Lemon Verbena Shortbread

Lemon Shortbread
When someone learns I’m a chef and food blogger, one of the first questions is usually, “What is your specialty?” I’m never quite sure how to respond – Everything edible?

If I’m honest, I should respond that I’m really, really skilled at whipping up a batch of cookies somewhere around midnight because, well, it amounts to the almost nightly use of my oven. One bowl, a handful of ingredients, a sheet pan and, viola, late night sweet treats – to the detriment of my waistline.

Take, for example, these Lemon Verbena Shortbread cookies, last night’s recent addition to my “Cookies at Midnight” series.


Lemon Verbena Shortbread

  • Servings: 16 cookies
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If you don’t have access to lemon verbena, these would also be tasty with a ¾ teaspoon of lemon zest instead.

Ingredients

  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • 8 to 12 lemon verbena leaves
  • ¾ cup flour
  • 6 Tablespoons cold butter, cut into small cubes
  • 2 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • ¼ t. salt
  • Colored crystal sugar for decoration, optional

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. In a food processor, pulse sugar with lemon verbena leaves until sugar is highly fragrant and flecked with green. Add leaves as needed to get desired flavor.
  2. Add flour, cold butter, cornstarch and salt and pulse until mixture resembles fresh breadcrumbs (dough will be very dry).
  3. Pour dough into an 8” spring form pan and press down firmly. Sprinkle liberally with crystal sugar and press into dough. Pierce dough all over with fork.
  4. Baked until pale golden, about 35-40 minutes. Cool 5 minutes, release sides of pan and then cut shortbread into 16 wedges. Using a spatula, carefully transfer shortbread to a platter or cooling rack.

Easy Shortbread

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Cranberry-Almond Sandwich Biscotti

Bakewell Biscotti
Crunchy Cranberry Almond Biscotti stuffed and baked with cranberry jam and buttery almond crème – ummm…yes, please! I borrowed this idea from Dominique Ansel’s recipe in Food and Wine and used ingredients I already had on hand from earlier bakes of these Biscotti and Bakewell Mini Tarts – combining the best of both worlds into a very special holiday cookie, indeed!


Cranberry-Almond Sandwich Biscotti

  • Servings: About 3 Dozen
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Inspired by Dominique Ansel’s Bakewell Biscotti.

Ingredients

  • ½ Biscotti Cookie Dough recipe (use the other ½ for standard biscotti or make a double batch)
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries, chopped
  • 1/3 cup slivered almonds, chopped
  • ½ stick (2 oz.) unsalted butter
  • 6 Tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ¾ cup almond flour
  • 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
  • 6 oz. smooth cranberry or smooth tart cherry jam (push through a sieve if needed to ensure jam is smooth)

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Parchment and spray a sheet pan. Stir dried cranberries and slivered almonds into dough. Divide dough into two rolls about 14” long. Place rolls 4” apart on sheet pan. Flatten each roll to about 3” wide so each log should be about 3” x 14”. Bake for 20-25 minutes until tops are set and logs are light golden brown. Cool for 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk together unsalted butter, confectioner’s sugar, egg, almond flour and cornstarch. Transfer almond crème to a pastry bag fitting with a small tip. Set aside. Transfer jam to a separate pastry bag fitted with a small tip. If you don’t have pastry bags, use zip-lock bags and cut a small hole in one tip of the bag.
  3. Using a serrated knife, carefully cut each log crosswise thinly into ¼” slices. Arrange half of the slices on a sheet pan. Cover the slices with a thin line of almond crème and drizzle crème with cranberry jam. Place the other half of the slices on top and press down slightly to ensure filling is even within the cookies. Bake 8-10 minutes, turn over and bake another 5 minutes. Cool completely.

Cranberry Bakewell Mini Tarts

Cranberry Bakewell Mini Tarts
Christmas in London! Such a brilliant notion. Those powder-dusted cobbled lane pics in my Instagram feed seduced me. Granted, we have just a week to plan, yet our passports are current, we know where we want to go, what we want to do – and we’re both quite experienced travelers. All we really need is a London hotel and a cheap, last minute flight. But, alas, there’s the rub – nothing less than $1800 per person, even with a layover. Sigh, Christmas in London – again, not this year.

I console myself, as I decorate the tree, with these British-inspired confections – bite-sized Cranberry Bakewell Tarts. At least my taste buds can travel there.


Cranberry Bakewell Mini Tarts

  • Servings: 16 Mini Tarts
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Ingredients

    Shortbread Crust
  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla
  • ¾ cup flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Frangipane (Almond Crème)
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 6 Tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ¾ cup almond flour
  • 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
  • 3 Tablespoons smooth cranberry sauce or cranberry jelly
  • Glaze
  • 1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon water
  • 16 sliced almonds, toasted

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 16 mini muffin cups. Make crust by beating together 6 Tablespoons butter and sugar. Add vanilla, flour and salt and combine until fully blended. Divide dough into 16 equal pieces, pressing dough along bottom and up sides of each muffin cup. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until just beginning to brown. If crust rises too much after baking, gently press back down into cups.
  2. While crusts are baking, make frangipane by whisking together 4 Tablespoons butter, confectioner’s sugar, egg, almond flour and cornstarch. Spoon frangipane into a piping bag with a ¼ to ½” tip.
  3. Dollop about ½ teaspoon of cranberry sauce in the bottom of each cup. Pipe frangipane over cranberry sauce, covering sauce completely. Bake tarts for an additional 20-25 minutes until tops are puffed and slightly golden brown. Cool completely
  4. To make glaze, mix 1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar with water. Drizzle over cooled tarts. Garnish each with a sliced almond.

