A spectacular tray of bread, cheese, and fruit, Odessa Piper’s Apricot Biscotti combines slices of herbed bread studded with apricots with sliced cheese and fresh apricots. Her use of hyssop is unusual; this is an ancient and pungent herb, used — with other herbs — to flavor Chartreuse liqueur. Yes, if you can’t find it, you may go without. The flavor won’t be the same, but it will still be delicious. Chef Piper toasts the pistachios at 325 F, noting that this temperature will toast the nuts but still leave them bright green.
- Dried Apricots - 2 cups
- Riesling wine to cover
- Flour - for dusting
- Pistachios - 1 cup, toasted and roughly chopped
- Almonds - 1 cup, toasted and roughly chopped
- Unsalted Butter - 1/2 pound, low-water content, at room temperature
- Sugar - 1-1/4 cup
- Eggs - 5, extra large
- Raspberry - 1/4 cup, or tarragon vinegar
- Baking Powder - 2 teaspoons
- Baking Soda - 1
- Salt - 1/2 teaspoon
- All-Purpose Flour - 4-1/2 cups
- Anise or Fennel fronds - 2 teaspoons, chopped
- Mint - 2 teaspoons, cut in narrow strips (chiffonade)
- Hyssop leaves - 2 teaspoons, cut in narrow strips (chiffonade), and hyssop flowers
- Wisconsin Trade Lake Cedar Cheese - 1 pound, or other favorite firm cheese
- Blooming hyssop sprigs - 8 to 10
- Apricots - 5, peeled, halved, and pitted
One day in advance, put the apricots in a non-aluminum bowl and cover with the wine. Before proceeding with the recipe, drain the apricots, slice into pieces, and toss in flour to lightly coat them. Set aside. Toss the pistachios and almonds in flour to lightly coat them and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter, then slowly add the sugar, beating until light and fluffy. One at a time, beat in the eggs. Beat in the vinegar. Mix the baking powder, baking soda, and salt into the flour. Add the flour to the butter mixture in three additions, stirring just until mixed. Add the reserved fruit, nuts, anise or fennel, mint, and hyssop and mix together by hand. If necessary, add more flour, a tablespoon at a time, until the dough is dry enough to hold its shape. Shape into two loaves or one long loaf and place on the prepared baking sheet. Bake 25 minutes, or until the loaves sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Remove and let cool slightly.
To serve: Arrange a thin wedge of cheese in the center of each plate. Slice the biscotti and tuck one end of three slices under the cheese on each plate. Garnish with the hyssop sprigs and apricot halves.