilla is expensive. Use imitation vanilla. You probably won't be able to tell the difference in baked goods, and some people actually prefer the taste of the imitation vanilla rather than the alcohol-based version. These little biscotti are crisp, fragrant with vanilla, and are wonderful alongside warm drinks, fruit, and, of course, ice cream. The biscotti are elegant in their simplicity. If you want to dress the cookies up, sprinkle them with a little sparkly sugar before baking them. The sugar will look lovely and add a bit of crunch to the cookies. And if you aren't into frugality and would really prefer to dress the cookies up for the holidays, you can always dip one side of the biscotti in dark or white chocolate after baking them. Sprinkle the still soft chocolate with crushed candy cane pieces or chopped nuts for yet more decadence.

Cheap and Elegant Christmas Cookies:  Vanilla Biscotti

Vanilla Biscotti -- Makes about 18+

1/3 cup of canola oil

2/3 cup of sugar

2 eggs

2 teaspoons of vanilla

1/2 teaspoon of butter flavoring (optional)

2 cups of flour

1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder

1/4 teaspoon of salt

Sugar to sprinkle -- course or "sparkling", turbinado, or colored

Cardamom (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a cookie sheet with parchment. In a large bowl, whisk together the canola oil, sugar, and eggs until well blended and a bit frothy. Whisk in the vanilla and butter flavoring. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt. On the prepared cookie sheet, divide the dough into two pieces, spacing the pieces about 4 inches apart. With dampened hands, shape each piece into a log about 8-10 inches long and 2 inches wide. Sprinkle the top of each log with course or "sparkling" sugar or use turbinado or colored sugar, if you'd rather. You can also dust the tops of the biscotti with a little cardamom. Bake the dough logs for 25 minutes. Remove the logs from the oven, reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees, and, using a very sharp knife--a ceramic chef's knife works well--cut down through each log to make 1/2-3/4-inch slices. Using the knife (not your hands, because the biscotti will be hot!) separate the biscotti slightly--about 1/2-inch or so between each slice--keeping them upright. Bake the biscotti for another 25 minutes or until they are just beginning to brown. Let the biscotti cool on the baking sheet or on a rack. They will continue to dry/crisp up as they cool. If you're so inclined, you can drizzle one side of the biscotti with dark or white chocolate. For even fancier biscotti, sprinkle some crushed peppermints on top of the soft chocolate or use chopped nuts, sprinkles, etc.. Let the chocolate-drizzled biscotti dry before serving them.

Simple Vanilla Biscotti

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