I came up with this recipe after having an epiphany that I must once again have and enjoy the flavour combo of walnuts and figs in a recent salad with this same glorious pairing of walnuts and figs. In that post, encouraged you to place a walnut and dried fig in your mouth to prove my point. Today, I’m encouraging you to try these Paximadia with figs, walnuts and ground star anise.
You could call these biscotti but us Greeks call them Paximadia. Paximadia or dried rusks/breads which have been around since ancient times. Cookbook author Georgia Koufinas says that Paximadia used to be called “dipyros”, which means “twice baked’. The Greek word Paximadi can be traced to a barley rusk named after a late Hellenistic Period cook named Paxamus (1st Century AD). Paximadia were the food of the poor as they were made of coarse grain flours and kept well on long journeys thereby earning it’s place in the pantries of farmers and sailors. Paximadia were the basic food of Byzantine armies and later the Venetian armies. Italians call Paximadia “biscotti”, also meaning “twice baked”.
The third flavourful ingredient for these Paximadia is star anise. Reminiscent of anise but much more complex, exotic and wonderful with figs. Star anise is not a widely used spice in Greece but that’s not to say it’s not used at all either. At a tour/visit of the Tsantali Ouzo Distillery in Halkidiki and I learned that star anise was one of the ingredients used to make their Ouzo. Ouzo is made from grapes and stems so therefore it’s only fitting than some Petimezi sneaks into the recipe. Petimezi* is a grape molasses and I’ve diluted it here with some water and brushed the tops of the Paximadia with it so that the sesame seeds adhere well.
So, naturally a shot of Ouzo also made it’s way into this easy recipe. This recipe is wonderful for the Christmas holidays and holiday entertaining it’s in full stride and the almost potpourri aromas that fills your home while baking these will set you in the mood for Christmas. These are the perfect accompaniment for coffee or tea and I look forward to dunking a paximadi into my Greek coffee.
For the Paximadia With Figs, Star Anise & Walnuts recipe, please buy my Everything Mediterranean cookbook.
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