Orange Walnut Biscotti

Orange Walnut Biscotti
I love dunkin’– cookies, chaklis, even toast. Any sweet or savory crispy snack just tastes better to me when I can take it for a quick swim in a cup of coffee, tea, or soymilk.So you can imagine how I must love biscotti, those elegant, finger-like, crunchy Italian cookies that were just made for dunking.

I make my biscotti at least a little guilt-free by making them partially with whole-wheat pastry flour. This time I also added to them some nuts, full of heart-healthy fiber and protein, and some orange juice and zest which just about kicks everything up, ahem, a notch.

I’ll let you be the judge, but I am going to leave you with one final piece of evidence on just how good these were: they met the doggie test, and Opie, Lucy and Freddie just couldn’t get enough.

Enjoy, all, and don’t stop reading after the recipe because I have some food for thought that I wish everyone will chew on.

Orange Walnut Biscotti


Orange Walnut Biscotti
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Cookies
Cuisine: Italian
  • 1½ cups whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • Whisk these together thoroughly.
  • In another bowl, beat together until well-combined:
  • ½ cup canola or other flavorless vegetable oil
  • 1¼ cup orange juice
  • 1¼ cup sugar
  • Zest of one orange, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup of finely chopped walnuts.
  1. Add the flour mixture to the liquid mixture gradually, beating in until well combined.
  2. Mix in the walnuts.
  3. Dump all the dough on a flat surface, and divide in half (If you find that the dough is still soft, just add some all-purpose flour until it's moldable, but keep in mind you don't want a very stiff dough). Using well-oiled hands, roll each ball back and forth with your palms to form a log, about 11 inches long. Repeat for the remaining dough.
  4. Place both logs as far apart as possible on an oiled baking sheet. Press down slightly on the logs to flatten them a little.
  5. Bake in a preheated 375-degree oven until the logs are beginning to set, around 25 minutes.
  6. Remove the baking sheet to a rack and when the logs are cool enough to handle, place one on a cutting board. Using a serrated knife and a sawing motion, cut into ½-inch slices.
  7. Return the biscotti to a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Flip over and bake the other side for another 10 minutes.
  8. Remove to a rack, cool, and dunk!

The M. F. Husain controversy

For the last few weeks, I’ve been having long arguments with friends and family about an issue that seems to have really rocked Indian citizens and the vast Indian diaspora, going by the number of forwarded chain mails in my inbox. The paintings of the Indian artist M.F. Husain.

Husain is India’s most successful painter, although he is not as well-known in the West. He is now 95 and he recently became a citizen of Qatar after being hounded out of Bombay, where he lived all his life, by Hindu right-wingers.

I was raised in a Hindu family that was quite devout. While my parents’ ardent religiousness did not rub off on me, it didn’t leave me untouched either. Although I don’t usually go to temples or perform poojas, I have always tended to live my life by the Hindu philosophy of self-scrutiny, tolerance, compassion and non-violence. Values that many Indians, religious or not, have long believed in.

Now here’s the M.F.Husain brouhaha: Husain, always a controversial painter and arguably a good one– and not least importantly for this topic a Muslim by religion– has for a long time painted nude images of Hindu goddesses. I remember he was doing it when I lived in India back in the 1990s, and when I interviewed him at his South Bombay residence for a newspaper article.

Husain was as famous for being an eccentric as he was for his paintings. Gaunt and tall, with a white beard and a shock of white hair, he always wore flowing, bright-white clothes that became his signature. And given his love for drama and his flamboyant personality, it was hard to tell whether the things he did had to do with artistic creation or just grabbing attention. He often embarked on stunts: like painting to the live music of Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, a popular Indian classical artiste. Another time he suddenly upped and painted his car all over with horses — a favorite subject of his to paint. And he would sometimes make little pencil sketches and hand them out to people he had just met.

With his nude goddesses, Husain got a little more attention than he bargained for.

Back in the ’90s, I remember, a handful of radical Hindus frowned upon those paintings and made a bit of a noise and eventually all that would die down. Over the past few years, however, as extreme religious points of view have gained political strength in India, the attacks on Husain have intensified to such a degree that a few years back he was forced to leave Bombay following repeated threats to his life, and take refuge first in Dubai and eventually in Qatar.

