Can I introduce you to someone? I wouldn’t say she’s a friend, more of an acquaintance really. The kind of acquaintance that boosts your self-esteem by refusing to believe you’re single and then makes it their personal duty to find you a husband. I’m sure you’ve had at least one. Babs is my one.
She listens to the Archers religiously, grows gourds, and wears cords. I’d tell you off for stereotyping, but yes, Babs is what you’re imagining. She’s the sort of lady who has a cardigan to match her socks on any given day… and she has a lot of socks. ‘Funky’ is her favourite word.
She sings in the local choir, only I picture her as more of a clicking side-stepper than a robed chorister. And she gives the best, warmest, squeeze-you-into-her-bosom-and-make-you-feel-whole hugs. Those that are both awkward and comforting all at once. Bosom.
I think she’d make a mean bread and butter pudding. She thinks she makes quality biscuits: Bewitching boy biscuits.
I mention her because, of all the dating advice that’s been thrown at me in the past four years, hers is, by far, my favourite. I don’t know whether it’s because her suggestion was the most unlikely, unintentional innuendo I expected to come from this cardigan-clad 60 year old woman, or purely because she encouraged me to win boys with biscuits.
Either way, Babs thinks her ‘Dunkies’ are the way to my future lover’s heart – my new wing man.
She pushed a scribbled recipe on a page from her handbag-sized notepad into my palm: ‘Babs’ Dunkies’.
“Men love munching on my Dunkies, they just can’t get enough. Perfect with a cup of tea. They’re nothing too delicate, quite robust and sturdy – not really for girls like us you know…”
…Seems feminism hasn’t quite reached Babs yet…
“…But I’ve won many men’s affections with these. Bake them and you’ll have a long line of suitors in no time at all”
So I made them. I couldn’t resist. A little part of me wanted her to be right, for them to be the best biscuits I’ve ever made. Life-changing. Prophetic biscuits.
But well, they were funny things. Sort of a biscuit/cake/scone hybrid. The closest thing I can equate them to is a rock cake – a not-so-inspiring, raisin-studded boulder. And although my dating history might suggest I know little about the male psyche, I think they would agree. Soft, boring biscuits and no suitors for me.
But before I gave a “thank you, but no thank you” to her advice, I found Babs wasn’t alone in believing that a biscuit could find me an admirer. An ancient tale tells of a Persian woman falling madly in love with the prince, and charming him by baking a cake full of pistachios, rose water and cardamom – Persian love cake. It worked for her. A girl can dream.
So I’m not completely dismissing Babs’ advice, but taking it with a pinch of Persia and a different ‘dunkie’.
New wing (wo)man: Persian Love Biscotti. It’s worth a try.
Persian Love Biscotti
Seeds of 3 cardamom pods, finely ground
Pinch of salt
120g plain flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. black sesame seeds
100g caster sugar
Zest of ½ lemon
1 medium egg
¼ tsp. rose water
100g pistachios, shelled and roughly chopped
1 tbsp. dried rose petals
40g white chocolate
Preheat your oven to 140°C fan/160°C non-fan and line a baking tray with baking paper.
Finely grind the cardamom with the salt in a pestle and mortar and add into a large bowl with the flour, baking powder, 1 tsp. black sesame seeds, sugar and lemon zest. Mix to combine.
Make a well in the middle of the floury mixture and add the egg and a the rosewater (it’s super powerful, you’ll only want a little or it’ll taste like your gran’s soap).
Stir with a spoon, and then bring together into a firm dough with your hands. If it’s sticky add a little more flour.
Add the pistachios and ½ tbsp. rose petals into the bowl and knead into the dough till they’re evenly dispersed.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it a little. Roll the dough into a log, about 4cm in diameter and place on your baking tray. Bake for 30 minutes.
Leave the biscotti to cool for about 10 minutes, allowing the dough to firm up a bit.
Use a sharp knife to cut the log, on the diagonal, into 2cm thick slices.
Place these slices, cut side up, back onto your lined baking tray and place back in the oven to bake for 30 minutes (turning them over after 15 minutes) until golden and crisp.
Once baked and dry through to the middle, transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Melt the white chocolate, drizzle over one end of the biscotti and sprinkle over the remaining rose petals and black sesame seeds.