Apr 25 2010

Girls’ Weekend

Published by at 10:00 pm under Brunch,Dessert,Entertaining

Southerners may not have invented the tradition of cooking for others, but they have certainly perfected the execution of it. My childhood is filled with memories of my mother rushing around, completing errands with my sister and me grumpily sitting in the backseat of her car, but always making time to drop a casserole off at a friend’s house whose parent recently passed away. It’s just the way things are done.

I’m no longer a resident of the Hospitality State, but it’s in my blood. Good manners are bred, not born, and I’ve come to appreciate them even more as I grow older. A bottle of wine, a batch of cookies or fresh flowers go a long way when you’re a guest in someone’s home — even if said someone is your own sister.

My mother, aunt and I met up in Denver this past weekend, where my sister has lived for a little over a year. I wanted to bring a little something to show my gratitude for our lovely hostess (and perhaps, admittedly, to pay homage to our gracious roots). I decided to make biscotti for the first time, knowing that the women in my family tend to be voracious coffee drinkers whose sweet tooths aren’t so, well, sweet.

While drumming up some inspiration for my biscotti, I remembered a cooking class my sister and I took in Chicago a couple of years ago when we both lived in the area. Our four-course, hands-on dinner included a dessert of Grand Marnier fig and basil bread pudding, a combination we both went crazy for and ended up passing on to my mom for a Thanksgiving dish idea. The fig and basil pairing seemed like a perfect fit for my biscotti — and I knew my sis would appreciate the memory behind it.

Note: I used Smitten Kitchen’s Fig & Walnut Biscotti for reference, since I’m a biscotti novice.

Fig and Basil Biscotti

Ingredients (Makes about 18 biscotti):

1/4 cup chopped almonds

1/2 stick butter, softened

1/2 cup light brown sugar

2 tbsp. honey

2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

1/2 tsp. lemon zest

1 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. whole wheat flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

1 cup dried figs, cut into small cubes

1/4 cup basil, chopped

1 egg white

White sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spread almonds on baking sheet and toast for 5 minutes, or until fragrant. Remove and cool.

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to combine butter, sugar and honey. Add eggs one at a time and beat until smooth. Beat in vanilla and lemon zest.

In another bowl, combine flours, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg, and stir until mixed well. Beat dry ingredients into butter and sugar mixture, and stir in almonds, figs and basil. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes or until firm.

Grease a baking sheet. On a floured surface, roll dough into a log the length of the baking sheet, and place log on sheet. In a small bowl, beat egg white until it becomes frothy, and brush egg on top of the log of dough. Sprinkle with white sugar. Bake for 20 minutes or until the top of the log forms cracks and begins to harden and brown.

Remove and let cool for another 30 minutes. Use a serrated knife to cut biscotti into 1/2-inch slices, on the bias (it’s prettier). Lay the slices on a cooking sheet (you may need a second one at this point) and bake for another 20 minutes until toasted.

One response so far

One Response to “Girls’ Weekend”

  1. SHon 26 Apr 2010 at 9:07 am

    The biscotti were delicious! I polished them off this morning 🙂 Perfect hostess gift.