Chocolate Orange Pistachio Shortbread

Chocolate Orange Pistachio Shortbread

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Buttery rich with bittersweet chocolate, candied orange and pistachios! Chocolate Orange Pistachio Shortbread is one great cookie. Not too sweet, and with melt-in-your-mouth goodness, these lovely shortbread cookies are perfect to adorn any holiday table.

I love a good shortbread cookie. [See below for links to other shortbread options.] These surprisingly sturdy cookies are naturally festive. They come decked out with green from the pistachios, orange from the candied peel, with chocolate chunks all embedded in a golden cookie. Chocolate Orange Pistachio Shortbread are wonderful on their own, but also make a perfect counterpoint to other sweeter cookies that may make up your holiday cookie box.

One of the first things I ever baked on my own were cookies. I would send them to brother in college to share with his roommates. And one holiday I baked about 100 gingerbread men/women to share with the doctors and nurses in the recovery room where I volunteered. I still find it difficult to believe, but I actually stayed up late lovingly decorating them to resemble the different hospital staff. And maybe that’s what pushed me over the edge! But I didn’t make cookies for years after that.

Since the pandemic, though, I have gotten back into making cookies. If you are doing them all by yourself, there is no getting around that it can get a bit tedious. If, however, you can break up the task, it’s not too bad. So I prepared the dough for five different cookies over a single day. Then I refrigerated them and am now baking them up over a couple of days.

Even though I may not make certain things, I’m always on the lookout for new recipes. It’s a wonderful antidote to the relentless bombardment of bad news! I came across the recipe for Orange, Pistachio and Chocolate Shortbread and knew immediately that this was one recipe I would actually make. Of course, I made a few tweaks to “improve it” as my maternal grandmother would have said.

My version of Chocolate Orange Pistachio Shortbread follows. Shortbread keeps very well in an airtight tin, so are perfect for gifting. These are soooooooooooo good that you should be sure to save a bunch for yourself!

But as we are starting the Festival of Lights (Hanukkah) Sunday night, I will likely take a break from cookie baking in order to make latkes, sfenji, sufganiyot and beignets. Of course, I will need to give most of these away or my husband and I won’t fit through our front door!

As I have discovered rather late in my cooking game, doing all of your measuring and setting of your ingredients out before actually assembling (known as mise en place) makes for a much less stressful baking experience.

Try these other wonderful shortbread options:

Lavender Mint Shortbread Cookies

Tehina Shortbread Cookies

Gateau Breton – French Shortbread Cake

Recipe

Yield: About 40 cookies, depending on how you form and cut them

Chocolate Orange Pistachio Shortbread

Ingredients

3 cups/419 grams all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon kosher salt (such as Diamond Crystal)

1¼ cups/284 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature

¾ cup/175 grams granulated sugar

1 large egg yolk (save the white for a different cookie or to add to an omelette)

1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract

2 teaspoons orange blossom water (readily available online and in Middle Eastern grocery stores)

½ cup/76 grams roughly chopped candied orange peel

½ cup/76 grams shelled unsalted pistachios, roughly chopped

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

Directions

Step 1

Whisk together flour and salt in a medium bowl. Combine butter and sugar in a large bowl, or in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using an electric mixer (fitted with the paddle attachment if using a stand mixer), beat at medium-high speed until the mixture is pale in color, about 3 minutes, scraping down the sides with a rubber spatula, as needed. Add egg yolk, almond extract and orange blossom water and blend until combined.

Chocolate Orange Pistachio Shortbread

Step 2

Add flour mixture in two batches and mix on low until barely combined. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the orange peel, pistachios, chopped chocolate and remaining bits of flour. The dough may appear crumbly. If necessary, gently need the mixture with your hands until you have a smooth dough with everything well distributed.

Step 3

To form the cookies, cut the dough into 3 even portions. Roll each portion into a log with a flat bottom, top and ends. This can be pretty easily handled if you roll the dough using plastic wrap and a dough scraper pushed up against the sides to even out your log. Chill the dough 8 hours or for up to 3 days before cutting and baking. When you are ready to bake, remove the logs, one at a time from the fridge for about 15 minutes before cutting. If the dough is too hard, the pieces will break and too soft and they will just squish. Dough can always be remolded into a new log, so don’t worry if the first slices aren’t perfect!

Step 4

To bake the cookies, heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Place one log at a time on a cutting board and using a sharp, large knife, cut slices about 3/8-inches thick. Any pieces that aren’t perfect can be mushed together and rerolled.

The cookies do not spread much so you can place them about 1.5 inches apart on the cookie sheet. Ovens vary, as will the thickness of dough etc. Mine took about 18 minutes to bake, but just watch them after 15 minutes until you see how they are baking in your oven. You can always add time but once they are overbaked, there isn’t much you can do.

If you don’t have a convection oven (I DON’T) turn the trays once halfway for more even baking. And if some are darker than others, remove those to a cooling rack and put the others back until the desired golden color. These cookies are pretty forgiving.

