Mickey Mouse Cupcakes

My little sweet pea’s third birthday party was coming up and it was going to be a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse bash. She specifically requested Mickey Mouse cupcakes, and I cannot deny such an adorable request and culinary task so I set out to find out how to make them. I knew it was going to be a chocolatey cupcake as an ode to the mouse’s brown/black color. And when I saw pictures online of these Mickey Mouse cupcakes using Oreos as the ears I knew exactly what I was going to do. I wanted to use something a little bit more chocolatey though and smaller in size. I immediately thought of the thin mint cookies that you can buy from Girl Scouts. But I didn’t know where to find a Girl Scout at this time so I just went for the York Peppermint Patties! Score! The dark chocolate flavor went perfectly with my cupcakes. So here we are with our chocolatey cupcakes with Mickey ears.

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 For the chocolate cupcake, I wanted the perfect flavor and I knew I was making them from scratch. I tried a couple of different recipes but this one was by far is the best. This chocolate cupcake recipe is from Sally’s baking addiction and I followed it pretty much exactly except for adding some espresso to bring out the chocolate notes. It is the perfect combination of fudge, moist, and decadent! They were in between a brownie and fudge but still tasted and felt like a cupcake!

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 I also used Sally’s  dark chocolate frosting which is absolutely amazing! Try it out; you will love it! I also opted to fill the cupcakes with a dark chocolate ganache which is SO easy to make and is HUGE in flavor. I made the ganache using this simple recipe from Savory Sweet Life.  To fill the cupcake, I just cored out the center using a lemon juicer and piped in some cooled ganache with a ziploc bag.

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I also made a few salted caramel cupcakes, filled those with caramel and topped with dark chocolate frosting! These were my favorite!

 After filling in the cupcake, I piped on the dark chocolate frosting and stuck on two peppermint patties for the ears. I baked the cupcakes in red foil wrappers to match the Mickey theme. I recommend using foil wrappers because the paper ones become transparent after absorbing the oil from the cakes.

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To make some Minnie Mouse cupcakes, I went for a vanilla version with pink frosting. I found adorable candy molds shaped as a bow so that we can make Minnie Mouse bows. For this we just melted some candy melts in the microwave and I let my daughter spoon the melted candy into the mold tray. Once they hardened, my daughter and her cousins got to place the bows onto the pink Minnie Mouse cupcakes. For these vanilla cupcakes I used the fluffy vanilla cake recipe which was the same recipe I used in my number three cake. I also used the vanilla buttercream recipe and added red dye to make the pink frosting. Some nonpareils sprinkles completed the look!

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Pumpkin Carrot Muffins

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We have been eating a lot of sweets lately- cakes, cupcakes, and cookies- with my daughter’s birthday party and our Eid holiday just a few days after.  So I needed to come up with a healthier way for us to enjoy my baked goods. My husband just loved the caramel pumpkin cake, but that butter and sugar- yikes! So I decided to make several adjustments to a regular pumpkin or carrot cake to create a perfectly tasty and dare I say, (kind of) healthy, pumpkin- carrot muffin!

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I swapped out half the flour for whole wheat flour. I significantly cut down the sugar to 1/2 a cup and added honey and maple syrup instead. Then I added some oats. While I found pumpkin to be a great substitute for oil, I wanted to make sure this would be a nice moist muffin, so I added in some olive oil. Yes, olive oil! It has very wonderful health benefits, and would offer great moisturizing benefits to these lil treats as well. You cannot smell or taste the olive oil at all so do not worry! 

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Baking is always a great way to keep the kids busy. You could let your kids pour, sift, and stir to allow them to feel some real ownership to the baked goods. I was in a hurry this time so I just gave my daughter her own mixing bowl and would pass her a spoon of flour, water, and oil as I went along and let her go to town. She loved it!

