Vanilla has a recognizable, pleasant aroma and scent and is understandably the world’s most popular flavor. Last February I had the opportunity to visit a family-owned vanilla farm in Hilo, Hawaii. This biscotti recipe is my inspiration from that experience.
In the tropical rainforest of Paauilo Mauka, is where I began my sensory journey to discover one of the world’s fragrant and culinary wonders … Vanilla. Cultivated on the slopes of the highest volcano in the most isolated island chain in the world, Hawaiian vanilla draws its essence from Hawaii’s sweet rains, tropical sunshine, cool breezes and an organic lifestyle.
Hawaiian Vanilla beans are the fruit of the beautiful vanilla planifolia orchid. The delicate orchids bloom just ONE day each year, for only four hours. During that brief window of time, each pale celadon scentless blossom is hand-pollinated and through the “marriage of vanilla” produces a bean that is ready to be picked and cured nine months later. This labor-intensive process is what makes pure vanilla one of the most highly prized (and expensive) spices in the world.
The tour of the farm and presentation on the cultivation side of vanilla production was fascinating. However, it was the vanilla tasting and subsequent vanilla inspired luncheon that completed my “Vanilla Experience”
My Hawaiian Vanilla Luncheon began with a choice of Vanilla Lemonade, Vanilla Ice Tea or a combination of them both. Next was an “amuse” (taste of what’s to come). Usually it’s a piece of something that is coming later in the meal but prepared a different way. The “amuse” served was garam masala shrimp cooked in vanilla butter served on a crostini with the farms homemade vanilla pineapple chutney. The main course was Vanilla Bourbon Marinated Chicken Breast on a Vanilla Sweet Bread Bun and topped with caramelized onions with two sauces to choose from. Both the Vanilla Barbecue Sauce and Vanilla Mango Chutney Aioli were delicious.
The salad was dressed with a Vanilla Raspberry Balsamic, Vanilla Honey-Peppered Pecans and feta cheese. The accompanying potatoes were baked in a Vanilla Southwest Rub. I was delightfully full, yet ready for the last course.
The perfect ending to an incredible Vanilla-inspired meal, was a dessert of Hawaiian Vanilla Bean Ice Cream and of course, Kona coffee.
- 4 ounces unsalted butter, softened
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 4 ounces pecans, toasted
- Sparkling sugar
- Place pecans on baking tray in 350* oven for 9 minutes. Toasting the nuts really brings out the flavor, so don’t bypass this step.
- Cream butter and sugar, add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
- Add vanilla.
- Using a separate bowl, stir flour, salt and baking powder together, add to butter mixture.
- Medium chop the cooled pecans, add to dough.
- Cover and refrigerate for an hour, or overnight. The dough will be sticky and chilling makes it easier to form into logs.
- On a parchment-lined cookie sheet, take half the dough and shape into two logs (12in.x2in.) Flatten slightly. (For a visual look at the technique involved for making these or any other kind of biscotti, refer to the Anise Biscotti recipe). Sprinkle with sparkling sugar. Gently press sugar into dough. Repeat with remaining half of dough.
- Bake in 350* oven on the middle rack 18-20 minutes or until lightly golden.
- Remove and cool on cookie sheet. Carefully place log on cutting board and using a serrated knife, cut diagonally into 1/2 inch slices. Arrange close together back on cookie sheet, bake for an additional 15 minutes until barely golden.