Hazelnut Orange Cookies

Delicate, crumbly cookies with a wonderful snap, flavored with the unique combination of hazelnuts and orange – a perfect addition to a holiday cookie plate.

A stack of Hazelnut Orange cookies tied with a green ribbon

It was 1997 and the Barnes and Noble store at the nearby suburban strip mall had recently opened. I wasn’t a competent baker then; my sister was the baker. The book I chose was the Pillsbury Best Cookies Cookbook – plenty of recipes, plenty of photos. These hazelnut orange cookies were the first recipe I tried. I thought they were delicious at the time, with a delicate, crumbly texture and pretty appearance. I resurrected the recipe this year for our neighborhood Bunco cookie exchange and they are just as special as I remember them. This recipe makes a ton of cookies – about eight dozen, enough for the Bunco cookie exchange and a few dozen for the office, or just cut the recipe in half.


Hazelnut Orange Cookies

A delicate, crumbly cookie with a wonderful snap, flavored with hazelnuts and orange.


Ingredients

  • 4 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ (generous) teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup finely chopped toasted hazelnuts
  • Sugar
  • Hazelnut halves for garnish

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, salt and nutmeg. Set aside. In a large bowl, beat sugar, powdered sugar, softened butter, oil, orange zest, vanilla and eggs until light and fluffy. Stir in flour mixture until combined. Stir in finely chopped hazelnuts. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.
  2. Heat oven to 375⁰ F. Shape dough into scant 1” balls (15 grams each) and roll in sugar. Place 2” apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten each ball with the bottom of a glass dipped in sugar, top with a hazelnut half.
  3. Bake for 7-9 minutes or until barely golden around the edges. Cool for 1 minute; remove to racks and cool completely.

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Holiday Baking Round-up

It’s December and my holiday baking is in full swing.  This week, I baked fig and orange sweet buns and made 8 dozen soon-to-be-on-the-blog hazelnut-orange cookies for the neighborhood cookie exchange (yes, orange plays a starring role in my holiday baking, as you will see below). I also picked up paper baking molds to try my hand at Panettone this weekend.  In addition to all of this baking, there’s some annual holiday treats that I would be remiss not to bake again this year…it’s tradition, after all.

A basket of Gibassier

Gibassier
Gibassier are a Christmas morning tradition in my house.  My sister and I originally discovered them during our Christmas escape to Portland in 2013.  Best consumed with a steaming coffee drink, these yeasty fists of dough are subtly flavored with olive oil and orange blossom water and studded with candied orange peel and aniseed.  Once they emerge hot from the oven, they are given a bath of clarified butter and coated with sugar, giving them a sandy crust worth licking from one’s fingers.  If I could pop one of these in my mouth every day along with my morning cuppa, life would be grand, but for the sake of my waistline, I limit baking them to once a year.

4 loaves of Stollen

Marzipan Stollen
In 2016, my sister, S, was inconsolable upon hearing I was forgoing the annual holiday Gibassier to try my hand at Christmas marzipan stollen. If this fruit-studded yeast bread didn’t pass muster, I’d receive coal in my stocking for sure.  Fortunate for me, it was a holiday triumph, the downside being that sis now expects Gibassier AND Stollen each Christmas morning.

A Plate of British Eccles Cakes

Eccles Cakes
An Eccles cake is a small, heavily spiced pastry filled with currants and candied orange peel wrapped in a flaky (rough puff) pastry.  The Eccles cake may have been created about 20 years before Dickens was even born, yet these are just the type of sweetmeat I imagine gracing Mr. Fezziwig’s overladen Christmas Eve party table. So, if you aren’t tired of candied orange peel after the Gibassier and Stollen, these may just be the ideal holiday treat for you.

Macadiamia Nut Pie

Coffee Caramel Macadamia Pie
If you aren’t planning to make figgy pudding to finish off your holiday meal, I’d like to suggest a slice of this oh-so-sinful tart as an alternative.  This pie is inspired by Hawaiian coffee-glazed macadamia nuts – a little salty, a bit sweet, with a dash of coffee to compliment the buttery richness of the nuts…all encased in a flaky pastry crust. A small slice is the ideal ending to a big holiday meal. And, no orange!

Fig and Orange Sweet Buns

Soft, fluffy, lightly sweet buns studded with dried figs and candied orange peel – the ideal accompaniment to a steaming mug of coffee.

A woman holds a basket of Sweet Buns

Is there any better partner to a steamy mug of coffee than a warm, yeasty, enriched-dough treat like buttery brioche, cinnamon rolls, sticky buns, yeasted coffee cakes, fruit-studded Christmas stollen or panettone? I think not!

And although the process of making enriched dough can be, well…a process, it’s one of my favorite types of baking. You can’t rush yeasted doughs, you can’t cut corners. They need time – time for kneading, time for proofing. They require a lazy afternoon at home tending to your bread. Even if you want to cross things off your to-do list during those hour-long proofs, somehow you’ll find yourself curled up on the couch watching a TV program waiting for your dough baby to “double in size.” And, ahhh, the smell of yeast dough baking in the oven – if home could be captured in a scent, this would be it for me.

The best part? After the kneading, proofing, and baking – nothing beats the satisfaction of popping a home-baked, oven-warmed, roll, bun, or slice in your mouth, accompanied by a freshly-brewed cup of coffee, of course. I had planned on bringing these beauties to the office, but decided to keep them for my weekday morning cuppas instead.


Fig and Orange Sweet Buns

Soft, fluffy, lightly sweet buns studded with dried figs and candied orange peel.


