Weekend Baking: Apricot-Almond-Pistachio-White Chocolate Biscotti

Another snack-pack for the car has been assembled for my weekend foodie trip with my Bemidji Cookbook Club. First stop, Byerly’s in St. Louis Park for a private tour of the store, along with tastes from each department, a mini-cooking class and, finally, some sips in their Wine & Spirits Shop. This is all planned for us by Joan Donatelle, Director of the Culinary Center at Byerly’s. Our group will head over for a dinner of wood-fired artisan pizza at Pizzeria Lola, with plans to be standing at the door well before the Pizzeria’s 5:00 open. I know the seats in this popular neighborhood pizzeria fill fast. Read about it and see some great pictures of their copper-wrapped wood-fired oven over at The Heavy Table.

Our Saturday will begin with a private program and tasting of olive oils and vinegars at Vinaigrette, then over to Midtown Global Market, shopping the Uptown food-related stores and dinner at a yet-to-be-determined destination. Suggestions, anyone?

Before heading north on Sunday, we’ll be getting a private cooking class from Chef Francesco at Nonna Rosa’s in Robbinsdale, ending with a meal, of course. What a weekend!

The four-hour car trip calls for a snack-pack. This week I’ve filled a couple of tins with my favorite biscotti.

Apricot-Almond-Pistachio-White Chocolate Biscotti are the result of my experimentation to try to duplicate a biscotti I used to get at a coffee shop in Moorhead. I think I’ve finally come up with a homemade version that comes very close to the crunchy dippers I used to enjoy there. (Sadly, they no longer carry this particular addictive Italian treat.)

These will keep well at room temperature in a tin with a tight-fitting lid for two weeks. They freeze well, so you can make them now and store them in the freezer until Easter, if you like.

Be sure to use a bar of premium white chocolate for these crunchy twice-baked Italian cookies. Look for cocoa butter in the list of ingredients. If it’s not listed, go to the next bar of sweet white creaminess. Don’t be afraid to use dark chocolate, if you prefer.

I chop all of the add-ins very coarsely. I love lots of chunky texture in biscotti. One of those great cheese knives work like a charm for chopping sticky apricots. I bought my cheese knife at least a couple of years ago at a kitchen store. Here in Bemijdi, they are now available for purchase at Chocolates Plus. I use it for all kinds of cheese, as well as for slicing hard-cooked eggs, cream cheese, cheesecake and almost anything that would normally cause chopping and slicing frustration. Before I had my cheese knife, I would lightly coat the blade of my knife with non-stick cooking spray before chopping apricots.

This crunchy biscotti is first baked in three 12-inch logs. Once those logs have cooled, they need to be sliced. Each of the cookies are baked a second time.

These Italian treats are easy to mix up, easy to bake and way too easy to eat.

I’m ready for my road trip with biscotti in my bag.

Apricot-Almond-Pistachio-White Chocolate Biscotti

  • 2¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • ½ cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 2½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 (3.5 ounce) bar white chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup whole raw almonds, toasted, coarsely chopped
  • 3/4 cup raw pistachio nuts, toasted, chopped
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon apricot-flavored brandy, cognac or brandy
  • 2 teaspoons almond extract
  • 1 (6-ounce) package dried apricots, chopped

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or foil. If using foil, butter and flour it. Combine first six ingredients in food processor. Process until fine meal forms. Or place ingredients in large bowl and use pastry blender or two knives to cut mixture until consistency of fine meal. Beat eggs, brandy and almond extract to blend in large bowl. Add flour mixture chopped nuts, white chocolate chunks and apricots and stir until moist dough forms, using clean hands if necessary, to gather all of the ingredients together in one mass.

Divide dough into three equal pieces. Form each piece of dough into 12-inch-long strip on prepared cookie sheet, spacing evenly. Moisten fingertips and shape each dough strip into 2-inch-wide log. Refrigerate until dough is firm, about 30 minutes.

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Bake until logs are golden, about 30 minutes. Transfer sheet to rack and cool completely.

Reduce heat to 300 degrees. Cut logs from sides of pan if necessary. Transfer to work surface. Using heavy sharp knife, cut each log crosswise into ¾-inch-wide slices. Arrange half of cookies cut side down on cookie sheet. Bake 10 minutes. Gently turn cookies over and bake 10 minutes longer. Transfer cookies to racks. Repeat baking with remaining cookies. Cool cookies completely. Makes about 40.