Step 6

Remove from the oven, allow cookies to cool completely on cooling racks. The cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for at least 1 week.

Pumpkin Coffee Cake

Pumpkin Coffee Cake

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Spicy, sweet, moist and fragrant, Pumpkin Coffee Cake says autumn bliss in every bite. Warming cinnamon, ginger, allspice, nutmeg and cloves and sweetened with brown sugar and maple syrup. With toasted pecans in a streusel topping covered with just the right amount of sweet, vanilla icing. Can you smell how it perfumes the whole house?

I can easily resist the siren call of “pumpkin spice latte” and “pumpkin spice” scented candles and room sprays. Don’t even get me started! However, I am a sucker for the real thing. And this lovely coffee cake actually contains real pumpkin and not merely “pumpkin” spices.

When I was searching for a recipe for a pumpkin cake or muffin, I came across this from Sally’s Baking Addiction. Initially I meant to make the recipe exactly as written – truly, I did. However, I immediately started thinking of ways to make it more my own. It’s safe to say that my version of Pumpkin Coffee Cake is only “inspired” by Sally’s.

My Pumpkin Coffee Cake gets its spicing from my Pumpkin Pie. I like a really well-spiced pie. It means adding a few cracks of fresh black pepper to my spice mix. This is a trick I learned a number of years ago. It isn’t enough to notice on its own. But it just enhances the spicy nature of the ginger, allspice and cloves.

I’m not sure why using the word “moist” to describe a cake has become a dirty word. For me, it means that the cake will melt in your mouth and the crumbs will stick together on the fork. It also means that the cake will likely be delicious even after a couple of days. So, yes, this Pumpkin Coffee Cake is beautifully and unashamedly moist! This, of course, also means that you can slice off mere slivers of the cake every time you happen to pass on by. No crumbling here.

Lately, I’ve noticed a curious correlation between bad news and my sweet tooth. The worse things are in the world, the more I crave quality sweets. So for me, the amount of icing was the perfect balance for the spiced cake and the streusel topping. But if you prefer the Jackson Pollack look of lacy lines or even no icing at all, that’s okay too. This is a humble coffee cake – not a fancy pastry.

Pumpkin Coffee Cake

The coffee cake was baked in a 9-inch springform pan. However, it could easily have been baked in an 8-inch springform or a 9-inch square pan or loaf pan. It just means that the baking time will need to be adjusted depending on how deep the cake is.

Pumpkin Coffee Cake uses ingredients that most of us have in our pantry. It’s always nice when my urge to bake doesn’t require an extra trip to the grocery store. But using fresh spices is always important for optimal flavor. So don’t get seduced into buying spices in bulk. Unless you are running a bakery or restaurant, most of us cannot use up these bulk spices quickly enough before the flavors are lost. Of course, the more whole spices you buy and grind yourself, the longer the spices will last. And the flavors will be more intense.

As with most coffee cakes, you can eat this from breakfast until dessert following dinner. And the cake can be frozen. I simply wouldn’t add the glaze until just before you are ready to use it.

But enough talk – let’s bake!

Pumpkin Coffee Cake

Recipe

Yield: One 9-inch cake

Ingredients

Streusel Topping

1/2 cup (63g) all-purpose, unbleached flour

1/2 cup (100g) packed dark brown sugar

1.5 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/4 cup chopped pecans

1/4 cup (4 T or 59g) unsalted cold butter

Pumpkin Coffee Cake Batter

2 cups (250g) all-purpose unbleached flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon double acting baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon each: ground allspice, nutmeg and cloves

1 teaspoon ground ginger

3 good cracks of freshly ground black pepper

1 cup (230g) pumpkin puree

1 large room temperature egg

1/2 cup (100g) packed dark brown sugar

1/2 cup (120ml) canola or other neutral vegetable oil

1/4 cup (82g) pure maple syrup

1/4 cup (60ml) dairy or non-dairy milk

Vanilla Icing

1 cup (120g) confectioners’ sugar

2 to 3 Tablespoons of milk or half & half

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C). Grease a 9-inch non-stick springform or square baking pan. If you are using a square pan, you can line it with parchment leaving a 2-inch overhang. This will make it easy to remove the cake from the pan. You could also choose to serve it directly from the pan. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the streusel ingredients using your fingers, a fork or pastry blender. Mix just to create clumps and large crumbs. Set aside.

Place all of the dry ingredients (flour and spices) in a large bowl and whisk them together. Then add in the pumpkin, egg, brown sugar, maple syrup, oil and milk. Stir just until everything is smooth and combined. Do not over mix. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and spread it evenly. Add the streusel topping across the batter, gently pressing it in slightly.