Cranberry Bakewell Tartlets

Chocolate Dipped Biscotti

Holiday Biscotti
I’m attending a neighborhood cookie exchange tonight. I’m feeling a bit anxious – after my cookie baking failure false start last week, I’m hesitant to test new recipes out on the group. “Hi, nice to meet you. I’m the baker who can’t make a cookie.” I’ve decided, instead, to pull out a classic – chocolate dipped biscotti. I originally created this recipe in 2010 for a vin santo dessert pairing at the steakhouse. The original recipe created about 144 cookies. I’ve paired it down to about 6 dozen. What I love about this recipe is how easy it is to divide the dough, add various ingredients and create unique flavor combinations with a minimum of fuss.


Chocolate Dipped Biscotti

  • Servings: About 6 Dozen
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This is a basic biscotti recipe. I’ve listed a few mix-in flavor options below, but flavor combinations are limited only by your imagination.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 8 oz. butter, softened (2 sticks)
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line two sheet pans with parchment and spray with cooking spray. Stir together flour, baking powder and salt. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat sugar and butter until fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, and add vanilla extract. Mix in flour mixture until just combined. Divide dough into two equal amounts and add ingredients below (or make your own combination of mix-ins).
  2. Divide each flavor into two rolls about 14” long (You should have four 14” rolls). Place rolls 4” apart on sheet pans. Flatten each roll to about 3” wide so each log should be about 3” x 14”. Bake for 20-25 minutes until tops are set and logs are light golden brown. Cool logs for 10 minutes. With a serrated knife, carefully cut each log crosswise into ½” – ¾” slices. Lay slices flat on sheet pans and bake 8-10 minutes until biscotti feel dry to the touch. Turn over and bake another 5 minutes. Cool completely.
  3. Warm chocolate chips in the microwave 60-90 seconds, stirring every 30 seconds until chocolate is smooth. Dip the tip of each cooled biscotti in chocolate and set aside until chocolate is set.

Almond Orange
– ⅓ cup chopped almonds
– zest from one orange
– substitute 1 teaspoon almond extract for 1 of the teaspoons of vanilla
– 1 cup milk chocolate chips (for dipping)
Cherry Walnut
– ⅓ cup dried cherries, chopped
– ⅓ cup candied walnuts, chopped
– 1 cup dark chocolate chips (for dipping)
Apricot Pistachio
– ⅓ cup dried apricots, chopped
– ⅓ cup pistachios, chopped
– 1 cup white chocolate chips (for dipping)

Apricot Pocket Cookies

Apricot Cookies
SCENE ONE: 2:16 a.m. after their eighth date, a couple are entwined on the couch, an empty bottle of wine and two wine glasses are located on a table in front of them. A small bowl of homemade truffles sits between the glasses.

[kissing, kissing, kissing]

Him: “It’s late. I should probably go home soon.”

[more kissing, kissing, kissing]

Me: “Do you want to go home…or do you want to sleep here?”

[continued kissing, kissing, kissing]

Him: {silence}

Me: “It’s not a trick question.”

[more kissing, kissing, kissing]

Him: {silence}

Me: “Okay…I’ll answer for you. You want to go home.”

Him: {silence}

[kissing, kissing, kissing]

Him: “I guess I owe you some sort of apology or explanation.”

Oh god, please don’t apologize. That will make me feel like more of a lusty sexual deviant than I already do. And, as far as an explanation, what could you possibly tell me that would make me feel better about getting shot down for sex? I either don’t want to know or – if you have a valid excuse – this situation just became way too complicated for me.

I don’t let him give me an excuse, but I manage to think up a few of my own.

10 reasons he won’t sleep with me:
1) He finds me unattractive
2) He’s transgendered or gay and hasn’t worked up the courage to tell me
3) He has a secret girlfriend and he doesn’t want to “cheat” on her
4) He thinks sex will make me too “attached” [It won’t]
5) He’s bad in bed
6) He thinks I’ll be bad in bed
7) He has an STD
8) He thinks I’ll make him stop sleeping with other people [which is true]
9) I stink [armpit, cooch and breath check!]
10) He has ED or some other medical issue that precludes the horizontal mambo

SCENE TWO: It’s 6:00 p.m. the next evening. The same woman, alone, is curled up on the couch wearing her pj’s. Two cats sleep soundly beside her. On her lap is a platter of these cookies that she is devouring – one by one and without regret. Sometimes – most times, actually – the easiest company is our own.


Apricot Pocket Cookies

  • Servings: 27 cookies
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Ingredients

  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ⅓ cup apricot jam
  • ¼ cup finely chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 Tablespoons turbinado sugar (like Sugar in the Raw)
  • ¼ cup chocolate chips
  • 2 Tablespoons powdered sugar

Directions

  1. With an electric mixer, beat the butter, cream cheese and sugar until fluffy. Mix in the vanilla extract. Gradually add the flour, mixing until just incorporated (don’t overmix).
  2. Remove the dough from the bowl and form it into a 1” thick scare. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill 1 hour.
  3. On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough into a rectangle 9” x 12”. Cut the dough lengthwise into 3 strips 9” x 4”. Spread each strip with apricot jam and sprinkle with walnuts. Starting from the long side, roll each strip into a log. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice each log into 1” pieces and place on a parchment or silicon lined baking sheet. Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake until golden brown, 22-25 minutes.
  5. To decorate, melt chocolate chips in microwave, stirring every 30 minutes until smooth, about a minute. Drizzle cookies with chocolate and dust with powdered sugar.