Cherry Streusel Triangle Cookies

 

Basic Butter Cookie Dough for various cookiesDating someone new entails navigating a precarious route – not unlike those rickety rope bridges suspended above Amazonian rivers. Say the wrong thing, show too much interest – or not enough – and the entire contraption and both of you plunge into the abyss below. Sheer disaster. I’ve learned to tread slowly and deliberately along that path.

Last week, I baked 200 cookies for two catering jobs. On Wednesday, I was also going out with a new guy. My initial thought was to grab a few cookies, pop them in a decorative bag tied with raffia and give them to him as a little gift. Why not? Baking is what I do and I was already in it for over 16 dozen. What’s a few more cookies? Yet dating caution overrode these initial innocuous intentions. How would he interpret the gesture? Would he think I spent all day baking exclusively for HIM? Would I be accused of moving too quickly? I could hear him tell a friend:

“Shit, dude, it was our second date and she was already baking me cookies! Psycho!”

So, I decided against the cookies. I’ll save my talents for now. If we manage to survive a few more dates, then maybe I’ll break out my baking prowess.

This is my favorite cookie dough when faced with a large baking project. The dough can be shaped and flavored in myriad ways limited only by imagination.


Basic Butter Cookies

  • Servings: About 8-9 Dozen, depending on size
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Based on a recipe from Wayne Gisslen’s Professional Baking

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. butter, softened
  • 6 oz. sugar
  • 2 oz. brown sugar
  • 3 oz. egg, beaten (a little less than 2 eggs)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 1 lb. 8 oz. All-purpose flour
  • For Cherry Triangles
  • 10 oz. cherry jam
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 3 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • ¾ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ cup powdered sugar, sifted

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350⁰ F. Cream butter and sugars in a stand mixture until light and fluffy. Slowly add beaten egg and vanilla until incorporated. Add salt to flour and gently stir in. Don’t overmix. Your dough is ready to use!
  2. To make Cherry Streusel Triangles: Cover 9×9” pan with aluminum foil, leaving an overhang. Butter foil well. Press 9 oz. of Basic Butter cookie dough into pan. Deck dough with fork and bake for about 15 minutes until just beginning to brown. Cool for about 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, mix cherry jam with zest and set aside. Mix an additional 2 oz. of Basic Butter Cookie dough with 3 Tablespoons brown sugar, 1 Tablespoon flour and ¾ teaspoon cinnamon.
  3. Spread jam evenly over baked dough, leaving a ¼” rim and sprinkle with streusel. Bake until cherry filling is bubbly, 20-25 minutes. Cool cookies completely. Cut in 16 squares, cut each square in two triangles. Mix powdered sugar with enough water to make a glaze. Drizzle glaze over cookies. Makes 32 cookies.

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Bacon, Cheddar and Green Onion Scones

A basket of Bacon, Cheddar, Green Onion Scones
Certain weeks, this week for example, I struggle to post even once. I’m typically not confounded by the culinary piece (although I can get frustrated when a day-long recipe results in an inedible flop), but by this part – the header, the “intro”, the story behind the recipe. Often, I’ve cooked (and eaten) my creation days, if not weeks, before I hit upon a header for the recipe, if ever. Many dishes never make it to publication.

Last night, “D” and I were batting around  fictional “intro” ideas for these scones (baked last Sunday) that included a faux picnic featuring these scones at last night’s Hollywood Bowl concert (à la Sunset Magazine) and another story involving Jared Kushner, Russia meetings and his desire for sweet scones vs. savory.

Unfortunately, in my world, the truth behind the recipe is never that compelling.

I baked these savory scones for no other reason than I wanted kitchen time. The flavor combination idea (a classic) resulted from watching a rerun of The Great British Baking Show. Originally, I was imagining a yeasty swirl bread, loaded with a filling of bacon-cheesy goodness when I hit upon the idea of scones instead. Using my favorite sweet scone recipe as a base, I decreased the sugar, swapped sweet ingredients for savory and, voila – buttery, savory scones.

Granted, the Kushner-Russia connection would have been more interesting.


Bacon, Cheddar and Green Onion Scones

I’ve taken my favorite American scone recipe and turned it savory and loaded with flavor. With three sticks of butter in the dough, no additional butter is needed on these babies.

