This recipe can be enjoyed any time of the year, but it’s especially fitting for Tu Bishvat, the birthday of the trees, which falls in the middle of winter on the 15th day of Shevat (around the months of January or February). This occasion coincides with the time of year when sap begins to flow beneath the bark of the trees. It’s when the temperature rises above freezing during the day, and below freezing at night. It marks the nearing of winter’s end, just before the first sign of new leaves emerge at the beginning of spring.
The roots of Tu Bishvat are connected to an agricultural practice of ancient Jewish farmers. The ritual of eating three different types of fruits appeared later, from 16th-century Kabbalists in Safed. They celebrated their connection to the land by enjoying and bestowing each fruit with spiritual symbolism. They categorized the fruits as:
Fruits with an inedible outer shell and edible inside (pistachios, walnuts, almonds and pecans).
Fruits with an edible outside but inedible core inside (dates and apricots).
Fruits that are completely edible (figs, raisins and cranberries).
This recipe includes fruits from each of these categories. It uses fruits and nuts that are local to where I live in the Midwest, but you can adjust the mix-ins to include more traditional fruits and nuts that are native to the land of Israel (like almonds, dates and figs).
The biscotti can keep up to two weeks in an airtight container.
Ingredients for 24 biscotti
2 cups (240 g) all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
3/4 cup toasted pecans, chopped into small pieces*
Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a small bowl, mix together chopped nuts, cranberries and apricots.
Cream butter, sugar, zest and vanilla in an electric mixer until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time.
On low speed, add in flour mixture until combined. Mix in nut and fruit mixture.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Place half the dough onto one of the lined baking sheets.
Shape the dough into a thin log, about 2 inches wide and 12 inches long. (Use wet hands if dough is difficult to work with.) Repeat with the remaining dough on the second baking sheet.
Bake until golden, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven when the loaf springs back when lightly pressed. Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Keep oven on.
Using a serrated knife, cut each log crosswise into 1/2 inch thick slices. Lay the slices on their sides back onto the parchment lined pans. Reduce the temperature to 300°F.
Return biscotti to the oven and bake until toasted and crisp, about 15-20 minutes, or until dried out. Turn the biscotti halfway through baking. Biscotti is done when it appears dry.
Let the biscotti cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheets, then transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.
To make the maple glaze: Whisk together powdered sugar, maple syrup and lemon juice. Add more powdered sugar to thicken the glaze or add lemon juice to thin the glaze. Drizzle over the cooled biscotti and let set.
Lauren is a graphic designer and illustrator by day and home cook, baker and ice cream maker by night. She and her husband celebrate three different New Year’s holidays (four if you count Tu Bishvat) and love to host Shabbat dinners with friends and family. She enjoys expressing her multiracial identity through the food on their table and learning the stories and histories behind the recipes. She’s often making a mess in the kitchen, playing with flavors and techniques where her Peranakan and Italian ancestries are in dialogue with her Jewish identity. Visit her food blog at Mintystable.com.