With memories of Northern Michigan holidays past, this black walnut biscotti uses local dried cherries and black walnuts. 

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My sister-in-law loves Christmas even more than I do. When her huge box arrives in the mail, I eagerly slice through the tape to peek inside. Her packages, adorned with foraged pine boughs or dehydrated orange wheels, are picture-perfect set atop our tree skirt in the exciting days leading up to Christmas morning. There’s often one package, however, that we don’t let wait until the 25th—her annual batch of biscotti. It’s the perfect treat. Who doesn’t need extra coffee and something special to dunk in it during the holidays?

Borrowing her tradition, I recently started making a more Michigan biscotti of my own. My take on this Tuscan classic is studded with dried cherries and black walnuts, which are native to the Great Lakes region. The historic Michigan farmhouse that my husband and sister-in-law grew up in was home to a few black walnut trees. The Michigan sheep barn that my great-great-grandparents converted into a home was also flanked by the fragrant nut. In both instances, the sticky, green racquet-ball-sized husks would fall all over the gravel driveways. Black walnuts are notoriously hard to open and, according to family lore, my great-grandfather would remove the husk by driving over them with the 1940s family Oldsmobile!

I’m not suggesting you try this at home, but I absolutely recommend getting your hands on some already-shelled meat from this forgotten nut and making a batch of biscotti. The signature fragrance of black walnuts works mysteriously well with the olive oil in this Italian dunker. Make a double batch, tie it with twine and tinsel, and share some with your favorite teacher, mail person or anyone else working extra hard this month. Just be sure to save a few for yourself. You’ve earned it with that second cup of coffee.

Related Read: Seraching for more holiday-inspired recipes? Visit our Northern Michigan Food & Drink page.

Black Walnut Biscotti Recipe

Makes up to 32 cookies

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup cane sugar
  • 1⁄4 cup olive oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup black walnut pieces, toasted
  • 1⁄2 cup dried Michigan cherries
Black Walnut Biscotti

Photo by Dave Weidner

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the sugar and olive oil until combined, about 30 seconds. Add the eggs and vanilla and continue beating the mixture until it is smooth. Reduce to low speed and gradually add the flour mixture to the egg mixture. Using your hands, knead in the walnuts and cherries.

3. Divide the dough in half and form into two 12-inch logs. Place the logs on the parchment paper and widen them by gently pressing the tops with your fingers to flatten them. Bake for 20 minutes, until they are cooked and fragrant but not especially colorful. Remove them from the oven, turn the heat down to 300 degrees and allow the loaves to cool on the baking sheet for 15 minutes.

4. Once the loaves have rested, use a serrated knife to cut each log into slices about 3⁄4 inches in width. Place the slices back on the baking sheet on their sides and return the pan to the oven—baking the slices an additional 10 minutes until they are golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool right on the pan.

Stacey Brugeman is a Leelanau County-based food and beverage writer and editor. Her work has appeared in Food & Wine, Saveur, Travel + Leisure, Eater and Denver’s 5280, where she served as Restaurant Critic. Follow her on Instagram @staceybrugeman.

Dave Weidner is an editorial photographer and videographer based in Northern Michigan. Follow him on Instagram and Facebook @dzwphoto.

Sarah Peschel, @22speschel, is a stylist and photographer with an appreciation for all things local agriculture, food and drink.

Photo(s) by Dave Weidner / Styling by Sarah Peschel