Tips from the cook

  • Give your knife a light coating of nonstick cooking spray before chopping apricots. No more dried fruit stuck to the blade.
  • Nonstick qualities of parchment paper will allow you to safely lift the whole baked biscotti loaves from the baking sheet to a cutting surface without breaking them
  • Using a serrated blade will produce a clean slice through the apricots and nuts.

Weekend Baking: There’s a kumquat in my cookie

How can anyone resist tart and tiny kumquats, sitting so cute and bright in the produce department at the grocery store? They just look happy. I buy them every year as soon as they make their first seasonal appearance. I never have a plan for them when I set them in my basket, but it doesn’t matter. I buy the organic kumquats, rinse them well and, after I’ve cut the stem ends off, I pop them into my mouth one after the other, as if they were orange jelly beans.

Yes, these little cuties are totally edible, although they do have seeds hiding inside that seem large for such a tiny fruit. To remove seeds, slice kumquats in half and squeeze them gently—the seeds will pop out.

The skin is tender and sweet, while the flesh can be dry and very tart, compared with oranges. Kumquats that are soft will be less juicy, but they are perfectly acceptable for most uses. Store them in a plastic bag in the fruit drawer of the refrigerator for up to three weeks.

One kumquat has about 12 calories and is a good source of vitamin C.

This member of the citrus family is quite versatile. I’ve used their juice and minced skin in dressing for cabbage slaw, minced them up and stirred them into shrimp curry and stirred them into a coffee cake. This time, I’ve pureed kumquats and added them to chunky, chewy cookies.

The most time-consuming part of this recipe is getting the little kumquats ready to puree. I removed the seeds first. It’s easiest to cut them in half lengthwise. Give each half a little squeeze and the seeds will pop right out.

A ripe banana added to the cookie dough adds breakfast-like flavor as it pairs with old-fashioned oats and chunks of toasted raw almonds. In fact, my husband has been making a few of these cookies his breakfast this week.

I’ve packed a tin of them to snack on in the car as I drive to Worthington today. It’s a long drive. Did I mention these cookies also hold plenty of semisweet morsels of chocolate? That makes these cookies a good substitution for the bag of M&M’s I would normally have in my travel snack pack. Everyday needs a little chocolate, right? By the way, I’ll be doing a couple of cooking demonstrations at the Daily Globe Women’s Expo in Worthington on Saturday. If you’re near, come see me.

Try Chunky Chewy Kumquat-Banana Cookies. You’ll like them.

Chunky Chewy Kumquat-Banana Cookies

  • 1 1/2 cups whole raw almonds
  • 1/2 cup chopped kumquats
  • 1 very ripe banana
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup white wheat whole grain flour or all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate morsels

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spread almonds on a baking sheet in a single layer. Toast them in the preheated oven for about 10 minutes, until you can smell their fragrance and they just begin to turn a little darker. Remove from oven and immediately transfer to a plate to cool. Once almonds are cool, coarsely chop.

Place 1 egg in a blender along with kumquats and banana. Process until mixture is quite smooth.

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter with brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add remaining egg, vanilla and pureed fruit mixture. Beat to blend. Sift flour, salt, baking soda and cinnamon together. Add sifted ingredients to mixing bowl and beat on low speed to incorporate. Stir in oats, chopped almonds and chocolate morsels.

Spoon onto parchment-lined or ungreased baking sheet, using a rounded tablespoon for each. Bake in preheated 375-degree oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until cookies are set and turn light golden brown. Remove to wire rack to cool. Makes 3 1/2 to 4 dozen cookies.

Tip from the cook

I use White Wheat Whole Grain Flour from Dakota Family Mill.

Mocha Cream Angel Cake to welcome Spring

Slide the long, thin blade of a sharp knife through a thick layer of silky Mocha Cream as smooth as the best butter. As it glides through, the knife will smear a slick of chocolate on the white angel cake buried beneath the topping of mousse. Carefully move one slice of Angel Cake, balanced on a cake server, to a dessert plate. Decorate the top of the piece of Mocha Cream Angel Cake with just a puff of whipped cream and a chocolate-covered espresso bean. Mocha Cream Angel Cake is impossible to resist.

