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.


  • 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


  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.


  • 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


  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.


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
  • Print
Adapted from Epicurious’s Chocolate Hazelnut Spiced Cookies


– 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


  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.

Candied Orange and Anise Biscotti

Candied Orange and Anise Biscotti

Our search for Clarity occasionally demands us to set aside to-do lists in favor of prayer books. It inters us within a temple of quiet solitude, away from the dazzle of worldliness, insisting on reflection. Our weaving of elaborate plans is replaced by solemn contemplation. When I ache with this azan in my ear, I bow at my kitchen’s altar for answers often found within the merging of butter, sugar and flour.

Candied Orange and Anise Biscotti

Flavored with candied orange and anise, these cookies are a nod to the French sweet bread, gibassier


– 3/4 cup sugar
– 8 oz. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
– 2 teaspoons orange flower water
– 3 eggs
– 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
– ½ cup almond flour
– 2 teaspoons baking powder
– ¼ teaspoon salt
– 1/3 cup candied orange peel, finely chopped
– 1 teaspoon anise seeds, toasted and slightly crushed


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a sheet pan with parchment and spray with cooking spray.
  2. In a stand mixer, beat sugar and butter until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. Add extract and beat well.
  3. Add flour, almond flour, baking powder and salt and mix until blended. Add candied orange peel and anise and mix until just combined.
  4. Shape dough into two rolls the length of the sheet pan. Flatten each to 3” wide. Bake 20-25 minutes until set and barely beginning to brown. Cool 10 minutes. Cut rolls ½” thick across into 18 biscotti each. 5. Arrange biscotti on their sides on sheet pan and bake 8-10 minutes. Turn cookies over and bake an additional 5 minutes. Bake cookies until dry and crispy, but not brown. I enjoy these treats dipped in a cappuccino or glass of milk.

Hermit Bars

Hermit CookiesStaying true to its name, The back page of each month’s Cook’s Illustrated displays drawings of a specific variety of culinary ingredient such as Gulf Coast fish (March/April 2014) , types of pears (Sept/Oct 2014) or an array of classic tapas (July/Aug 2015). This month’s illustration is “classic American cookies.” I scan the line-up and check off the usual suspects– chocolate chip – yep, peanut butter – made them, oatmeal raisin – of course, snickerdoodles – baked my first batch at 12.   They took liberty with some – is chocolate sandwich truly an American classic (outside of the store bought Oreo variety). Then one lumpy, Cliff-bar looking cookie catches my eye – hermit. Whaaaa??? What the hell is that? I’ve never heard of a hermit cookie. Where could this hermit have been hiding all these years? A bit of cookie wiki and I soon learn they came from the New England area and, although ingredients differ, seem to be a chewy, heavily spiced cookie- bar (usually) or drop – with any combination of raisins, currants, dates and walnuts.

What have I been missing? Well, a lot. We’ll see these again around Christmas time. Oh yum.

Hermit Cookies
Adapted from King Arthur Flour

1 cup Butter, melted
1 cup Granulated sugar
1 Egg (large)
½ t. cinnamon
½ t. nutmeg
½ t. Ginger
½ t. Cloves (scant)
½ t. Salt
1 t. Baking soda
3 cups All Purpose Flour
½ c. Molasses
1 cup Raisins, softened in hot water
1 cup Walnuts, toasted and chopped
3 T. Demerara sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 13×9” pan.

In a large bowl, beat together sugar and butter until smooth. Beat in egg, spices, salt and baking soda. Gently stir in flour then add the molasses and beat until fully incorporated. Stir in the raisins and nuts.

Pat dough evenly into pan and sprinkle with demerara sugar. Bake for 20-25 minutes until just set. Do not over-bake. You want the final bars to be chewy. Cool completely before cutting.