It’s not surprising that some people are offended that Husain is painting Hindu goddesses in the nude because, honestly, is there anything anyone can do these days without offending someone else? I am sure this post is going to offend some of you.

But here’s the bigger problem and it is something each Indian, citizen or diasporal, should worry about more than what Husain did or did not paint: the undermining of the cornerstone of India’s secular democracy– the freedom of expression it guarantees all its citizens– by the radicals who have succeeded in throwing Husain out.

I don’t think there is another right as valuable in this world as the ability to freely exchange ideas. It enriches our cultures and our minds. And in an India that is changing rapidly, it is perhaps one of the most important rights we need to claim and guard before the extremists — still a small group — erode it, which they surely will if we let them.

Husain was never found guilty of violating any laws with his paintings– in 2008, India’s Supreme Court dismissed charges of obscenity brought against him by pointing out, accurately, that Hindu iconography, and its temples, are chock-a-block with images of nude deities. But despite this, Husain was forced to pay the ultimate penalty– give up his home– by people who have a terrorist-like ability to invoke fear in their targets. Indian newspapers who called for his return were inundated with hate mail and threats themselves

I wanted to write about this because just last week I finished a long-drawn email argument with a close friend who is an admirer of Gandhi’s but who also believes Husain got his just desserts– a view, I believe, Gandhi would never agree with. What disturbed me more was that, like me, this friend is a writer who ought to defend, more than most others, the right to express freely.

Then, just today, I got another chain email forwarded by a usually sane family member juxtaposing Husain’s paintings of nude Hindu women and Bharat Mata (a female personification of India), with his paintings of much better dressed Muslim and Christian women, including Mother Theresa. The mail, addressed to several dozen people besides me, exhorted readers to forward it to others so “Hindus can protect their self-respect.”

(Truly, what a blessing the Internet has been to these bigoted viewpoints: within seconds they can get their messages of hate into hundreds of thousands of inboxes.)

Well, here’s one Hindu who refuses to buy into this propaganda. Instead, I vote for freedom of thought, ideas, speech and expression, and for a world where artists and writers and intellectuals belonging to any religion can create without worrying that they will wake up next morning to find protesters throwing stones through their windows and threatening to hurt them.

The hate stops here.

(C) All recipes and photographs copyright of Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes.

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  1. says

    I love to dunk stuff into tea … and those biscottis look soooo good Vaishali. :-)
    Another must try from your blog.
    As for Hussain … I feel he is just another target for useless people who have nothing better to do to get attention. In Bengal the very revered Kali goddess is always depicted as topless with a skirt of human hands. And our temples as you rightly said are full of such pictures. I guess Hussain is entitled to a little peace too along with other rights. :-)

  2. says

    Heavenly bicottis dear…well baked. I love MF Hussain paintings and as you rightly said here our rich-culture embroiled temples are filled with the very best expressed images of indian gods and goddesses. If the traditionalists in that era did not object to building and showcasing of these wonderful sculptures and paintings, why should the politically-tail-wagging extremists object now. But alas, India still has to go through some of political unrest with petty issues like these ones so that the real issues like terrorism, poverty, better education & healthcare and other good things for India are trodden and never come up to get resolved. :)But one day…one day things will change and they are with the education and good thoughts we are providing our new generation and the future ones :).

  3. says

    Biscottis looks yummy. They have been on my to-make list for a long time. Will try soon.
    I wish people can ‘Just Live and Let live’ and channel all this negativity into doing something positive and make India proud.

  4. says

    I love your posts Vaishali – as much for the recipes as for the non-recipe stuff.. I love dunking biscotti :)
    I have one question – how many biscotti does this recipe yield? I was wondering if I could halve the recipe…

  5. says

    Sharmila, useless people with nothing to do is right :)

    BangaloreBaker, Thanks for hosting the event!

    Jagruti, thanks.