When you make as much Creme Brulee as I’ve made in the last couple of weeks, rich with several egg yolks, you wind up with jars of egg whites in the refrigerator. The recipe for Classic Creme Brulee that I have in my column this week uses 6 egg yolks. This Angel Cake uses 6 egg whites. Perfect.

I was very careful when I separated the yolks from the whites as I prepared to make the Creme Brulee. This task is done most successfully when the eggs are cold. I use my clean hands for this job, putting the egg directly into my hand, allowing the white to run through my fingers into a bowl beneath. I stored the egg whites in a tightly sealed jar in the refrigerator for a few days until I had time to experiment with this Angel Cake.

For the cake, room temperature egg whites are beaten with cream of tartar, salt and sugar. When the egg white mixture reaches the point that it forms stiff peaks, sifted cake flour and vanilla are folded into the airy batter.With less gluten-forming potential than all-purpose flour, cake flour develops a cake that is fine textured, light and positively ethereal.

I baked the white Angel (Food) Cake in a 9-inch spring-form pan, building the sides of the cake up, just slightly, to form a shallow well in the center. This makes it easier to mound a generous layer of Mocha Cream over the baked cake. The cake took only 20 minutes to bake.

Mousse-like Mocha Cream is velvety smooth. Whipped cream, powdered sugar, cocoa and Kahlua whip together to create a silky smooth mound of sublime Mocha Cream. I can only imagine how decadent this Mocha Cream would be as a filling for cream puffs, drizzled with hot fudge sauce.

When Mocha Cream meets Angel Cake, the match is celestial. Mocha Cream Angel Cake is a light, airy, melt-in-the-mouth, divine dessert to celebrate the arrival of Spring.

Mocha Cream Angel Cake

  • 6 egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 cup sifted cake flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Mocha Cream (recipe below)
  • Chocolate Covered Espresso Beans, for garnish

Position rack in the center of the oven. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Beat egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and salt. Beat until soft peaks form. Gradually add the sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time, beating until stiff peaks form.

Sprinkle flour over egg white mixture. With a rubber spatula, gently fold the flour into the egg white mixture. Gently fold in vanilla.

Spread batter in an ungreased 9-inch springform pan. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and place pan on wire cooling rack. Carefully run a sharp paring knife around the edge of the cake, releasing the cake from the side of the pan. Cool cake in pan about 40 minutes. Remove cake from pan.

Mocha Cream

  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup sifted powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened baking cocoa
  • 3 tablespoons kahlua or other coffee-flavored liqueur

Sift powdered sugar and cocoa together. Beat whipping cream in a large bowl until foamy. Gradually add powdered sugar-cocoa mixture. Add Kahlua and beat until soft peaks form.

Spread over Cake. Garnish each slice of Angel Cake with a puff of whipping cream and a chocolate-covered espresso bean.

Tip from the cook

Mocha Cream is the perfect consistency to fill cream puffs. Then, drizzle each cream puff with a bit of your favorite chocolate sauce.

Weekend Baking: Meyer Lemon-Honey Yogurt Tea Cake

Spying bright yellow Meyer lemons in the refrigerated produce case at my local natural food co-op never fails to give me a lift. This occurrence usually takes place in March, my least favorite month of the year in northern Minnesota with its dull gray skies, dirty slush, and sometimes, snowstorms that, by this time,  no one wants to experience.

I grabbed several Meyer lemons last week, brought them home and arranged them in a shallow white bowl with the kumquats that also came home with me.

After enjoying their burst of brightness in my kitchen for a couple of days, I knew it was time to use them up. I was ready to make some little tea cakes, tiny loaves infused with the juice of Meyer lemons.

The Meyer lemon, named for Frank Meyer, the man who brought them to the United States in 1908, is believed to be a hybrid between a lemon and a mandarin orange. In general, they’re much sweeter than regular lemons, and they have a complex citrus taste that comes from their mandarin/orange lineage. Meyer lemons are grown commercially in California, Texas, and Florida. They are a challenge to ship and store commercially, so to be able to buy them in Bemidji, Minnesota is a special treat.

Earlier this month when I attended the Minnesota Monthly Food & Wine Show, I brought home a small gift bag from Forepaugh’s Restaurant in St. Paul, filled with treats that Chef Donald Gonzalez had designed: Cinnamon Tea Cake, Evening in Missoula Herbal Tea and Ames Farm Honey. It was a darling and very generous gift from Forepaugh’s.