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To be honest I was preparing to make a maple butter glaze for these guys because I was sure they would come out a little dry or too healthy tasting. But there is absolutely no need here. I suppose I could try it another time to make these more like dessert, but we gobbled up all the muffins before I even had a chance to store them! They were that good! The high fiber and vitamin A you get is not a bad deal either. So here it is!

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Pumpkin Carrot Muffins
Yields 14
A healthy treat packed with whole grain fiber and scrumptious pumpkin and carrot decadence!
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Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
25 min
Total Time
45 min
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
25 min
Total Time
45 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 cup whole wheat flour
  2. 1 cup all purpose flour
  3. 1 tsp baking soda
  4. 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  5. 1 tsp pumpkin spice ( 1/4 tsp of nutmeg, 1/4 tsp ginger, and 1/2 cinnamon)
  6. 1 tsp cinnamon
  7. 1/4 tsp ginger
  8. 1/4 tsp salt
  9. 1 cup pumpkin puree
  10. 1 cup shredded carrot
  11. 1/4 cup honey
  12. 1/2 cup maple syrup (grade A amber)
  13. 1/2 cup brown sugar
  14. 3 eggs
  15. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  16. 1/4 cup olive oil
  17. 3/4 cup oats
Instructions
  1. Sift together the flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices in a medium bowl.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, mix the honey, maple syrup, and brown sugar until smooth. Blend in the pumpkin puree and shredded carrots. Whisk in the eggs with vanilla extract. Add the olive oil and stir until well blended.
  3. Slowly pour in the flour mixture and blend with a hand bender on low for about 30 seconds to a minute until well combined. Stir in the oats with a large spoon.
  4. Scoop into a muffin tin and bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes.
Notes
  1. To have nice big muffin tops, do not hesitate to fill each muffin cavity with a full scoop of batter!
  2. These also taste great with raisins; add 3/4 a cup to the batter after the oats for the extra texture and flavor!
Sugar & Garlic http://www.sugarandgarlic.com/

Lemon Garlic Roasted Chicken

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This dish is SO delicious. Roasted chickens are hands down one of my favorite comfort foods. I love the flavor of the roasted skin ( I know VERY unhealthy!) And whatever vegetables or stuffing you put with that chicken in the oven is destined to deliciousness. The chicken oozes all its wonderful juices as it cooks and imparts its flavor to whatever you put in with the chicken. One of my favorite things to do is to fill the chicken’s cavity with rice and golden raisins. The outer rice that spills out is so savory and crispy and the inside will be the juiciest tastiest rice you have ever had! I guess thats another recipe though!

For this zesty chicken I utilize the cavity as a flavor infuser and stuff it with half a lemon, left over lemon rinds from the juiced lemons, and garlic cloves. Your chicken will be flavored inside and out! The potatoes that cook around the chicken are also infused with this delcious lemon garlic flavor!

 

Lemon Garlic Roasted Chicken
Serves 4
Zesty, garlicky, juicy chicken!
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
2 hr
Total Time
2 hr 15 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
2 hr
Total Time
2 hr 15 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 whole chicken, giblets removed
  2. 2 lemons
  3. 4 cloves of garlic minced
  4. 3 cloves of garlic whole
  5. 1 tbsp of oregano
  6. 6-8 medium golden potatoes, chopped into quarters
  7. 3 tbsps olive oil
  8. 6 tbsps salted butter, cut into 12 pieces
  9. 1/4 c water
  10. salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Wash the chicken thoroughly, scrubbing it with coarse salt and vinegar ( a trick my mother in law taught me). I like to think this step not only cleanses the chicken, but freshens it from any stink, and also lends some brining properties to flavor it.
  2. Place the whole chicken in a large roasting pan. Season the chicken well with salt and pepper. Rub it generously with the butter and place pieces underneath the skin as well as over it. Arrange the chopped potatoes around the chicken in the pan.
  3. In a small bowl, juice 1 and 1/2 lemons. Add the olive oil, minced garlic, oregano, 1 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper and mix well. Pour the mix over the whole chicken and the potatoes. Pour the water over the potatoes, around the perimeter of the chicken.
  4. Stuff the chicken with the other half of the lemon, remaining rinds of the squeezed lemons, and the remaining cloves of garlic.
  5. Cover with foil and place in oven for 1.5- 2 hours. For the last 20 minutes, remove the foil so that the chicken can get golden.
  6. When the chicken is done, pour the excess broth into a pyrex storage dish and reserve for use in later cooking. Its perfect for my chicken pot pie recipe which you can make with left over meat the next day, or you can just store it in the freezer for future use. To serve, cut the chicken up into quarters (2 breasts and 2 leg/thigh portions) along with the wings on the side. The wings will be super juicy! Scoop up some crunchy lemony garlic potatoes on the side and enjoy!
Sugar & Garlic http://www.sugarandgarlic.com/

