Sunday afternoon, after sleeping in and lingering over pancakes and bacon and lolling around on the couch enjoying a good long cuddle with bare feet propped in a shaft of sunlight, then going for a run around the sunny/breezy/cloudy/ warm/bright lake, and relishing the fact that there was nothing much on the agenda for the rest of the day, it was high time for a little experimentation in the kitchen.
I am not, generally speaking, a person who needs cookies. I don’t require baked goods to complete a perfect lazy Sunday afternoon. And yet, one of my goals for 2010 has been to find desserts that I like. So there I was, measuring and stirring happily away.
This thing started a few days before, with Stella’s recipe for Semolina & Rosewater Biscotti over at The Witchy Kitchen. Her recipe was adapted from Chef Dennis’s Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti, and they both looked scrumptious. I can probably count on one finger the number times I’ve actually eaten a biscotti, but the rose water caught me and I was hooked, good and proper.
I stopped at the little Indian grocery store in my neighborhood for the rose water. On opening the door I was greeted by the familiar gust of spices—curry, cardamom, hints of garam masala. The usual elderly gentlemen sat by the door, watching soccer on the wall-mounted TV. A tray of samosas cooled on the counter, under a display of bangles and bracelets. The clerk led me around piled up bags of basmati rice, found the bottle of rose water, and in a trice it was mine.
On Saturday night, had you been a fly on the wall, you would have seen me shelling pistachios into a measuring cup while watching House Hunters International with Michael. Mental note: just buy the bag of already-shelled nuts next time!
Which brings us to Sunday, and my reckless combining of two Biscotti recipes, and adding whiskey on the fly, even though I’d never tried either of the recipes as written. This, I understand from my friends who bake, is considered a cardinal sin. And I must confess it’s a sin that I committed with eyes wide open, and full consent of the will. The irresistible impulse to tinker is why I’m not a baker at heart. I’ve yet to see a recipe that I didn’t want to adjust immediately and capriciously to my own tastes.
Fortunately, in this case, it all worked out just fine. The kitchen filled with the wonderful scent of baking, and the biscotti came out perfectly, to rest in orderly rows on the cooling rack. Densely textured, they were firm but still bitable without dunking. Not too sweet, rich like shortbread, and heady with the scents of the pistachios and rose water. If a cookie can have an umami taste, these did.
And here’s the thing I figured out about baking cookies. They aren’t just cookies–not really. They are a little more tangible warmth and sweetness in the world, a little something that can easily be shared with coworkers or friends or lovers. They are a modest addition to the sum total of all that is good, right there on the list with volunteer fire departments and daffodils and science fiction and high tech running shoes.
Suddenly, cookies seemed like the perfect way to complete a Sunday afternoon.
Rosewater Pistachio Biscotti
- 1-2/3 cups flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp salt
- 2 large eggs
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 2 tbsp oil
- ¾ tsp rose water
- ½ tsp whiskey
- 1/3 cup coarsely chopped pistachios
Preheat oven to 350.
In a small bowl mix flour, baking powder and salt. In a larger bowl, beat together the eggs, sugar and oil until mixture is a light yellow in color. Stir in rosewater and whiskey. Add the flour mixture and nuts. With moistened hands form dough into flattened log on greased cookie sheet, about one inch thick by 3 inches wide. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes then slice into ½ inch slices and place on sides and return to oven. Bake for 10-12 more minutes. Let cool.