I saved the little gift bag to give to a friend who wasn’t able to attend the show. One problem. The dainty tea cake became hard as a rock before I was able to deliver it to my friend.

So, I pulled out the mini-loaf pans that I bought years ago when I made a choo-choo-train birthday cake for one of my sons. They measure 4 3/4 inches x 2 3/4 inches at the top. They hold 1 cup of batter when filled to the top. With this batter, 1/2 cup does the trick. The batter for Meyer Lemon-Honey Yogurt Tea Cakes is enough to make 6 of these mini-loaves plus 1 small Bundt cake baked in a 6-cup capacity pan or use all of the batter to bake one cake in a  conventional Bundt pan.

I wrapped up one of the delicate loaves of Meyer Lemon-Honey Yogurt Tea Cake and tucked it into the Forepaugh’s gift bag with the tea bag and the vial of honey. I’m quite sure Chef Gonzalez wouldn’t want me to share the treat bag holding a dried up Cinnamon Tea Cake. I did explain to my friend that the cute little loaf was not a Forepaugh’s original.

This cake is so perfect for a Spring brunch, dusted with powdered sugar and offered with fresh berries. Or, drizzle the cake with Meyer Lemon Glaze and serve it for dessert.

Made with two of my favorite things, Meyer lemons and Greek-style honey-flavored yogurt, this sweet cake is a light melt-in-the-mouth dessert that will take you through every special celebration you have planned, Spring through Summer.

Meyer Lemon-Honey Yogurt Tea Cake

  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup Greek-style Honey-flavored yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons grated Meyer lemon zest
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 10-inch Bundt pan and set aside.

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 8 to 10 minutes. (This is where a stand mixer is handy.) Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. On low speed, add yogurt and Meyer lemon zest. Combine Meyer lemon juice and milk. Sift flour and baking powder together. Add dry ingredients to batter in mixing bowl, alternately with liquid mixture, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix just until all ingredients are blended together. Pour batter into prepared Bundt pan. Bake for about 1 hour or until cake tests done. Cool in pan 10 to 15 minutes. Invert onto cooling rack. Cool completely.

When cake is cool, drizzle with Meyer lemon glaze, if desired.

Slice and serve. Makes 16 servings.

Meyer Lemon Glaze

  • 1 cup sifted powdered sugar
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice

In a small bowl, mix enough juice into the powdered to create a consistency that will drizzle and flow over the cake.

Tip from the cook

  • Oh, yes, if you don’t have access to Meyer lemons, use regular lemons with satisfactory results.

Weekend Baking: Cookies that are simply irresistible


Crunchy, buttery, sweet and salty — all words that perfectly describe Potato Chip Cookies. Yes, butter-rich and not-too-sweet, these cookies are loaded with small bits of crushed potato chips that give crunch to each bite. And, I’ve got at least 6 dozen sitting on the island in my kitchen. Very dangerous.

When the hostess for this month’s Sizzlin’ Sisters Cookbook Club informed members that our theme would be Food in Children’s Literature, I knew exactly which books would be my inspiration. I’ve collected a few charming books for children (and adults) written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Her “Cookies” series are books offering lessons on love and life. Think of them as a dictionary that defines words such as “fair” and “unfair,” and what it really means to “cooperate” — “How about you add the chips while I stir?” And those delightful illustrations on the covers of each book make me smile as the same winsome style continues to tickle me as I turn each page.

With the need for a plate of cookies to bring to my gathering of food-loving friends and with National Potato Chip Day just ahead, it seemed just the right time to pull out a recipe I’ve had tagged in a cookbook for years.

I pulled a copy of “The Best of Beta Sigma Phi Cookbook” off the shelf. It’s a book that was published in 1991 and I have no recollection as to how I wound up with this collection of recipes from the members of Beta Sigma Phi.

I first prepared the cookies as directed in the recipe, dropping the dough onto a baking sheet. Just before serving, the little buttery gems are dusted with powdered sugar. They are melt-in-the-mouth delicious and have a pleasing bit of crunch.

I dug out my bag of Valhrona Crunchy Chocolate Bits that I’d purchased at Cooks of Crocus Hill in St. Paul. You can pick up a bag at their Edina store, too. These addictive little orbs taste like dark chocolate-coated rice krispies. And they are soooo good.