Ovens vary as do the pans used. I baked mine in the springform pan for 40 minutes. I then turned the oven off, cracked open the door and left the cake in the oven for 10 more minutes. The center didn’t sink and the cake was perfectly baked. You can also check with a toothpick in the center to see if it comes out dry with a few crumbs attached. I find that less reliable. I go by smell and how the cake looks. By turning off the oven and keeping the cake in there for a few additional minutes, I know the cake will be just done without risk of over-baking.

Remove the cake to a wire rack to cool. If necessary, run a thin knife or spatula around the inside edge of the pan before releasing the outer ring of the springform pan.

Once the cake has cooled to warm, you can prepare the icing, if using. Depending on how thick you like the consistency of the icing, will determine how much liquid you use. You can always add a little more sugar if you went too far with the liquid. How you choose to ice the cake is up to your inner artist. You can also choose to spread it across the top and allow it to run down the sides. This is a cake that can be eaten warm.

Italian Apple Cake

Italian Apple Cake

Due to the unprovoked, continuing brutal war of annihilation against Ukrainian civilians by Vladimir Putin and his army and the worsening humanitarian crisis, please consider helping by following the link below. There are a number of reputable aid agencies from which to choose. Many of these agencies will also help flood and tornado victims suffering the effects of climate change.

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Autumn and the Jewish New Year always mean sweet/tart/crisp, juicy apples and cinnamon to me. I can’t get enough of them in every and any iteration. My blog has several apple cake examples and you could be excused in thinking that are many more really needed.

But when I came across this recipe for an Italian Apple Cake, I knew I would try it right away. Of course, I tweaked it a bit! The result is a beautiful, fragrant, appley cake that is even better the second day. Every time I lift the lid on the cake plate, I am hit with a waft of apple scent. It’s delicious before I even taste a bite!

Most of the ingredients are always on hand so I was able to pull it together without a trip to the grocery store. There is nothing fancy here or cloyingly sweet. Every bite is chock full of apple chunks and the flavor is clean and apple-forward with a hint of lemon and cinnamon.

While I did use a hand mixer for beating the eggs with the sugar until airy and light, this cake can be made by hand if you have a strong arm. Other than that one task, no special equipment is required. And while I chose to lay some additional apples on top, dotted with butter and sprinkled with Demerara sugar, you could opt to leave that off and simply dust the cooled cake with confectioner’s sugar for presentation. I did also brush the finished cake top with a light coating of apple jelly for a bit of shine.

Italian Apple Cake

With so many varieties of apples available, choose one (or a variety) that is tart/sweet and will hold its shape when baked. No applesauce here!

The holiday of Sukkot begins Sunday night and lasts all week. This is a perfect treat for the coming 8 days. But you don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy this Italian Apple Cake. Perfect as is, a dollop of freshly whipped cream or crème fraîche would not go amiss, however. And the cake cuts beautifully.

And if you are like me, and can’t get enough of apples, consider some of these other delicious recipes:

Italian Apple Cake

Apple Cake – Take 2

Whole Wheat Apple Cake

Vegan Dessert to die for – Apple Frangipane Tart

Apple Bread Pudding

Tarte Aux Pommes – Apple Tart

Apple Walnut Bread with Rum-Soaked Raisins

Caramelized Apple Pancake

Apple Pecan Bourbon Bundt Cake

Apple Cinnamon Noodle Kugel

Spiced Apple Cake

Amish Apple Pie

Plum (or Apple)and Almond Paste Tart

Vegan Apple Raisin Cake with Applejack Sauce

Apple Tarte Tatin

Apple Crumble

Apple pie with cheddar cheese crust and hard sauce

Recipe

Italian Apple Cake

Yield: One 9-inch cake

Ingredients

Italian Apple Cake

2.5 to 3 medium apples, peeled, cored and cut into small chunks (I used 2.5, but I could have even had a few more chunks)

1 large apple if using the decorative topping, peeled, cored and thinly sliced

Zest of one small lemon

2 cups (240 g) unbleached, all-purpose flour

3 teaspoons (14 g) double acting baking powder

1 rounded teaspoon ground cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt

1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar

1 cup (245 g) whole milk plain yogurt

1/2 cup (113 g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

2 large eggs at room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 tablespoon unsalted butter for dotting apples on decorative top, if using

A light sprinkling of Demerara or sanding sugar for decorative top, if using

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a non-stick 9-inch spring form pan with a vegetable spray.

Rub the lemon zest into the sugar and set aside while you measure out your other ingredients.

In a medium bowl, mix together the dry ingredients and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, using a hand mixer, cream the lemon/sugar and eggs until they are light in color and VERY fluffy. This takes between 5 and 8 minutes.

Stir in the yogurt, butter and vanilla extract until smooth. Do this by hand with a spatula. Do NOT use the hand mixer.

Add the dry ingredients and stir through gently until everything is well combined. Then add in the apples and gently stir through.

If you are using the optional decorative topping, layer the apple slices in an attractive over-lapping pattern. Then sprinkle the apple slices with the sugar and dot with the butter.