Ingredients

  • 8 strips bacon, cubed
  • 1 bunch green onions, white and light green parts only, sliced
  • 3 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
  • 1 ¼ cup buttermilk, divided
  • 1 whole egg
  • flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)

Directions

  1. Cook bacon in a skillet until crisp. Remove bacon from pan. Add green onions to bacon grease in pan and sauté until softened. Add onions to bacon and cool both. Preheat oven to 350⁰ F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicon mats.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the cold butter. Using your fingers, rub the butter into the flour until butter is pea-sized.
  3. In a liquid measuring cup, measure 1 cup buttermilk. Beat in whole egg until well combined. Pour buttermilk into dry ingredients and gently combine with your hands until dough barely comes together. Add bacon, green onion, and cheddar and gently combine. The secret to flaky scones is not to overwork the dough.
  4. On a lightly floured surface, shape the dough into two disks about 1 ½ inches high. Cut each disk into 8 wedges. Place the wedges on the baking sheets. Brush scones with remaining ¼ cup buttermilk and lightly sprinkle with sea salt. Bake for 35-40 minutes until scone are golden brown. These scones are best served slightly warm.

 

Quick Apple Sticky Buns

Quick sticky buns

Over 20 years ago, a young woman traveled to Sedona and stayed, on recommendation, at Don Hoel’s cabins. They were a cluster of small cabins near Oak Creek, looking a bit tired, but still cozy and homey, each with a kitchen, fireplace and a separate bedroom.

12 years later, she returned to Sedona and the first lodging she considered was Don Hoel’s. She was disappointed to learn she couldn’t reserve a cabin – the owner was selling and the cabins were closed. She stayed just down the road at Junipine, at a place that was neither cozy nor homey. During that trip, she drove past Don Hoel’s and saw the large “For Sale” sign across the closed gates. Even then, she daydreamed about buying it. The place was big – over 20 acres, with 20 cabins and a market. Her thoughts on the matter stayed in the daydream world.

The woman is back again. The place is now renamed, owned by a young couple for the past 5 years . They’ve polished the place up, adding the much needed character, and turned it into a little gem. The woman, who is not so young anymore, is envious. Again, she thinks “I could do that” and this time she doesn’t consider it just a daydream.


Quick Apple Sticky Buns

I don’t usually use packaged or pre-made products and call them my own, but sometimes busy mornings call for shortcuts. Adapted from Real Simple Quick Sticky Buns.

Ingredients

  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, sliced into 10 pieces
  • 1 medium apple, peeled and grated
  • ½ cup pecans, chopped
  • 3 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 7.5 ounce tube refrigerated buttermilk biscuits
  • ½ cup powdered sugar

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Drop a piece of butter in the bottom of 10 muffin tins. Divide apple among tins and sprinkle with pecans, brown sugar and cinnamon. Top each with a biscuit.
  2. Bake until golden brown, 8-12 minutes. Remove from oven, cover with a baking sheet and flip the tin over. Tap the bottom to release the buns.
  3. Combine powdered sugar with enough water to make a thick glaze. Drizzle glaze on still-warm sticky buns. Serve warm.

Lemon Cheese Pastry Squares

Lemon Sweet Cheese Pastry Squares

She hikes along the path, entreating the universe, “please let me find an arrowhead, please let me find an arrowhead.”  She even makes ridiculous pledges like, “I swear if I find one, I won’t keep it…I just want to see if I can wish it into existence.  I’ll bury it once I find it.”

Many years ago, she found another arrowhead, quite by accident, near an abandoned homestead on a cattle ranch outside Galconda, NV.  She placed it in the back pocket of her Levi’s for safekeeping.  After a long, dusty and bumpy ride back to the ranch in the bed of a pickup, she was astonished to find her pockets empty.  While disappointed, she decided her possessing it wasn’t meant to be.

Now, for a reason that she doesn’t understand, she’s on the hunt to locate one again.  For four days, she’s hiked with her eyes fixed on the trails in front of her.  She’s picked up a dozen of pieces of flint for closer inspection. Nothing.