Each cookie got a smash with the butter-smeared bottom of a glass dipped in sugar before going into the oven. The sugar makes each cookie sparkle, little bits of dark chocolate peeking through, looking simply irresistible.

With or without the addition of chocolate, these cookies will put some snappy crackle and pop into your weekend. And, you’ll be well-equipped to celebrate Potato Chip Day.

Crunchy Chocolate-Studded Potato Chip Cookies

(Adapted from recipe by Kim Swinford, Beta Omicron in The Best of Beta Sigma Phi Cookbook)

  • 2 cups (1 pound) good quality butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup crushed potato chips
  • 3¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup Valrhona Crunchy Chocolate Bits
  • Extra granulated sugar for pressing cookies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and sugar in mixer bowl until light. Stir in vanilla, potato chips and flour. Gently stir in chocolate bits. Drop mixture by teaspoonfuls (1-inch scoops) 2 inches apart onto greased cookie sheet. Smear some soft butter onto the bottom of a drinking glass. Dip the greased bottom into a shallow bowl of sugar and smash dough to about 1/4-inch. Repeat this procedure for each cookie. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on wire rack. Makes about 8 dozen cookies.

Tips from the cook

  • Remember, the cookies are quite delicious without the Valrhona bits. Mini chocolate morsels would also work to satisfy the chocoholic.
  • It’s no mistake. There are no eggs in this recipe.

P.S. If you like crunchy cookies, you would enjoy my cookies that are packed with oatmeal, white chocolate, nuts, coconut and rice krispies. I posted the recipe last September. Click here to get right to that post.

Weekend Baking: Bittersweet Brownies with Orange Creme Frosting

I wasn’t planning to use creamy, sweet and tart Orange Creme to frost brownies. With a small bowl of the creme remaining after a couple of practice runs making Cherries Jubilee to prepare for the dinner to raise funds for Headwaters Science Center in Bemidji, I knew I couldn’t just toss it away.

I debated about how to use the orange creme. I thought about making some almond-flavored shortbread cookies, piping a star of orange creme on top of each one. But, I just finished the last of the Orange Shortbread Bites that I posted recently and was ready for something new. And, something that wouldn’t take a lot of time to prepare.

Finally, the idea of brownies came to mind. Chocolate and orange partner well. I dug out one of my favorite brownie recipes. It’s a recipe that fills a square baking dish with chewy, dense brownies covered with a thin, crunchy crust. They are quite delicious eaten as is, completely unadorned. But, this time, I added a bit of grated orange zest to the batter, adding its bright flavor to the bittersweet brownies.  A slather of orange creme over the top of the decadent chocolate squares puts them right over the top.

Someone I know ate the orange creme with a spoon and a Bittersweet Brownie on the side. I won’t say who.

I will say these brownies are a perfect weekend treat.

Bittersweet Brownies with Orange Creme Frosting

  • Melted butter for greasing
  • 4 oz good-quality bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter, cubed
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • â…” cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Orange Creme Frosting:

  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup sifted powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Grated zest of 2 oranges

Line a 9-inch square glass baking dish with parchment, using a large enough piece so that there is a couple of inches of overhang on all sides. Brush the bottom and sides of the parchment paper lined dish with melted butter. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small, heavy saucepan, melt butter and chocolate over low heat. Stir the mixture until melted and smooth. Remove from heat and allow to cool while preparing remaining ingredients.

Sift flour, baking powder and salt together and set aside. Beat eggs and sugar together with electric mixer. Add vanilla and orange zest and blend. Pour in cooled butter and chocolate mixture. Beat together. Stir in sifted dry ingredients until all flour disappears.

Pour batter into prepared parchment-lined baking dish. Bake in preheated oven for about 30 minutes. When ready to be removed from oven, sides of brownies will have pulled away from the sides and top will be covered by a thin, shiny crust. Watch closely. Over-baking will produce dry brownies. Remove from oven. Allow brownies to cool completely in baking dish. When brownies are completely cool, grab sides of parchment paper and pull out of dish. Frost brownies with Orange Creme Frosting. Cut brownies into 8 or 16 pieces, depending on how large you want them to be.

To make Orange Creme Frosting, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add whipping cream, powdered sugar, vanilla and orange zest and beat until fluffy.