Place the spring form pan on top of a baking pan to catch any oozing from the bottom of the pan. Bake until nicely browned. Ovens vary as do apples. So start checking after 45 minutes but don’t be surprised if the cake takes at least an hour. I always then turn off my oven, leaving the door ajar with the cake inside. This will ensure that the cake really is done and won’t sink. The apples and yogurt will keep the cake moist.

Allow the cake to cool on a wire rack for about 15 minutes. Using a thin spatula, carefully run it around the inside of the pan’s rim to make sure that nothing stuck anywhere. Then you can open the ring and remove it. Cool the cake fully. The cake should easily come off of the bottom of the spring form pan. However, you could also leave it on it and serve from there, just being careful not to cut into your pan.

Place the cooled cake in a covered cake plate. Italian Apple Cake is even better the next day, making it a great do-ahead recipe. Now enjoy!

My Best Oatmeal Cookies

My Best Oatmeal Cookies

Due to the unprovoked, continuing brutal war of annihilation against Ukrainian civilians by Vladimir Putin and his army and the worsening humanitarian crisis, please consider helping by following the link below. There are a number of reputable aid agencies from which to choose. Many of these agencies will also help flood and tornado victims suffering the effects of climate change.

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There aren’t too many things that beat a great cookie. And My Best Oatmeal Cookies are a truly great cookie! Chock full of flavorful dried fruits and nuts and seasoned with just the right amount of sugar and spice. Lumpy and bumpy – just the way an oatmeal cookie should be.

My Best Oatmeal Cookies are simple to make, but do use fresh dried fruit for maximum flavor and chew. And please, please, always toast your nuts before adding them to the mixture. For years I would just add nuts straight from the fridge or freezer without toasting them first. What a difference a little bit of toasting makes. Since your oven is already heating up for the baking, just toss your nuts on a baking tray and toast for about 12 minutes or until fragrant while you are prepping the cookies. The nuts go in last so the timing is perfect.

While you could just go with cinnamon and nutmeg in this recipe, I strongly urge you to make up a batch of Sweet Hawaij. I’ve begun using it in most recipes that call for cinnamon. Included below is a recipe for Sweet Hawaij from the cookbook Shuk by Einat Admony and Janna Gur. This Yemeni spice blend is magical. I often use it to replace anywhere you might use cinnamon, pumpkin or baharat spices. It will take coffee and roasted vegetables to the next level. Try it in pumpkin pie. I guarantee you will be converted. I make up my own but it is also available online and at spice stores.

Oatmeal cookies happen to be a favorite of my husband’s. The last recipe I tried was for a pumpkin bread that didn’t work the way I had hoped. So I really wanted to make something he and I would love. While I am a huge chocolate lover, everything does not need chocolate to be great. A tendency I have noticed is that people put chocolate chips in EVERYTHING. Please just leave these cookies as is and enjoy them with a glass of milk or a cup of coffee or tea.

You can enjoy My Best Oatmeal Cookies, still slightly warm from the oven or they will keep for days in an airtight tin with a slice of bread in it.

My Best Oatmeal Cookies

Recipe

Yield: About 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients

1.5 cups of unbleached, all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons of sweet hawaij

1/4 teaspoon of kosher or fine sea salt

1 large egg, well beaten

1/2 cup melted butter or vegan butter

1/2 cup melted solid vegetable fat (I like Crisco)

1.75 cups “Old Fashioned” Rolled Oats

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

1 Tablespoon dark molasses

1/4 cup dairy or non-dairy milk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup toasted chopped pecans

1/2 cup toasted chopped walnuts

1/2 cup moist raisins

1/2 cup moist medjool dates, coarsely diced

1/2 cup moist dried sour cherries

Directions

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Line 3 baking sheets with Silpat or parchment. Set aside.

Sift the dry ingredients (first 4 ingredients listed) into a large bowl. Add all of the remaining ingredients and mix through until everything is distributed evenly.

Using a 1.5 Tablespoon cookie scoop (or a spoon) place dough on the prepared baking sheet. The cookies do not spread a great deal but I still keep them about 2 inches apart. I do not flatten the scoops. This keeps the centers chewy and the edges crisp-ish.

My Best Oatmeal Cookies
My Best Oatmeal Cookies

Bake, turning half-way (unless you are lucky enough to have a convection oven) for about 16 to 18 minutes. Ovens vary but the cookies should have flattened out somewhat and are brown around the edges. Allow the cookies to cool for about 3 minutes (more is fine) on the baking sheet before removing them to a cooling rack.

Sweet Hawaij

Yield: About 1/2 cup

1 Tablespoon ground cloves

2 Tablespoons freshly grated nutmeg

2 Tablespoons ground cinnamon

2 Tablespoons ground ginger

1 Tablespoon ground cardamom

This will last in a cool, dark place kept in a small glass air-tight jar for up to a year. Mine gets used up waaaaaay before that!