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You can tie the chicken legs together so it looks prettier, but the baby was crying and I didn’t have time!

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The Best Ever Chicken Pot Pie

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This cold weather is definitely having me search for comfort food. I also needed to do something with the rest of our roasted chicken. It always seems to be a challenge- what to do with the rest of that chicken? In fact, I sometimes hesitate to cook a whole roaster or buy those delicious ones you find at costco because our family will never finish it all and lots of juicy  meat goes to waste. Now that I’ve discovered this dish, I will be roasting chickens just to make it!

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This pot pie is VERY tasty and gets a little more sophisticated than the traditional one. With the unexpected flavors of shallots and fennel, the extra special veggie surprises of baby bellas and asparagus, this chicken pot pie will leave your taste buds begging for more. Luckily this recipe yields 2 pies- or at least an extra pot full of the delicious gravy and savory veggies that will be perfect on top of rice or your favorite bread!

The first trick is to start with a delicious and juicy roast chicken if possible. Check out my recipe for the juiciest lemon garlic chicken here. Starting with pan roasted cut chicken breast is fine too, but will limit how much flavor you can infuse and won’t produce a delicious broth which is essential to this dish!

This dish is nothing short of flavor with plenty of sautéed onion, fennel, shallots, and of course, garlic to go around! The fennel is a great substitute for the celery with its special licorice flavor, and the shallots add some extra warmth to this comfort dish. In making this you will be chopping plenty of yummy veggies, and I highly recommend having a good mandolin around! I love the one I have except for one flaw- the piece to hold the food with to protect your hand is plastic and when you get close enough to the blade, you can end up with sliced plastic. YUCK! So if you are in the market for a mandolin make sure the piece to hold the produce is stainless steel or something more durable. If you know of a good one, please leave a comment below and enlighten us! I hope to replace mine soon since I am often slicing away!

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For my crust, I use puff pastry, and I only put it on top of the pie to keep this dish less carby and more focused on the deliciousness of the savory vegetables and tender chicken. You could choose to place pie crust on the bottom as well if you desire. Beware, the pillsbury pie crust has LARD. My favorite is the Trader Joe’s puff pastry for this dish.

Method:

Sautee the chopped onion, fennel, and scallions in 1 tbsp of butter over med-high heat. Season the onions with about 1 tsp of salt. When the onions have softened, add the minced garlic. The garlic will brown pretty quickly so be ready to add the flour soon thereafter. Once the garlic turns golden, add the second tablespoon of butter and slowly pour the flour over, mixing into the melted butter. Quickly pour 2 cups of broth over the flour mixture and whisk until smooth. Add 1/2 tsp of salt and slowly pour in the milk. Simmer on low for about 1-2 minutes. The mixture will become a thick gravy sauce. You can thin it out a little with more broth if necessary. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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In a separate saucepan, sauté the sliced garlic in the olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped veggies and season with the rosemary,  salt and pepper. Stir for about 1 minute until the veggies are all well coated with the garlic oil and seasoning. Add the vegetable mixture into the gravy sauce and stir until well coated. Simmer for 1 minute. Add the chopped chicken and pour into your pie pan. Cover with 1 sheet of puff pastry, rolling the edges in over the edge of your pie pan.