    Supriya, I once interviewed Pramod Navalkar who used to be the culture minister in Maharashtra in the ’90s. The issue was the Shiv Sena, Navalkar’s party which was in power in Maharashtra at the time, was objecting to some rock groups from the west performing in Bombay because, he said, they have “half-naked” women on stage. When I pointed out that most Hindi films are full of “half-naked” women, he replied: “That’s fine if our own people do it, but how dare these foreigners come into my home and do this?”
    I think it’s exactly the same sentiment with Husain: the radicals who are trying to ostracize him have been hard at work to make him look like an “outsider” who has offended Hindu sensibilities– it’s fine if our sculptors in the past did it, goes the argument, but how dare this non-Hindu do so? Of course, they conveniently ignore the fact that Husain is as much as Indian as any of them.

    Pavani, live and let live indeed. :)

    Yasmeen, Ruchikacooks, Thanks.

    Indhu, thanks for your kind words :)
    These would make around 40 biscotti, although I confess some of mine turn our thicker or thinner than others and therefore the count is never quite accurate. You can definitely halve the recipe.

    Srimathi, Vanamala, Thanks!

  6. says

    I think it is a matter of great shame that a 95 year old man was hounded out of his country and had to ultimately give up his citizenship. And isn’t it really sad that in a country where female infanticide is so high, where women’s rights are abused in various ways, some misguided politicians have all the time and energy to fight for the dignity of godsesses!

  7. says

    The biscottis look very crunchy….perfect to dunk in tea.
    As for MF Hussain, I totally agree with your viewpoint. It is sad and shocking that someone has been driven to the point of seeking refuge in another country in order to express his ideas freely.

  8. Ambica says

    The biscottis look lovely!! Your directions are simple and clear and you make it look so easy.
    As for Hussain- all I have to say is …if you don’t like his paintings, don’t look at them. But he has as much right as any other Indian to stay in his home.
    Thank you for yet another lovely post.

  9. says

    Hi Vaishali, I totally agree with your views on Hussain. There was a wonderful article about it in the Saturday Crest edition of the Times of India recently in Mumbai, unfortunately I cannot find the link online. Lovely biscotti:-)

  10. says

    Biscottis look lovely Vaishali. Love your healthy twist you have given those beauties.
    As for the Hussain issue, it is a pity India loses such great artists all for the sake of religion.

  11. says

    Completely agree with you dear. The radical parties like SS and MNS and others around the country have locked their thinking capabilities (specially the logical thinking) and to unlock these brains and emit out the negativity is kind of difficult currently. But I am also surprised with the fact that some of the educated youths (for some moolah) too get involved bitterly in the radical activities. The worst one stuck in my mind is the trashing of poor and hardworking Northindian people by these so-called “Marathi Manoos”. I respect all cultures and India is a free country (hardearned by our freedom fighters). Sometimes my mind comes up with a question “What is the difference between Racism and Casteisim?”. The answer that from my heart is “The feeling of the oppressed in both circumstances is the same”.

  12. says

    Very inviting biscottis Vaishali…I loved dunking biscottis in coffee…love this healthy and flavorful version :)…it is really sad to read this, people don’t appreciate the talent one has rather than go in for controversy, in the end he is now forced to live in a different country.

  13. says

    Biscottis look fantastic, I love to munch something inbetween the meals especially something crunchy! Just few doubts, how does cornstach help? I heard cornstarch helps to make cake lighter or softer and wouldnt this affect the crunchiness of biscotti? even oil will make them softer na?
    As for M.F.Hussain, I never really was into his paintings but i truly agree with your viewpoint of freedom of expression and its so sad to see such an aged person who was forced to move out of his own country :(

  14. says

    Unfortunately, you and I are in the minority – most people I have spoken to, even the ones who are not ultra religious, feel that if these were indeed his artistic expressions then he should have extended them to include figures from other religious denominations as well. Including his own religion which prohibits any depiction of the Prophet.

    Now the flaw in that argument is that it negates the idea of freedom of speech. The very fact that one is saying that “he should do this” or “he shouldn’t do this” means that he is being dictated to. Not what one would expect in a democracy.