Frangipane Fig Tart

Fig Frangipane Tart

Due to the unprovoked, continuing brutal war of annihilation against Ukrainian civilians by Vladimir Putin and his army and the worsening humanitarian crisis, please consider helping by following the link below. There are a number of reputable aid agencies from which to choose. Many of these agencies will also help flood and tornado victims suffering the effects of climate change.

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It’s fresh fig season! Frangipane Fig Tart pairs luscious almond cream with ripe gorgeous figs to create this beautiful and delicious dessert.

I am an absolute sucker for frangipane and marzipan. When I am in Europe I always search for the beautiful marzipan offerings. Some women look for shoes – I shop marzipan. Shaped to resemble delicate fruits and vegetables – they are almost too pretty to eat. But somehow I always do! And don’t get me started on dark chocolate covered marzipan. Yummmmmmmmmmmm!

Frangipane uses the same flavors as marzipan but in a delicate custardy cream that just melts as soon as it hits your tongue. It is a wonderful filling for all kinds of fruit tarts and is especially delicious paired with apples, apricots and pears. Here I am pairing it with fresh ripe figs while they are in season.

Frangipane Fig Tart takes bits and pieces from other recipes I have made. After 5 plus decades of cooking and baking I have learned that everything is built on something that came before. So if you come across a tart dough that you like, use it again and again in different tarts. Maybe you will add a new flavoring like almond extract or a bit of whole wheat flour to make it fit the new filling.

Frangipane Fig Tart takes the frangipane recipe that I use in my Bakewell Tart. It gets the crust from the Perfect French Walnut Tart with the addition of pure almond extract. The use of Dalmatia Fig jam is a riff on the jam also used in the Bakewell Tart and Linzer Torte. Whenever I cook something new, I search for five or six different versions and take what I like from each. It’s not magic. Anyone can do it.

When you cut open a ripe fig, it has a beautiful natural design that makes the tart a work of art. While I am willing to sacrifice looks for taste on occasion, that is not a compromise I need to make here.

Fig Frangipane Tart

For a delicious vegan frangipane recipe:

Vegan Dessert to die for – Apple Frangipane Tart

For another delicious way to use the ripe figs now in season:

Fresh Fig and Walnut Bread

Fig Frangipane Tart

Recipe

Yield: One 9-inch tart About 8 servings

Ingredients

For the tart shell

87 grams (2⁄3 cup) all-purpose flour

46 grams (1⁄3 cup) whole-wheat flour

40 grams (3 tablespoons) white sugar

1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt

6 tablespoons (85 g) unsalted butter, cut into 1⁄2-inch cubes 

1 large egg yolk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon almond extract

For the filling

175 g soft butter (About 13 Tablespoons)

 175 g caster sugar (3/4 cups)

 3 large eggs, at room temperature

 175 g ground almonds (1.5 cups)

 40 g all-purpose flour (1/3 cup)

1/4 teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt

 1 tsp pure almond extract

10 to 12 fresh figs (You won’t use all of them but some will be nicer when cut open than others and some mistakes in cutting also happen….)

3 T Dalmatian Fig Jam (This is widely available in most large grocery stores and online)

Directions

Heat the oven to 325°F with a rack in the lower-middle position.

To make the tart shell, in a food processor, process until combined both flours, the sugar and salt, about 5 seconds. Scatter the butter over the mixture and pulse until it resembles coarse sand, 10 to 12 pulses. Add the egg yolk and vanilla, then process until the mixture is evenly moistened and cohesive, 20 to 30 seconds or until the dough just starts to come together. Do not wait for it to form a ball.

Crumble the dough into 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom, evenly covering the surface. Using the bottom of a dry measuring cup, press into an even layer over the bottom and up the sides; the edge of the dough should be flush with the rim. Use a fork to prick (dock) all over the bottom, then freeze until the dough is firm, 15 to 30 minutes. You can also refrigerate the dough for at least one hour or up to overnight.

Bake the tart pastry for 30 to 35 minutes or until lightly browned and set. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack or heat resistant surface. While the pastry is still warm, spread 3 Tablespoons of the fig jam over the bottom of the pastry. Left-over jam is wonderful on toast and with cheese.


Fig Frangipane Tart

While the tart shell bakes, make the frangipane filling. The amount given is generous and you may have a little leftover. It will keep in the fridge for several days and can be used to make some small tarts or in a baked french toast or almond croissants.

Once the tart shell with the layer of fig jam has cooled slightly, carefully spoon dollops of the softened frangipane into the shell without disturbing the jam. Spread it into an even layer that comes just under the rim. You want to leave room for the weight of the figs.

Prepare the figs. There is no magic one way to cut the figs. Experiment a bit to make a pleasing pattern. The frangipane will puff up some in the oven and will then settle down as it cools. So be sure to leave some spaces uncovered with the fruit for the frangipane to puff up.

Fig Frangipane Tart

I always buy a few extra figs. Failures happen and some figs just look better when they are cut open than others.