 

Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes, or until the puff pastry is golden. Serve with toasted bread and enjoy!

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Best Ever Chicken Pot Pie
Yields 1
A flaky delicious crust, with juicy tender chicken, and robust hearty veggies make this the perfect comfort food!
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Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
50 min
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
50 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 carrots, sliced
  2. 1/2 cup of fennel, diced or sliced
  3. 1/2 cup sliced onion
  4. 2 cloves of garlic minced
  5. 1 clove of garlic, sliced
  6. 1 small shallot, sliced
  7. 2 tbsp of olive oil
  8. 2-3 medium gold potatoes, diced
  9. 1/3 c asparagus stalks chopped
  10. 1/2 cup sliced baby bella mushrooms
  11. 1/3 cup of peas
  12. 2 tbsp of butter
  13. 2/3- 1 c of milk
  14. salt and pepper to taste
  15. 1 tsp of rosemary, chives, parsley, thyme or whatever your favorite earthy herb may be
  16. 1/2 cup of flour
  17. 2 cups of broth- reserve from cooking your chicken pieces or this boxed brand from Saffron Road found at Whole Foods is amazing! Tasty and Halal !
  18. 1 cup of chopped chicken ( I use the breast and the juicy tender dark meat you can pick out from underneath the chicken.)
  19. 1 sheet of puff pastry (I use the one from Trader Joes)
Instructions
  1. Sautee the chopped onion, fennel, and scallions in 1 tbsp of butter over med-high heat. Season the onions with about 1 tsp of salt. When the onions have softened, add the minced garlic. The garlic will brown pretty quickly so be ready to add the flour soon thereafter.
  2. Once the garlic turns golden, add the second tablespoon of butter and slowly pour the flour over, mixing into the melted butter. Quickly pour 2 cups of broth over the flour mixture and whisk until smooth.
  3. Add 1/2 tsp of salt and slowly pour in the milk. Simmer on low for about 1-2 minutes. The mixture will become a thick gravy sauce. You can thin it out a little with more broth if necessary. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. In a separate saucepan, sauté the sliced garlic in the olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped veggies and season with the rosemary, salt and pepper. Stir for about 1 minute until the veggies are all well coated with the garlic oil and seasoning.
  5. Add the vegetable mixture into the gravy sauce and stir until well coated. Simmer for 1 minute. Add the chopped chicken and pour into your pie pan. Cover with 1 sheet of puff pastry, rolling the edges in over the edge of your pie pan.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until the crust is golden.
Notes
  1. This recipe yields enough filling for 2 pies in which you would need another pie pan and sheet of puff pastry. Instead I stored the extra pie filling which we ate the next day with cooked bulgur (recipe coming soon) or bread.
Sugar & Garlic http://www.sugarandgarlic.com/

 

 

Pumpkin Caramel Cake

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Its fall, and they are everywhere. Pumpkins are sure to make it into your kitchen this autumn if you are following these posts! This moist fluffy cake is a perfect treat for breakfast, dessert, or anytime you just want to cozy up with a delicious pumpkin caramel spice cake!

The inspiration for this recipe comes from an amazing caramel cupcake I made from Sally’s Baking Addiction. These are incredibly delicious, and a must try! So naturally this would make a great starting point for a delicious pumpkin caramel cake! I modified the recipe to include pumpkin puree and spice. I used her caramel frosting for the cake, which is just heavenly!