Orange Shortbread Bites

It doesn’t seem that long ago that I visited with Janice Cole at an International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) conference when she told me she was working on a cookbook. She explained that this book would not be  just a collection of recipes. It would also tell the story about her experiences during her first year of raising her own hens. I was intrigued. I had no idea Janice Cole had chickens. She lived in the city, for heaven’s sake, in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota. Yet she was raising chickens in her back yard. I couldn’t wait to see the book.

Now, I have the just-published book, “Chicken and Egg: A Memoir of Suburban Homesteading with 125 Recipes,” by Janice Cole. It’s like a good novel that you just can’t put down once you start reading. Cole’s book holds nine chapters, following the seasons of the year, broken down by early spring, mid-spring, summer, late summer all the way through late winter. The veteran food writer and editor, cooking instructor and recipe developer begins each chapter with a story relating her experiences as an owner of hens. Cole’s charming stories make me smile, and sometimes chuckle out loud as I read about Roxanne, the big and bossy Buff Orpington, cuddly Cleo and rebellious Lulu, both Araucana/Ameraucanas. It’s just plain fun to read. And, if you have thoughts of having your own little chicken coop in your backyard, you’ll appreciate the helpful hints and tips Cole shares that can help you get started with your own chicks, or decide whether or not it’s something you really want to do.

Another nice thing about the way the book is divided is that it helped me decide which of the delicious-sounding recipes to try first. I went to the Late Winter chapter, narrowing down the many possibilities. I have several sticky tabs marking pages throughout the book with recipes I can’t wait to try.

I’ve made the Chipotle-Spiced Three-Bean Chili for friends. It took little time to prepare and it brought rave reviews from everyone around the dinner table. Cole gave me permission to use her recipe for Chicken with Charred Cauliflower and Red Peppers in my column this week. Click here to get right to that recipe. You might also be interested in listening to the short phone conversation I had with Janice Cole last week.

I couldn’t resist the recipe for Orange Shortbread Bites. For one thing, I love shortbread. And for another, the organic oranges I’ve been getting at my local food co-op have been so juicy and sweet, I knew their juice and grated zest along with yolks from local chickens would make these sandwich cookies outstanding. I was right.

Sweet and tart orange curd is not difficult to make. My mouth is watering right now as I think about the crunchy, melt-in-the-mouth little cookies sandwiching the bright-tasting curd made with freshly squeezed orange juice. The addition of ground cardamom to the cookies is something I’ve never thought to mix into shortbread dough. It adds just a hint of peppery spice that pairs nicely with the orange flavor.

“Chicken and Egg: A Memoir of Suburban Homesteading with 125 Recipes” is one of those cookbooks that will be my go-to when I don’t know what to make for supper or when I want to make something deliciously sweet but don’t want to take a lot of time doing it. As long as I have chicken in my freezer and eggs in my refrigerator, I’ve got a good chance of finding the perfect recipe inside the cover of Cole’s book to fill my needs.

Meet Janice Cole’s feisty little hens at her blog, three swingin’ chicks.

Orange Shortbread Bites

(from “Chicken and Egg: A Memoir of Suburban Homesteading with 125 Recipes,” by Janice Cole. Chronicle Books. 2011.)

Shortbread:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened and cut up
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons grated orange zest
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Orange Curd Filling:

  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange zest
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Powdered sugar for sprinkling

To make the shortbread: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Beat the butter and orange zest in a large bowl with an electric mixer at low speed for 1 minute. Add the granulated sugar and beat for an additional minute. Add the egg yolks and beat until blended.

Whisk together the flour, cornstarch, cardamom and salt in a small bowl. With the mixer on low, slowly beat the flour mixture into the dough. Shape into a flat disk, cover, and refrigerate for 1 hour or until firm.

Roll 1 teaspoon of dough into a 3/4- to 1-inch ball and place on a baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough to make 40 cookies. Press each ball, flattening it slightly, until 1 1/4 inches in diameter.

Bake the cookies for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown on the bottom and along the edges. Transfer to a wire rack and cool.

To make the filling: Whisk the orange juice, granulated sugar, egg yolks and salt together in s small bowl until blended. Whisk in the orange zest. Melt the butter in a small saucepan and slowly pour into the orange juice mixture, whisking constantly. Pour the orange juice mixture back into the same saucepan and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until thickened and bubbles just begin to form on the outside edge. Do not let the orange curd come to a full boil, or the mixture may curdle. Pour into a clean small bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour or until cooled.

