If you're counting down to Christmas then you might still feel like there's plenty of time to do your annual last-minute-shopping! In reality, you have only four days left to place your orders! The holiday gift basket, a la carte basket items, and doggie treats will all only be on sale until this coming Tuesday! [Place hands on either side of face and yell "Ahhhhhh!"] If you're wondering why the orders need to be placed "with so many days until Christmas" then let me help clarify for you. For starters, I make all orders at the same time! It helps to cut ingredient costs, so that I only make what is needed, and also reduces my holiday stress levels by ensuring me only one trip to the post office! The baskets contain eleven items! That's a lot of baking! These aren't simple one-step cookies. For the sugar cookies (You probably think this is the easiest thing in the baskets!) I need to obviously first make the dough, roll it, cut it, bake it, let them cool and in the meantime make up a batch of royal icing that is just the right consistency so that the decoration looks perfect! After I spend eight tedious hours encouraging my carpel tunnel I then have to wait overnight for the icing to dry. If I plan on having layers of design, then each layer needs to dry completely before using the next color! Why? Because I'm crazy about perfection! And I LOVE this! After I've also done that with the gingerbread men, I move on to the hazelnut biscotti! This recipe is often requested by clients of mine! It involves roasting whole hazelnuts, removing the skins, chopping them and then incorporating them into the biscotti dough so that there are just enough, without having hazelnut pieces fall out of the dough. Biscotti is actually fairly easy to make. Once you've made the dough, shape it into equal sized logs to fit on your sheet tray. (Ever notice that baking sheets are unique to each person, much like noses?) I tend to keep my logs about 2 1/2" in diameter. I like more petite biscotti. Space the logs out a few inches and pat them down a little. With this recipe I like to brush the tops of the dough with a tiny bit of water to give it a tacky feeling and then I sprinkle it with Demerara sugar before baking. After the logs are baked about 3/4 of the way I slice them on a long bias, keeping my pieces really thin. Thin, crispy biscotti is so much more enjoyable than thick and hard biscotti! After pieces are sliced they need to be dried in the oven! This is the most difficult part, because you have to watch carefully and not do anything very distracting or you'll easily burn them! I like to make coffee now, so that it's ready when the biscotti comes out of the oven! Sampling is one of the perks...

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