Ingredients

  • ¾ cup whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup dried figs, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup candied orange peel, finely chopped
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Decorator or pearl sugar

Directions

  1. In a small saucepan, heat the milk and honey until warm (105⁰ – 110⁰ F). Sprinkle the yeast over the milk and let rest for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, combine flour, salt, and cardamom (if using) in a large bowl.
  2. Add the butter and vanilla to milk mixture (it should be foamy by now) and then stir into the flour to create a shaggy dough. Let dough rest for 15 minutes.
  3. Transfer the dough to your work surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 12 minutes. Pat the dough into a disk, sprinkle with figs and orange peel, and press into dough. Roll the dough up like a sausage encasing the fruit and then lightly knead to distribute the fruit well. Transfer the dough to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave to proof in a warm spot until doubled in size, about one hour.
  4. Divide the dough into 8 even pieces, roll into round balls, picking off any fruit on the outside that is exposed, and place each bun on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and proof again until risen, about 45 minutes.
  5. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Brush the buns with beaten egg and liberally sprinkled with decorator sugar. Bake for 17-22 minutes until buns are dark golden brown and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. If you want to add a bit more sweetness, drizzle with confectioners sugar icing.

Gibassier

A basket of Gibassier
Oh, little-known gibassier, how I adore thee!

I’ll never forget the December 2013 morning when I met my first gibassier (pronounced zee-bah-see-ay) over cappuccinos at Portland’s Pearl Bakery. While I devoured these knots of breakfast bread goodness in mere seconds, their sugar-crusted memory lingered with me long after. Best consumed with a steaming hot drink, these yeasty little fists of dough are subtly flavored with olive oil and orange blossom water and studded with candied orange peel and anise seed. Once they emerge hot from the oven, they are given a bath of clarified butter and coated with granulated sugar, giving them a sandy crust worth licking from one’s finger tips. If I could pop one of these in my mouth every day along with my morning cuppa, life would be grand.

But, alas, my waistline doesn’t allow such indulgences and, with an overnight pre-ferment and almost 4 hours of proofing time, my usually hectic schedule does not either. So, starting in 2014, gibassier has become a special Christmas morning tradition – a crackling fire, Ray Coniff Singers’ “Sleigh Ride”, mugs of not-too-sweet mochas, and a heaping platter of oven-warmed gibassier (as well as a loaf of gratuitous marzipan stollen).

Pure contentment – It’s no wonder we’re always late to the mid-day holiday festivities.


Gibassier

This 2017 version has been slightly adjusted from my original 2014 recipe, which was adapted from Ciril Hitz’s Baking Artisan Pastries & Bread.

Ingredients

    Overnight Starter (Biga)
  • 90 grams all-purpose flour
  • 90 grams bread flour
  • 110 grams whole milk
  • 2 pinches from a packet of instant yeast (I use Fleishman’s)
  • 1 large egg
  • Dough
  • Remainder of packet of instant yeast
  • 2 Tablespoons water at 107⁰ F
  • 2 large eggs plus 1 yolk
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoon orange flower water
  • 200 grams all-purpose flour
  • 200 grams bread flour
  • 100 grams granulated sugar
  • 85 grams unsalted butter
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons anise seed, toasted and slightly crushed
  • 70-90 grams candied orange peel, cut into ¼” dice – it’s worth making your own
  • Topping
  • 50 grams granulated sugar (don’t use superfine)
  • 113 grams unsalted butter (1 stick)

Directions

  1. Night before baking: Combine overnight starter ingredients in the bowl of a mixer. Combine on low speed until well combined. Put in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and put in a warm place (can be on top of an oven that is cooling from previous cooking) draft free place. Let ferment overnight. It will not rise much.
  2. Day of Baking: Bloom yeast in 2 T. water at 107⁰ F. All remaining liquids (eggs, oil, and orange flower water) should be about 60⁰ F.
  3. In the bowl of a mixer, combine eggs, olive oil and orange water. Mix with paddle attachment. Add starter dough and beat slowly until loose and fairly uniform. Change to dough hook and add flour, sugar, salt, and yeast (don’t let salt and yeast touch). Mix for 4 minutes. Add softened butter to dough in 4 stages, incorporating each before adding more. Mix dough until gluten fully develops – the dough will be smooth and soft. When you pull off a piece, it will pull into a “window” rather than breaking. Add the anise seed and candied orange peel and mix on low until combined. When you remove the hook, it should come out completely clean.
  4. Place in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic. Let proof 2 hours in a warm, draft-free place.
  5. Divide dough into 18 parts 65-70 grams each, shape into rounds, and let rest for 20 minutes covered by plastic or a dishcloth.
  6. Shape into semi-circles about 1/2 inch thick (To make shaping easier, I shape them into a torpedo and then pat them into a semi-circle).
  7. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, and cut each semi-circle with three long slashes on the outer edge curved side, and then with four short slashes (one in between each of the long ones)*. Gently spread the “toes” and place on the baking sheets (8 each). Let proof for 1 1/2 hours in a warm, draft-free place, covered with plastic.
  8. While gibassier proof, clarify 1 stick of unsalted butter for topping. Set aside. Place oven racks on two top positions. Preheat convection (fan) oven to 350⁰ F. Bake gibassier 12-15 minutes, switching baking sheets half-way through baking. When the gibassiers are golden brown (some parts may be lighter than others), remove to a cooling rack.
  9. While still warm. brush generously with clarified butter (once), and roll in sugar (twice). I freeze leftovers and rewarm them in a 200⁰ F oven for 10-12 minutes. Before serving, I give them a final sugar roll.

*The traditional way to shape gibassier is with the three long slashes in the middle and the four shorter slashes on the curved edge.
Gibassier

Gibassier – ready for baking

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
  • Print
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.