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.
Enjoy, all, and don’t stop reading after the recipe because I have some food for thought that I wish everyone will chew on.
1 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
Whisk these together thoroughly.
In another bowl, beat together until well-combined:
1/2 cup canola or other flavorless vegetable oil
1 1/4 cup orange juice
1 1/4 cup sugar
Zest of one orange, finely chopped
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
Add the flour mixture to the liquid mixture gradually, beating in until well combined. Add:
3/4 cup of finely chopped walnuts. Mix in.
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.
Place both logs as far apart as possible on an oiled baking sheet. Press down slightly on the logs to flatten them a little.
Bake in a preheated 375-degree oven until the logs are beginning to set, around 25 minutes.
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 1/2-inch slices.
Return the biscotti to a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Flip over and bake the other side for another 10 minutes.
Remove to a rack, cool, and dunk!
These biscotti go out to BangaloreBaker Champa for her BakeOff event. Thanks, Champa!
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.