Black Walnut Biscotti with Orange Zest

Black walnuts are an impossible nut.  Their fruit is impossibly smelly.  When the fruit dries into a husk and needs to be removed from the nut, it makes an impossible mess, staining everything it touches.  The shells of black walnuts are impossibly hard.  I use a hand-held sledge hammer and eye protection to break into them.  But I'm fairly certain this is all because black walnut meat is impossibly good. 

If you've never tasted one, you might assume that black walnuts taste somewhat similar to English walnuts.  You'd be wrong.  Black walnuts are so strongly flavored that it seems that people either love them or reel with displeasure at the very mention of them.  They taste like an oily essence of wood, like the scent of cut lumber distilled down into a tiny lump.  Black walnuts also have a faint sweetness, as if their edges have been painted with a heavy dark flower, and rounded out with mineral-y touches of slate (hey, if oenophiles can taste slate in fermented grape juice, then I can taste it in a nut!).  Or, if you are a black walnut hater, they taste like paint thinner.

Think of all of the foods that taste great with the addition of walnuts - brownies, banana bread, ice cream, flourless cakes, nut crusts.  Well, black walnuts transform those same foods into gold-plated masterpieces.

Black Walnut Biscotti with Orange Zest

6 Tbsp. butter, softened
1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 eggs
2 c. flour or gluten-free flour blend
1/4 c. black walnuts
zest from one orange

1.  Beat together butter, sugar, vanilla, salt, and baking powder until smooth and creamy.

2.  Add eggs and continue beating for a minute.  The batter may look curdled at this point.

3.  Stir in flour, nuts, and orange zest until the dough just pulls together.

4.  Line a baking sheet with parchment, and form the dough into a log approximately 15 x 2 1/2 x 3/4".

5.  Bake 25 minutes at 350 degrees (F).

6.  Let the baked log cool on the pan for 20 minutes.

7.  Spritz the log with water, and let it sit for 5 additional minutes.  This will make it easier to cut without crumbling.

8.  Cut into even 3/4" slices.

9.  Set the slices upright on the baking sheet, and bake them an additional 25 minutes at 325 degree (F).

10.  Cool the baked black walnut biscotti on a rack.

11.  Dip the end of the finished cookies into melted chocolate.  Alternately, you can drizzle them with ribbons of chocolate.

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