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Pumpkin Caramel Cake
Yields 1
pumpkin, caramel, cinnamon, and autumn all in one!
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Prep Time
35 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
1 hr 5 min
Prep Time
35 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
1 hr 5 min
For the cake
  1. 1 3/4 cup flour
  2. 1 tsp baking powder
  3. 1/2 tsp salt
  4. 1 1/2 tsp pumpkin spice
  5. 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  6. 1 cup brown sugar
  7. 1/2 white sugar
  8. 3/4 stick of softened butter
  9. 2 eggs
  10. 1/4 cup heavy cream
  11. 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
  12. 1 tsp vanilla extract
For the salted caramel frosting (from Sally's)
  1. 1 stick salted butter
  2. 1 cup dark brown sugar
  3. 1/3 cup heavy cream
  4. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  5. 1-2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  6. additional pinch of salt, as needed
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a bundt pan well with oil and a teaspoon of flour. In a medium bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, pumpkin spice, cinnamon, and salt together.
  2. In a larger bowl, mix the pumpkin puree, eggs, vanilla, butter, and sugars together until well combined.
  3. Stir in the heavy cream, and be careful not to over mix.
  4. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for about 15 minutes, then flip onto cake plate.
  5. While the cake bakes, prepare frosting by melting the butter. Once the butter is melted add the brown sugar and cream. Mix well and allow to boil for 2 minutes. Let the caramel cool to room temperature, then add the powdered sugar slowly 1/2 a cup at a time until you reach the desired consistency. The more sugar you add, the thicker it will be. Add salt to offset the sweetness of the powdered sugar.
  6. Pour the caramel frosting over the cake, or if you made it thicker with more sugar, frost with a spatula.
Notes
  1. You can also make this with 2 round pans or 2 loaf pans.
Sugar & Garlic http://www.sugarandgarlic.com/

Pumpkin Spice Biscotti

 

DSC_1043 DSC_1039This was a tough one. But I like challenges. I love biscotti. I love autumn. I love drinking hot cider or tea in autumn. I wanted– no I needed– to combine all these loves into a lovely pumpkin spice biscotti that exudes all the warmth and aroma of autumn. My mom makes the best biscotti. Of course I may be biased, but it is the perfect texture, right amount of anise, and has the perfect crunch. I curl up into nostalgic comfort dipping her biscotti into my tea and it was one of my best friends during my first trimester nausea in both my pregnancies. Actually, I think it was my only source of nourishment for a few weeks!

When I decided to make a pumpkin variation of biscotti, the world wide web was very scarce to present a recipe I liked, with the exception of this good starting point I found on Simply Recipes. The recipe calls for 1/2 of pumpkin puree which sounded fair to me. Not too little, not too much; I’ll take it. However I really wanted to start with my mom’s recipe because I love its texture and crunch, and besides Mama knows best! I still had several adjustments to make to accommodate the extra moisture of the pumpkin. I experimented over and over with half recipes until I produced the perfect cookie with a good crunch. Pumpkin naturally has a lot of moisture, and the puree reminded me of apple sauce. I remembered my days when I used to make reduced fat cakes from the boxed mixes which suggested using apple sauce in place of oil. So I dropped the oil in place of the pumpkin puree, and I also reduced the 3 eggs from my mother’s recipe to 2 eggs. I thought this would suffice, but the first batch still came out too cakey. So the second time around I added 1 extra cup of flour and used  a tad bit more sugar. I opted to use more brown sugar because of the butterscotch flavor it lends and because it makes a cookie softer (to make up for the extra flour added). I also doubled the spices, just because I love the smell! So here it is, what my taste testers and myself found to be the perfect little cookie!

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Make Fresh Pumpkin Puree

First of all, I use fresh puree. Always. Perhaps this has more water than the canned and why I needed to make more adjustments than the other recipes I found online. Fresh puree is just better; it has no preservatives or additives, is not processed, and is SO easy to make. Did I mention it will make your house smell AMAZING?! Just cut the pie pumpkin in half ( I get mine at Trader Joe’s), scoop out the pumpkin seeds ( you can toast these little gems with salt and some oil), sprinkle the pumpkin flesh with some cinnamon and nutmeg or pumpkin pie spice, and place flesh side down on a large baking sheet. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes. Your home will smell Ah-MAZING as the toasted spices and roasted pumpkin scents waft through your home. When the pumpkin is soft, remove from oven, let it cool, and scoop it right out of its skin and into a bowl. Beat for 1-2 minutes with a hand blender till smooth.  Easy as pie 😉 