To assemble the cookies, spoon a generous teaspoon of orange curd onto the flat side of a cookie. Repeat until you’ve covered half of the cookies. Top with the remaining cookies and gently press together. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Sprinkle the tops with the powdered sugar before serving. Makes 20 sandwich cookies and 1/2 cup of curd.

Weekend Baking: Triple Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies

You’ve seen recipes for triple chocolate cookies, right? Well, why not triple peanut butter cookies?

I come from a long line of peanut butter-lovers. My uncle was so consumed with the creamy, sticky stuff, he named his dog Skippy. My mom made sandwiches with peanut butter so thick, each bite would take several minutes to finally swallow, let alone try to get a word out.

I grew up on my mom’s peanut butter cookies. They were crunchy and sweet and the little criss-cross marks made with a fork on the top of each cookie glistened with crystals of sugar.

Of course, I married a peanut butter-lover. Nothing makes him happier than a bag of chocolate peanut butter cups.

When I discovered the bags of Reese’s mini peanut butter cups at the store, I knew at least one bag of the adorable, bite-sized p.b. cups would go home with me to get chopped up and stirred into cookies. And how easy it is to do, because the tiny chocolate peanut butter cups come unwrapped.

Triple Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies are thick and chewy. And chubby. They are loaded with chopped mini peanut butter cups, peanut butter morsels and of course, creamy peanut butter.

Make them to nibble all weekend long. You’ll make all the peanut butter-lovers in your house so happy.

Triple Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies

  • 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 4 1/2 cups quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 1 (8-ounce) bag Reese’s mini peanut butter cups, coarsely chopped
  • 1/3 cup peanut butter morsels

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream butter and sugars together in a mxing bowl. Add baking soda, vanilla, peanut butter and eggs and mix well. Add oats and stir to blend. Stir in peanut butter cups and peanut butter morsels. Drop the dough by rounded tablespoons, 2 inches apart, onto an ungreased  or parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Flatten slightly with the palm of your hand or the bottom of a drinking glass. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. The cookies should be soft and lightly browned. Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Glazed Citrus-Rum Cake is sunshine on a gray winter day

Think buttery-rich pound cake with an infusion of sunshine-bright, freshly squeezed citrus juice and just enough rum to let you know it’s there. Bits of broken pecans stud the top of the cake, forcing you to position your fork in a way that grabs a piece of nut with each bite of velvety goodness. It’s a Bundt cake that only gets better with age as the flavors of the citrus-and-rum-soaked cake develop and ripen when it is stored in a cool place.  It’s Glazed Citrus-Rum Cake.

Billowy batter, speckled with grated zest of clementine, orange and lime, is made with cake flour, producing a fine, yet dense, texture. My original plan was to make the cake with only orange zest and orange juice.  Somehow, before I realized it, most of the oranges were eaten before I got around to making the cake. Luckily, I had plenty of cute little clementines and a couple of limes heavy with juice in my refrigerator. That’s when the cake became a generic citrus cake rather than orange cake.

Rum extract adds subtle flavor to the cake itself. The sweet, tart glaze that soaks into the hot cake has light rum mixed with citrus juice, butter and sugar that simmers until the sugar dissolves. A small amount of rum extract is stirred into the glaze right before spooning over the cake. Poking holes in the cake with a bamboo skewer before spooning the glaze over it, helps the dispersion of the liquid throughout the inside of the cake.

Don’t be alarmed when you get to the part of the recipe that instructs you to cool the cake completely in the pan before turning it out. It will come out without one bit of sticking as long as you are careful to completely grease and flour the pan before spreading the batter inside.

Glazed Citrus-Rum Cake is easy to transport, making it a nice choice to share at potluck meals with friends. If you feel like splurging on fresh berries, this cake is delicious with blueberries or raspberries. But, it’s heavenly just as it is. On a winter brunch table, it’s a sweet surprise. Glazed Citrus-Rum Cake is sunshine on a cold,  gray winter day.

Glazed Citrus-Rum Cake

  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 3 cups sifted cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon rum extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons grated citrus zest (orange, clementine, lime)

Glaze

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange or clementine juice
  • 2 tablespoons light rum
  • 1/8 teaspoon rum extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 12-cup Bundt pan. Set aside.