Mistakes Happen

Sprinkle the cut figs with a little Demerara or sanding sugar. Place in the 325 degree oven and bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until the frangipane is just set with a little jiggling in the center. I like to then turn off the oven but leave the tart in there for 8 to 10 more minutes. That really sets things without over-baking.

Fig Frangipane Tart

Allow the tart to cool completely on a wire rack before removing it from the ring.

[I don’t think it is necessary but if you want to give the tart a totally professional glistening finish, you can lightly and carefully brush the top with a warmed and strained apple or apricot jelly.]

Lemon Yogurt Cake with Blueberries

Lemon Yogurt Cake with Blueberries

Due to the unprovoked, continuing brutal war of annihilation against Ukrainian civilians by Vladimir Putin and his army and the worsening humanitarian crisis, please consider helping by following the link below. There are a number of reputable aid agencies from which to choose. Many of these agencies will also help flood and tornado victims suffering the effects of climate change.

Support Humanitarian Efforts in Ukraine

If you are a fan of bold citrus in a melt-in-your-mouth cake, Lemon Yogurt Cake with Blueberries is for you. What this cake lacks in ‘curb appeal’ it more than makes up for in flavor. After all, isn’t that what crème fraîche or whipped cream are for? And this humble cake requires no equipment more complicated than a whisk. Oh my goodness this cake is wonderful!

As I often do, I was clicking through recipes when I came across a recipe for yogurt cake by the well-known author, Claudia Roden. I was about to make it for Shabbat when I decided to read the comments. They were very, very mixed leaning towards the negative. By that time, however, I had it in my head that I had to make a yogurt cake – so I kept on clicking. I came across one titled French Grandmother’s Lemon Yogurt Cake. It looked simple and the reviews were universally positive.

Lemon Yogurt Cake with Blueberries

Now I meant to make it exactly as written – really I did. However, my husband, who recently has gotten into cooking and baking, said “Why don’t we add blueberries?” So I figured, why not? But then he said “What if we zest lemon into some sugar and roll the blueberries in that like for the Upside Down Blueberry Pancake?” Trying to be encouraging in his nascent dive into cooking, I said “Sure, why not?”

And, thus was born the Lemon Yogurt Cake with Blueberries!

Lemon Yogurt Cake with Blueberries

This unpretentious cake can be eaten for breakfast, coffee or tea break or as dessert. It’s easy to make and even easier to eat. And the cake will only get more flavorful and moister as the days go on. Assuming, of course, that it isn’t all eaten up in one go! Serve just as is or with a little crème fraîche or whipped cream.

Recipe

Yield: About 8

Ingredients

For the Cake

1/2 cup whole milk plain natural yogurt

1 cup granulated sugar plus 3 teaspoons, divided

3 large eggs at room temperature

1.5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt

Grated zest of one medium to large lemon, divided

1/2 cup of a neutral oil (I used canola)

1/2 cup of blueberries

For the syrup

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

3/4 cup powdered, icing or confectioners sugar

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Spray an 8-inch springform or round cake pan with a neutral spray. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment and lightly spray that. Set the pan aside.

Using your fingers, rub about 1 teaspoon of the lemon zest into the 3 teaspoons of sugar. Add the blueberries and toss through. Set aside.

Lemon Yogurt Cake with Blueberries

In a large bowl, combine the yogurt, 1 cup of sugar and the eggs. Stir or whisk until well blended.

Lemon Yogurt Cake with Blueberries

Add the oil to the egg mixture and stir through.

Sift the flour and baking powder over the egg mixture. Now add the lemon zest and stir just to combine. Add the blueberries and gently fold through.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the top is nicely browned and the cake feels springy to the touch. Depending on the oven, this can take 40 to 50 minutes.

Lemon Yogurt Cake with Blueberries

While the cake is baking, combine the sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl. This should be more of a runny syrup than a sugar glaze. Set aside.

Cool the cake on a wire rack for 10 minutes.

Lemon Yogurt Cake with Blueberries

Then, if you are using a springform pan, just run a thin knife or spatula around the cake and release the outer ring. If you are using a cake pan, turn the cake out of the pan onto the rack. Don’t worry if the cake sinks a bit in the center. Place a pan or some newspaper under the rack to brush on the syrup.

Lemon Yogurt Cake with Blueberries

While the cake is still warm, use a pastry brush with the syrup. Generously brush the syrup over the top and sides of the cake. You may have some extra glaze which you could use when serving the cake. Allow the cake to cool completely before serving.

Perfect French Walnut Tart

Perfect French Walnut Tart

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Are you looking for something new for Rosh Hashanah? This luscious French Walnut Tart is perfect. A short bread cookie-like pastry shell gets filled with toasted walnuts, each piece coated in a honey, buttery caramel. It is a perfect balance of sweet and salty with the earthy richness of walnuts. Yes, please!

