Biscotti are rustically charming Italian twice-baked cookies. Dough is first formed into a long roll and baked, then cut on the diagonal and baked a second time to dry them. They’re a delicious, even politely meant-to-be-dunkable treat. In Italy, biscotti are dunked into coffee and enjoyed for breakfast. In the evenings, after one of their famously-long and leisurely dinners, biscotti might be dipped into wine (especially vin santo.) In that sense, they’re a sort of chewable, meltable, endlessly-adaptable delivery system for the beverage being enjoyed alongside. Biscotti have made their way stateside, though some of them are highly sweetened and fancified and bear little resemblance to their Italian ancestor. I’ll offer the more traditional sort here.
What we love about biscotti:
they’re positively delicious when, bite-by-bite, they’re softened in coffee
they fall into the “treat” category without being overly sweet
even after weeks (if they last that long) they’re as good as ever
they make someone a sweet little present
they look so cute in a jar
I sent out sample packages of two versions for a vote. The results were close, but the lemon-aniseed version narrowly beat out the orange-walnut among testers. This was a very limited sample so I wouldn’t read much into it if I were you. They’re each good, and each has a following, but my husband and I come down on the side of the Grand Marnier-walnut. With fans in each camp though, I thought it only fair to let you decide for yourselves. (I’d start with the walnut – but you already knew that.) Post a vote if you like! And if you find a way of pairing your biscotti up with a favorite beverage or frozen dessert, I’d love to hear your discoveries.
Grand Marnier Walnut Biscotti
- 3/4 cup walnuts
- 8 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 Tablespoon Grand Marnier (or substitute a brandy or Cognac of your choosing – see NOTE)
- zest of 1 orange – about 1 Tablespoon
- 2 cups plus 2 Tablespoon all-purpose flour (plus more for dusting your board)
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
The other day, I spent an afternoon meandering through a local community farm, breathing in the last fragments of our warm, blue-skied days. For half of us, summer’s quickly leaving town, moving south. For us up north, no more lolling away the days on lawn chairs (did we get around to doing that?) No more sipping piña coladas while nightly grilling up our dinners (oh how romantically we remember it!) or tossing our bountiful summer salads (now that we did.) Autumn’s come. It’s not all bad. Yes, rain and wind and chill. But also, the gathering in of family and friends; and still, food and drink to delight in, warm to, and share.
(For a closer look, you can click on an image to open the photo gallery. Click on it again to enlarge.)
So, with billowy clouds climbing fast through a nearly-saphire sky, dry leaves flying in crazy circle patterns, and my stomach growling because I haven’t fed it lately, here are my thoughts for autumns’s table. Things may change, much like the weather, but that’s to be expected. I’ll happily share everything that’s good with you.
Have you ever wondered how to take a refreshing summer salad and turn it into a soup? I hadn’t either, but apparently the Spanish had, and the result is gazpacho: Cool refreshing gorgeous coral pink velvety deliciousness! If you’ve never tasted gazpacho, this is far better than you would imagine. (Believe me, this is nothing like v-8 juice.) If you’ve had and appreciated gazpacho before, you may very well love this version! With the incorporation of country bread, very good olive oil and aged sherry vinegar, it’s got a depth and complexity of flavor that leaves you licking your happy lips and holding out your glass for maybe just a little more. This can be a first course, served in champagne glasses if you like! Or serve it for lunch or on a hot summer evening along with some crusty bread and cheese. Absolutely no cooking required.
For the Soup:
- 2 cups cubed day-old country bread, crusts removed
- 2 medium-size garlic cloves, chopped (see NOTE)
- 1 small pinch of cumin seeds or ground cumin
- coarse salt (kosher or sea)
- 3 pounds ripest, most flavorful tomatoes possible, seeded and chopped
- 2 small Kirby (pickling) cucumbers, peeled and chopped
- 1 large Italian (frying) pepper, cored, seeded and chopped (see NOTE 2)
- 1 medium-size red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped
- 3 Tablespoons chopped red onion
- 1/2 cup fragrant extra-virgin olive oil (of very good quality)
- 1/2 cup chilled bottled spring water, or more as needed (optional – I didn’t use, and was very satisfied with the result, but you may choose to add)
- 3 Tablespoons sherry vinegar, preferably aged, or more to taste
For the Garnishes:
- Finely diced cucumber
- Finely diced peeled Granny Smith apple
- Finely diced slightly under-ripe tomato
- Finely diced green bell pepper
- Slivered small basil leaves
- Toasted, Herbed coarse bread crumbs
Place the bread in a bowl, covered with cold water and allow to soak for 5 to 10 minutes. Drain the bread, squeezing out the excess liquid.
Place the garlic, cumin, and ½ teaspoon salt in a mortar and, using a pestle, mash them to a paste.