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Pumpkin  sounds perfect with warm gooey caramel which will highlight the butterscotch tones the brown sugar imparts to the cookie. So I whipped up a caramel sauce and drizzled over my cooled biscottis after they toasted on each side. This makes for an extra treat when dipped into your coffee or tea and the caramel melts into your drink and in your mouth! However, being a dedicated chocolate fan, I also decided to dress some biscottis with a delicate chocolate drizzle. For this, I just melted some semi-sweet chocolate chips and drizzled using a ziploc bag.

Biscotti is a twice baked cookie hailing from Italy. The first time it is baked to a soft cake like texture, then it is sliced and baked again to toast into a crunchy biscuit ideal for dipping into coffee or tea. I personally like my cookie a little softer so I do not toast it as long as required when it gets its second bake.

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Most recipes you will find for biscotti call for rolling the dough into a log. It was nearly impossible to do so with this mixture; it is far too sticky. Do not attempt; it is fruitless. I tried flouring my hands and the counter, to no avail. Instead we will pour and form the sticky dough into a long, log shape on the pan, and shape it with a finger dipped in water to prevent stick. When slicing the once baked biscotti, you MUST use a sharp serrated knife, and it helps to dip into water between cuts if its getting to crumbly. 

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 here you see how sticky the batter can be

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Pumpkin Spice Biscotti
Yields 24
A delicious pumpkin dunker for your tea or coffee!
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Prep Time
1 hr
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
2 hr
Prep Time
1 hr
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
2 hr
For the biscotti
  1. 3 cups flour
  2. 1 cup dark brown sugar
  3. 1/2 cup granulated white sugar
  4. 1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  5. 2 eggs
  6. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  7. 2 tablespoon of unsalted butter, melted
  8. 1/2 cup of pumpkin puree
  9. 1/4 teaspoon salt
  10. 1 1/2 teaspoon of pumpkin spice
  11. 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  12. pinch of ginger, to taste
  13. pinch of cloves, to taste
  14. 1 stick of salted butter
For the Caramel Sauce
  1. 1 cup pf dark brown sugar
  2. 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  3. 1/3 cup of heavy cream
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift the flour, baking powder, salt and spices together in a medium bowl. In a larger bowl whisk together the pumpkin puree, 2 eggs, sugars, and vanilla extract. Slowly add the dry ingredients and mix until well combined. Pour the melted butter over mixture and stir in gently.
  2. This step will be the trickiest, but with my tips you will do fine! Grease your baking sheet with butter, or line it with parchment paper. Carefully pour the dough into two long logs on the baking sheet. The length of the log should take the length of the pan and be the same thickness throughout, about 1/2 inch. The width of your log should be about 4 inches, or smaller if you are making mini biscotti. The width of the logs will be the actual length of your biscotti once you cut it. To smooth any peaks from the dough or shape any odd portions wet your finger, and smooth the dough into a long even slab as much as possible.
  3. Bake for about 25 minutes. Remove from oven, allow it to cool for about 10 minutes, then slice into narrow long biscuits. Turn each biscuit over on its side and bake for 15 minutes on each side.
  4. While the biscuits are baking, melt 1 stick of unsalted butter over medium heat. Once melted, add the 1 cup of brown sugar and cream and stir well. Allow it to boil for about 1 minute then remove from heat. Cool for about 15 minutes then stir in powdered sugar.
  5. Once the biscotti have cooled, fill a zip bag with the caramel and drizzle over the tops of the biscuits while they are still in the pan. Allow the caramel to harden before storing. Stores well in an airtight container.
Notes
  1. It is worth doubling this recipe because these cookies go fast! These also make great gifts and are a wonderful seasonal treat easy to dress up with caramel or chocolate drizzles!
Sugar & Garlic http://www.sugarandgarlic.com/