Try this Perfect French Walnut Tart with a glass of Montbazillac for a taste of the Perigord. This region of France in the Dordogne is known for its truffles, foie gras, Montbazillac and walnut tarts. While I have never visited this region of France, I have become an armchair traveler there though the books of Martin Walker. I love the Chef Bruno, Chief of Police books because they spend as much time on food as they do on the mysteries to be solved.

The recipe calls for crème fraîche, a naturally soured cream. It can be purchased in many grocery stores these days. However, it is so simple to make your own crème fraîche. You just need to plan one day ahead of using it. My husband loves it on so many desserts that I almost always have a jar in my fridge. I love homemade whipped cream, but crème fraîche adds a certain umph to what might be an otherwise overly-sweet or blah dessert – neither of which this is.

While this recipe calls for unsweetened crème fraîche, I often add some confectioners sugar and vanilla when I am serving it with a simple cake. Crème fraîche is incredibly easy to produce. All that is required is a glass container, 1 cup of cream and 2 to 3 Tablespoons of buttermilk or whole milk kefir. Mix them together and leave the jar covered in a warm place for 24 hours and Voila! If you plan on adding sugar or vanilla to the crème fraîche, only add it after the mixture has soured and thickened.

The cookie-like crust is a dough that anyone can work with. It’s not fussy to make, comes together quickly and there is no need to roll out any pastry!

The Perfect French Walnut Tart is a cousin of my beloved Bourbon Pecan Pie and is a lovely dessert any time. But nuts and honey? Perfect as a High Holiday treat. The ratio of nuts to filling is very high, giving it an almost toffee-like texture. Total, unadulterated yumminess!

Perfect French Walnut Tart

Recipe

Yield: One 9-inch tart; 8 to 10 servings

Ingredients

For the tart shell

87 grams (2⁄3 cup) all-purpose flour

46 grams (1⁄3 cup) whole-wheat flour

40 grams (3 tablespoons) white sugar

1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt

6 tablespoons (3⁄4 stick) salted butter, cut into 1⁄2-inch cubes (You could use a non-dairy “butter” if you wanted to eat this with meat on the holiday.)

1 large egg yolk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the filling

107 grams (1⁄2 cup) white sugar

1⁄4 cup honey

1⁄3 cup crème fraîche (If you need to keep this non-dairy, there are non-dairy sour “creams” on the market.)

4 tablespoons (1⁄2 stick) salted butter (Or a good quality non-dairy “butter” like Earth Balance)

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

1⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 Tablespoon cornstarch, sifted

3 large egg yolks [You can save the whites for a meringue or to add to an omelette.]

230 grams (2.5 cups) walnuts, roughly chopped and lightly toasted

A sprinkle of Maldon Sea Salt as a garnish

Directions

Heat the oven to 325°F with a rack in the lower-middle position. Mist a 9- inch tart pan with removable bottom with cooking spray.

To make the tart shell, in a food processor, process until combined both flours, the sugar and salt, about 5 seconds. Scatter the butter over the mixture and pulse until it resembles coarse sand, 10 to 12 pulses. Add the egg yolk and vanilla, then process until the mixture is evenly moistened and cohesive, 20 to 30 seconds or until the dough just starts to come together. Do not wait for it to form a ball.

Crumble the dough into the prepared tart pan, evenly covering the surface. Using the bottom of a dry measuring cup, press into an even layer over the bottom and up the sides; the edge of the dough should be flush with the rim. Use a fork to prick (dock) all over the bottom, then freeze until the dough is firm, 15 to 30 minutes. You can also refrigerate the dough for at least one hour or up to overnight.

While the dough chills, make the filling. Pour 1⁄4 cup water into a medium saucepan. Add the sugar and honey into the center, avoiding contact with the sides. Cook over medium, swirling the pan frequently, until the mixture is amber in color, about 8 to 10 minutes. Off heat, add the crème fraîche, egg yolks, butter, vinegar, cornstarch and salt, then whisk until the butter is melted and the mixture is well combined. Then add the nuts and stir until evenly coated. Let cool until just warm, about 30 minutes.

While the caramel cools, you want to blind bake the dough before adding the filling. (Because this is essentially a short bread crust, there is no need to line the pan or to use weights.) Bake for 30 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack for about 15 minutes.

Pour the filling into the warm tart shell, then gently spread in an even layer. Bake until the edges of the filling begin to puff and the center jiggles only slightly when gently shaken, 25 to 35 minutes. Then turn off the heat, open the oven door slightly and leave the tart in the oven for 10 more minutes. You might want to put some foil or a baking sheet under the pan to catch any spill-over. (Do NOT be alarmed when you first see the baked tart coming out of the oven. It will bubble up and look kind of messy at first. Trust me – it settles down as it cools.)

Let the tart cool on a wire rack for about 1 hour. Remove the pan sides. Serve warm or at room temperature with a sprinkling of Maldon Sea Salt. The tart is superb accompanied by lightly sweetened crème fraîche or whipped cream.