Sprinkle chopped pecans over bottom of prepared pan. Beat butter at medium speed of electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add sugar, beating well. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in another bowl. Add to butter mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Add rum extract, vanilla extract and grated citrus zest and mix. Spoon batter over nuts in prepared pan.

Bake in preheated 350-degree oven for 40 to 45 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean.

Make glaze by combining butter, sugar, orange juice and rum in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in rum extract.

Using a wooden skewer, poke holes all over the surface of the hot cake in the pan. Spoon glaze evenly over the hot cake in the pan, giving it time to be absorbed into the cake.

Allow cake to cool completely in pan. Turn out onto serving platter. You can get up to 16 slices from one cake. Store tightly sealed in cool place.

Weekend Baking: Cherry-Chocolate Swirl Coffee Cake

When I was growing up, my dad was my best taste-tester. When I was 9- or 10-years-old and starting to do some baking on my own, he and his best friend, Jim, who lived in the house behind ours, would gobble up any sweet thing I would come up with.

After just a couple of bites, my dad would say something like, “My favorite daughter has come up with another winner.” I was his only daughter.

At that point, Jim would most likely be on his second piece. I’m sure one of the reasons I love to bake stems from the enthusiasm and unconditional support of my early experiments in the kitchen offered to me by my dad and his best friend. I basked in the feeling of success that I felt when I watched those two men eagerly gobble up the treats I whipped up all by myself. I know there had to have been some some flubs along the way, but they always smiled and ate.

When President’s Day rolled around each year, I’d try to find a recipe that included cherries. My dad always looked forward to dessert on President’s Day.

I continue to create sweet cherry treats when we honor George Washington with a holiday. Whether he really did cut down the cherry tree or not, I still think cherries when I think George Washington.

Cherry-Chocolate Swirl Coffee Cake is based on a cake my mom and her friends used to make with a swirl of cinnamon and sugar and nuts. I used an easy-to-make filling of canned sweet cherries, dried cherries and almonds with some mini-chocolate morsels stirred into the mix. It’s the same filling I used in the Chocolate and Cherry-Filled Mini-Heart Tarts in an earlier post.

I know my two favorite tasters would have loved this cake, despite the flub. Yes, I must be honest. After the cake was in the oven, I discovered close to a cup of the sifted dry ingredients still sitting in the bowl on the counter. Grrrrrr. The cake still baked up nicely and tasted wonderful with a cup of coffee. But, what I’ve managed to hide in the photo is a little tunnel running through the cake. Tunnel of love, maybe? Well, that little tunnel didn’t effect the wonderful flavor.

I took the cake to a cooking class I taught last night as a little pre-class treat. Everyone smiled and gobbled it up in no time flat. I still love that enthusiasm and support.

Bake Cherry-Chocolate Swirl Coffee Cake this weekend. You’ll enjoy the smiles it creates.

Happy President’s Day weekend!

Cherry-Chocolate Swirl Coffee Cake

  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (8-ounce) container sour cream
  • 1 batch cherry-chocolate filling
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar, for serving

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 12-cup Bundt pan. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat butter at medium speed of an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add 1 1/2 cups sugar, beating well.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in vanilla. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together. Add to butter mixture alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Batter will be stiff.

Spoon 1/3 of batter into a greased and floured 12-cup Bundt pan. Spoon half of cherry-chocolate mixture over batter. Top with half of remaining batter. Spoon remaining cherry-chocolate mixture over batter. Top with remaining batter. Bake in preheated 350-degree oven for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted into center of cake comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Remove from pan and let cake cool completely on wire rack. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.

Cherry and Chocolate Filling

  • 1 (15-ounce) can pitted sweet cherries, drained
  • 1/4 cup dried cherries
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/8 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/4 cup mini semisweet chocolate morsels

Put drained cherries and dried cherries into a food processor or heavy-duty blender. Process until mixture is quite smooth. Add almonds and process until finely chopped. Transfer mixture to a small saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes, or until mixture is thick. Remove from heat and stir in almond extract. Transfer to a glass bowl. Allow to cool completely, then stir in chocolate morsels.Cover and refrigerate. The filling can be made a day or two before baking.