    The other thing is that these same people also say that if the other religions can be so intolerant of “disrespect”, then why should Hindus let things pass by. Now isn’t that tit-for-tat principle exactly against all that Gandhi espoused? And don’t we tell our children “will you jump into a well, if someone tells you to?”. Don’t we show that we are above intolerance by being tolerant?

    If your sentiments are hurt – there are peaceful ways to make your feelings known. Don’t buy Hussain. Don’t attend his exhibitions.

    As for Hussain himself, I have not been someone who has been able to understand his art – and while it is a blow to the freedom of expression that he was unable to live in India, he will always be known as an Indian painter. Changing his citizenship is just on paper and for practicality sake. Painters, writers, artists and other creative people have always been at the forefront of social change and this one of it.

  15. Anonymous says

    Lovely blog, I wish you would enable an “e-mail subscription” via feedburner.. Rss is a bit of a pain to manage…

  16. says

    Rachana, Priya, NotYet100, AMA: Thanks!

    Aquadaze, you make a great point. Female infanticide and female exploitation are rampant in India but instead on focusing on those these people are interested in protecting the dignity of goddesses. Well said :)

    Jayashree, Thanks!

    Ambica, yes, that’s absolutely right. It’s not as if he is asking them to hang his paintings in their homes or in temples. :)

    Shreya, Divya: Thanks!

    Supriya, The Shiv Sena and its minions rule by terror– that’s the only way they can get things done because they don’t have an intellectual argument to make. Unfortunately, there are people with tremendous insecurities who will always follow such groups– not unlike the Tea Party crowd that’s terrorizing people here in the United States.

    Gita, Parita: Thanks.

    Miri, I agree with everything you say. Asking Husain to paint women of other religions in the nude is really stupid because, for one, no one should force an artist to do something, as you point out, and for another, Hinduism has for a long time portrayed deities as very sexual beings, unlike most other religions.

    Anonymous, Welcome and thanks, and you certainly can subscribe by email. Once you click on the “Subscribe” button, look for the little blue envelope icon (under the dropdown menu for RSS) that says “get Holy Cow! by email.
    Hope that helps :)

  17. says

    Parita, sorry, I missed your question– the cornstarch actually helps bind the biscotti together and also makes them crumblier, I think.
    The oil doesn’t make them softer– in fact, they’d be too dry without it and they are dry enough already. You could try cutting down the oil by half but I definitely wouldn’t leave it out.

  18. says

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the Husain controversy. It never ceases to amaze me how similar fundamentalists across religions are. The Hindutva militants sound exactly the same as extremist Muslims.

    The orange biscotti sounds pretty good too!

  19. says

    Deepa, Thanks! Desi gets the credit for the clicks :)

    Shahnaz, There are crazies in every religion. And it is almost always political ideology and not religion that motivates them, even when they claim otherwise. Because no religion, at its core, preaches hate and violence.

  20. says

    I was curious and looked up Husain’s art. Aside from the fact that he should have freedom of expression, his painting (or one of them) that has been offending people is not only tasteful, but beautiful.

    I’m sure I’m biased because I’m not of that culture, but it does seem ridiculous to feel so threatened by a depiction of a goddess that to many would seem positive.

  21. says

    Hi Vaishali, I do not see any baking powder, baking soda in the recipe. Is it supposed to be like that? I wanted to make it today but couldnt as I was not sure about baking powder/soda.

  22. Betty says

    I’ve just made the biscotti dough–it’s much too soft to mold into a log. Has anyone else had this problem?

  23. Anonymous says

    Hi Vaishali,
    is there any substitute for corn starch?? i want to bake these w/o running to the store :(…

  24. Jo says

    Is it supposed to be 2 1/2 tsp of baking powder or baking soda? I just made this recipe using baking powder and now I see your comment that it was supposed to be 2 1/2 tsp of baking soda. They came out pretty good with the baking powder (I think so, anyway — they are still cooling)

  25. JS says

    Hi, I made this biscotti yesterday. It came out perfect! I halved the ingredients since it was my first time trying it out, and loved the results. I used baking powder as mentioned in the recipe.

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