Spring Woodland Wildflowers, Yellow Violets and Lemon Fennel Almond Biscotti!

There they were– our little patch of yellow violets; waiting for us to rediscover them and coo over their delicate beauty! Last year, we went on a prolonged search for the seemingly elusive flowers and they turned out to be right under our noses; just across the street from the trailhead to the Pine Loop Trail at the William Cullen Bryant Homestead.

With so much uncertainty and turbulence in our times, the predictable cycle of seasons is comforting and small observances are a delight!

During the pandemic when we were sequestered in place and could not perform in public, I found inspiration and a creative outlet by playing short improvisations in woodland and other outdoor settings. This past year, I have been back to playing indoor concerts and it is wonderful to once again communicate with live audiences; case in point, a performance of the Mozart Coronation Mass that I performed in this past weekend. Written in 1779 in Salzburg, the composition became known as a preferred piece of music for the Imperial Court of Vienna to commemorate royal and imperial coronations. The entire mass is in the cheerful key of C major; full of lively and at the same time poignant oboe duets with lovely lyrical lines.

Enveloped by the sounds of Mozart’s ethereal music with violins, viola, cello and double bass along with two resonant oboes playing in close harmonies was an intense aural experience; one that I realized I had missed dearly.

Even though this was a heartwarming and wonderful experience, I realized that I also missed my solo impromptu concerts! When we went on our yellow violet exploration, I brought along my alto recorder. Although playing outside alone was a very different, I enjoyed hearing the sound of the recorder waft off gently into the distance. Here is a short “Ode to the Yellow Violet” inspired by William Cullen Bryant’s poem:

The Yellow Violet

BY WILLIAM CULLEN BRYANT

When beechen buds begin to swell,

  And woods the blue-bird’s warble know,

The yellow violet’s modest bell

  Peeps from the last year’s leaves below.

Ere russet fields their green resume,

  Sweet flower, I love, in forest bare,

To meet thee, when thy faint perfume

  Alone is in the virgin air.

Of all her train, the hands of Spring

  First plant thee in the watery mould,

And I have seen thee blossoming

  Beside the snow-bank’s edges cold.

Thy parent sun, who bade thee view

  Pale skies, and chilling moisture sip,

Has bathed thee in his own bright hue,

  And streaked with jet thy glowing lip.

Yet slight thy form, and low thy seat,

  And earthward bent thy gentle eye,

Unapt the passing view to meet

  When loftier flowers are flaunting nigh.

Oft, in the sunless April day,

  Thy early smile has stayed my walk;

But midst the gorgeous blooms of May,

  I passed thee on thy humble stalk.

So they, who climb to wealth, forget

  The friends in darker fortunes tried.

I copied them—but I regret

  That I should ape the ways of pride.

And when again the genial hour

  Awakes the painted tribes of light,

I’ll not o’erlook the modest flower

  That made the woods of April bright.

“An Ode to a Yellow Violet”- William Cullen Bryant Homestead

On our walks we were excited to see the return of many beautiful woodland wildflowers from last season and we also made a few new discoveries.

At the White Memorial Conservation Center in Litchfield, Connecticut, columbines lined the forest floor.

White Memorial Conservation Center- Litchfield, CT

A gentle brook flowed down a hillside that led to a marsh area with beautiful yellow flowers.

At the Steeple Top Preserve in New Marlborough, MA, speckled trout lilies lined the trail.

Steeple Top Preserve- New Marlborough, MA

Tiny daisy like yellow flowers nestled next to rocks in a stream.

Steeple Top Preserve- New Marlborough, MA

At the D’Alton Preserve in the Ellsworth section of Sharon, CT, we happened upon flowers we had not seen before; white star shaped flowers and delicate pink flowers capped with yellow tops. On a rainy day I plan to look up all of their names!

D’Alton Preserve- Sharon, CT

D’Alton Preserve- Sharon, CT

A pert line of flowers at the Lime Kiln Farm Wildlife Sanctuary in Sheffield, Massachusetts……..

We often find ourselves in Northampton, MA and have become addicted to the sourdough bread at the Hungry Ghost Bakery. Made from excellent ingredients, it has an delicious sourdough flavor and if we are lucky, we arrive when fresh wholegrain sesame loaves have just come out of the oven. We take our treasure back to the car and break off crusty hunks of piping hot bread; so good it is almost enough for dinner! They also sell scones, cookies and biscotti. I tried an irresistible lemon fennel almond biscotti that was rich with butter and sugar. I decided to try to create an equally good biscotti that was guilt free. I used the same basic recipe that I created for Gingerbread Biscotti featured in my Ol’ Stoney Lonesome Blog. I swapped out the warming winter spices; ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom and star anise and used lemon zest, fennel seeds and toasted almonds. They were delicious and they quickly disappeared! The biscotti would be good dipped in iced coffee or with a bowl of fresh strawberries. I hope you enjoy making these!!

Lemon Fennel Almond Biscotti

Ingredients:

  • 1 large egg plus 1 large egg white, at room temperature 
  • 1/4 cup monk fruit sweetener
  • 1/4 cup coconut sugar
  • teaspoons fennel seeds 
  • 1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds
  • zest from one organic lemon
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • ¼ teaspoon lemon extract or orange extract
  • cup whole wheat pastry flour 
  • 1 cup whole grain spelt flour

PREPARATION

  1. Heat the oven to 325 degrees and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the egg, egg white, both sugars, salt, baking soda, almond extract and lemon extract. Beat on medium speed just to combine, scrape down the bowl and beater, then increase the speed to high and beat for a full 90 seconds or until the mixture is slightly paler, thick and ribbon like.
  3. Add the flour. Beat on low speed until mostly combined, stopping the beater just before all the flour is incorporated so you don’t overmix. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to incorporate any remaining dry bits into the dough. Add fennel and almonds.
  4. Gather the dough with your hands, kneading lightly in the bowl just to bring everything together into a cohesive mass. Place the dough on the center of the prepared sheet, then dampen your hands with water and mold the dough into a 9-by-4-inch log about 1 inch tall. Bake until the log puffs and spreads a little, turns golden brown at the edges and is firm to the touch, 40 to 45 minutes.
  5. Remove the loaf from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Transfer the loaf to a cutting board and, using a serrated knife, cut at a diagonal into 12 (¾-inch-wide) slices. Turn the slices on their sides and return to the oven.
  6. Bake, flipping the slices halfway through, until slightly browned and dry in the centers, 10 to 15 minutes. Bake longer for drier, crunchier biscotti. Remove from the oven and cool the biscotti on the sheet. Turn the slices top sides up.
  7. The biscotti will last for a couple of weeks in an airtight container at room temperature- well maybe!!

ENJOY!

AND: Here is the “Tree of the Week”!

“Oh Gee, Feeling a Bit Silly Today”

HAPPY SPRING!!

Author: Judith Dansker

Professional oboist and chamber musician- member of Hevreh Ensemble and Winds in the Wilderness, Professor of Oboe Hofstra University; observer of people, art and nature; passionate food and travel explorer.

4 thoughts on “Spring Woodland Wildflowers, Yellow Violets and Lemon Fennel Almond Biscotti!”

  1. Judy, Your blogs are a most peaceful experience. I have yellow violets growing in my yard, if you’d like some. I think they’re called Confederate Violets. Thank you

    Liked by 1 person

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