I was just missing cooking by instinct, in my kitchen, in a quiet afternoon. I was standing at one end of the kitchen marble table, busy among jars of flour, nuts and honey. My sister was sitting at the opposite side, studying for an exam at the university, but following every movement and nodding at every ingredients I was adding into the cookie dough. A steaming cup of green tea framed an old-fashioned afternoon, one of those cozy days we have spent together growing up.
I’ve always had a tendency to identify scenes of Little Women in my life. It is a book which influenced my imagination for years. Poised between Meg and Jo, I have grown into a little woman of which I am proud, a woman who finds the centre of her world in cooking, in the loved ones and in written words.
When the kitchen spells its charm so convincingly, all you can do is surrender. In these moments, among my pots and jars, I always end up baking something.
I now appreciate the charm of roasting a piece of marbled meat, or the pleasure of baking a crusty bread, which will crackle subtly as it cools on the marble. If I have to find shelter, if I want to do something just for me, to bring back the focus only on my hands moving calmly in the kitchen, I choose baking and I choose cookies, or a modest cake, one of those cakes which make everyone happy.
A simple baking activity can turn a routine breakfast into something new, as magnificent as a crumbly cake dusted with icing sugar. Bake and you’ll have something awaiting for you after a walk along country lanes: fish your biscotti happily from an old cookie tin and have a warm tea. I’m lazy, but the idea of coming back home and finding cookies waiting for me pushes me out of my comfort zone and brings me back home with a faster pace.
Cookies are easy, unpretentious. You can bake them at any time of the day or night, a sweet scent will put you to sleep. Forget them in a cookie jar and you’ll have biscotti for the most unexpected moments. You can bake cookies driven by an instant desire, no previous organization or special ingredients are required. Eggs are always in the pantry, as well as flour, sugar, honey, nuts or chocolate.
A few days ago I have been asked to bake some cookies. When someone asks me to cook something, when he asks me to bake something, I would leave everything I’m doing to run into the kitchen. Just like when you feel the same desire sparkling into you, for the pleasure of feeling the oven warmth on your back while you are working at the table, for the anticipation of taking out of the oven a tray of cookies with a mitten not to burn you. The smell of baked biscotti makes you smile right away.
He asked me to bake some cookies. I imagined a tray of simple biscotti, suitable for breakfast, energetic and packed with wholesome ingredients, cookies that you can eat without feeling guilty in the afternoon with a cup of hot tea, dipped in a café au lait, alone or dunked secretly in a glass of cold water, as I do. It is a legacy of my childhood, it’s still my favorite way of eating biscotti and ciambellone.
Oat and honey biscotti with walnuts and raisins are a twist on the classic Tuscan almond cantucci. They move from after dinner treat to breakfast cookies thanks to the whole oat flour, which makes them golden brown, to the honey, which makes them not overly sweet and marries beautiful the slightly bitter walnuts, to the raisins, tiny drops of sweetness.
While I’m writing this post I’m already browsing my pantry to search for new ingredients for this weekend baking: maybe red fruits and walnuts, or almonds and dried apricot. I have also a jar of chocolate drops which could make these treat even sweeter for someone.
- 2 eggs
- 200 g (2/3 cup) of honey
- 250 g (2 cups) of whole oat flour
- ½ teaspoon of baking powder
- Zest of 1 organic lemon
- 150 g (1½ cups) of walnuts
- 100 g (2/3 cup) raisins
- Preheat the oven to maximum.
- Whisk eggs and honey until they are foamy and light.
- Mix in the oat flour, the baking powder and grated zest of a lemon. At the end fold in walnuts and raisins.
- Line with parchment paper a large baking tray. Spoon the dough into two logs, approximately about 5 cm wide and about 30 cm long.
- Lower the oven temperature to 180°C (350°F) and bake for about 15 minutes, until golden brown. Remove the tray from the oven, let the biscotti cool down for 5 minutes, then cut the logs into 2 cm thick slices.
- Arrange the biscotti cut side down on the tray and bake for 10 minutes, until golden and crisp. You can store the biscotti in an airtight box for many days. After a week they are still fresh and fragrant.
Have a great Autumn weekend. I’ll go hunting for colours, scents of a wood-burning oven, relax and books to read under a blanket of white wool. What are your plans for this weekend?