She’s driving out of town today, on her way back home, leaving a little early to fit in one last brief 45-minute hike on a hill she’s never hiked before.  The day is hot, 93 degrees, under a blue and cloudless sky; time slips by quickly.  As she heads back to her car, she spots it on the path, dusty and damaged, most likely from being stepped on by hikers – a black flint arrowhead.

Decisions, decisions. She promised the universe not to keep it, but now it’s in her hand and the location and timing of her discovery convince her this was predestined.  This town is her magical place, after all.  She stops to consider her choices.  After a few minutes, she slips the arrowhead in her back pocket, concluding, if it’s still in her pocket when she arrives home, she was intended to keep it, at least for a while.


Lemon Cheese Pastry Squares

These use the same dough as the Almond Pockets, substituting a cream cheese and lemon filling. Of the two pastries, these were the crowd favorite in the office.

Ingredients

  • Danish Pastry Dough
  • 8 oz. Cream Cheese
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 3 Tablespoons raw sugar

Directions

  1. Follow the instructions for making the dough.
  2. Make the Cheese filling: Beat the cream cheese, sugar, yolk and zest together until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  3. Make the squares: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Roll the dough into 20” x 20” square. Divide into 16 squares approximately 5”x5”. Place the cheese filling in the middle of each square, Brush 2 all corners with egg, fold each corner over the center, pressing down firmly to seal. Proof for 15 minutes.
  4. Egg wash the outside of the pastries and sprinkle liberally with raw sugar. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.

arrowhead

Bittersweet Chocolate Spice Mostaccioli

Bittersweet Chocolate Spice Mostaccioli

At dinner tonight, I noticed a female cook working the line. Tall and graceful, with delicate earrings dangling from her ears, she moved thoughtfully, preparing each dish deliberately and unhurried. Her figure skater grace was eclipsed by the customary bravado of her hockey player fellow cooks, and yet, surprisingly, the boys left her to her own methods, without remark. Could she be an owner and thus excluded from the usual kitchen hazing? During my (short- lived) kitchen exploits, lacking the obligatory culinary machismo wasn’t tolerated by the rest of the line. She had the same forearm burns as the boys, turned out the same dishes, but with a tranquility and fluidity not typically found in a restaurant. It was a pleasure to watch her and gave me hope as a female chef.

Bittersweet Chocolate Spice Mostaccioli

  • Servings: 32 cookies
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Adapted from Epicurious’s Chocolate Hazelnut Spiced Cookies

Ingredients


– 1 ½ cups hazelnuts, toasted and skin removed, or toasted almonds, or 9 oz. toasted almond meal
– ¾ cup sugar
– ½ cup all-purpose flour
– 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (divided)
– 1 teaspoon baking soda
– ¾ teaspoon salt
– ½ teaspoon cinnamon
– 1/8 teaspoon cloves
– 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
– 3 Tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into ½ inch cubes
– Grated zest from one orange (about 1 Tablespoon)
– 3 Tablespoons fresh orange juice
– 2 Tablespoons rum or hazelnut flavored liqueur (divided)
– ½ cup confectioners sugar
– 3 Tablespoons water
– 3 Tablespoons toasted nuts or toasted cocoa nibs

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a sheet pan with parchment or a silicone liner and spray with cooking spray.
  2. In a food processor, pulse nuts, sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt, and spices until finely chopped. Add butter and zest and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add juice and 1 Tablespoon rum and pulse until dough comes together into a ball, but is still crumbly.
  3. Form tablespoons of dough into balls (18-20 grams each) and slightly flatten to about 1 ½ inches, arranging 1 inch apart on sheet pan. It’s important the butter in the dough remains cold prior to baking.
  4. Bake cookies until puffed and slightly cracked, about 15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack until barely warm.
  5. Meanwhile, whisk together confectioners sugar, ½ cup cocoa powder, 1 Tablespoon rum and water until smooth. Frost each cookie with a bit of icing and sprinkle with nuts or cocoa nibs. Frosting the slightly warm cookies will ensure icing spreads smoothly. Let cookies stand until icing is set, about 1 hour. These cookies remain soft and improve with age if kept in an airtight container at room temperature.
  6. Variation: reduce salt to 1/4 teaspoon and substitute toasted nuts/cocoa nibs with a sprinkle of sea salt.