Notes: Don’t overcook the caramel. Aim for an amber hue; if it gets much darker than that, the finished tart will taste bitter.

Whole-wheat flour in the crust plays up the earthiness of the walnuts. To toast the walnuts, spread them in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet and bake at 325°F until fragrant and just starting to brown, about 8 to 12 minutes, stirring just once or twice; do not over toast them or they will taste bitter. The dough-lined tart pan can be prepared in advance; after the dough is firm, wrap tightly in plastic and freeze for up to two weeks.

Simple Basbousa

Simple Basbousa

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Simple Basbousa is an easy version of this beloved Levantine sweet treat. This recipe requires no special equipment and because no eggs are called for, it can easily be veganized.

There are many versions of this delightful dessert, including one on my blog with pistachios and coconut. However, all of the recipes for basbousa utilize semolina and a sugar syrup. This means that the cake flavors intensify over time and remains incredibly moist even after several days. Because the Simple Basbousa is dense and sweet from the sugar syrup, a little goes a long way. But it is the perfect complement to well-spiced foods and strong coffee fragrant with cardamom.

I did make a few tweaks to the original recipe, but the changes do not make this Simple Basbousa any more complicated. Generally baked in a rectangular pan. I made mine in a 10-inch square pan because that was what I had on hand.

For Americans who are unfamiliar with basbousa, this Simple Basbousa version reminded both me and my husband of a moist cornbread with honey. Nothing fancy to see here. Just a delicious, simple cake. And in the summer, who wants to slave over dessert?

For more delicious semolina cakes:

Orange Semolina Cake

Lemon Semolina Almond Cake

Simple Basbousa

Recipe

Yield: 25 squares

For the cake

2 cups of coarse semolina (My so-called coarse semolina proved to be only slightly less refined than my fine semolina, so don’t fret if you can’t find both.)

1/4 cup of fine semolina

1 cup of plain whole milk natural yogurt OR plant-based such as coconut

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup of unsalted butter or a plant-based vegan “butter,” melted

1/4 teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon each of pure almond and vanilla extract

25 whole blanched almonds

For the syrup

2 cups of granulated sugar

2 cups of water

4 to 5 cardamom pods

1 teaspoon of orange blossom or rose water (I used orange blossom as my husband is not a fan of rose water)

Simple Basbousa

Directions

For the cake

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix together the sugar and melted butter. Then add the yogurt and mix until smooth and well combined.

Combine the semolina, salt and baking soda and then add to the yogurt mixture. Stir well. The mixture will be fairly thick.

Place the batter into a greased pan (9 X 12 or 10 X 10). Smooth out the mixture using the back of a spoon or an off-set spatula. Score the basbousa with a knife into the squares that you see above.

Add an almond to the center of each square, pressing down gently into the batter.

Bake 35 minutes or until golden brown. Ovens vary so it may take longer or shorter.

Meanwhile, make the syrup. Bring the water, sugar and cardamom pods to a boil over medium heat. Boil for 8 to 10 minutes. Then remove the syrup from the heat, discard the cardamom pods and mix through the orange blossom or rose water.

As soon as the basbousa comes out of the oven, pour the syrup gradually over the top. It will be absorbed almost immediately. Allow the basbousa to cool and then cut through the score lines and enjoy!

Chocolate Truffle Cheesecake

Chocolate Truffle Cheesecake

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This killer Chocolate Truffle Cheesecake is decadently rich, dark and velvety. Did I mention that it has an Oreo crust?! And for those with an egg allergy – NO EGGS! I had seen a recipe for a chocolate cheesecake on the King Arthur website and it got me remembering a Mocha Cheesecake that my Mother used to make occasionally when we had guests over. It may have been based on one that was published (we’re talking almost 60 years ago, folks) in the New York Times. I’m pretty sure that the author was Maida Heatter, that doyenne of fabulous desserts.

The only problem is that it’s just me and my husband these days and that cake fed 16 people. Now I REALLY love a great New York-style cheesecake. However, even I cannot eat that much of it. And unfortunately, I never have enough room in my freezer. You know, to put some away for a pretty rainy day – or Congressional Hearings into January 6.

So, it got me thinking that I needed to come up with a version that uses my 6-inch springform pan. I found that this is the perfect size to yield 6 servings. We can definitely consume that over the course of the week.

The base of the cheesecake started with one that I published last year with a blueberry topping. Please use a really good quality dark bittersweet chocolate like Valrhona or Scharffenberger. 70% cacao is perfect. (And actually – never use poor quality chocolate. It’s just not worth it. Better to make something else entirely!) This will counter the rather sweet cookie crust and the sweetened condensed milk. The espresso powder will emphasize the deep chocolate taste.

Chocolate Truffle Cheesecake is for serious chocolate lovers. It has a true, clean chocolate taste and a smooth, truffle-like mouthfeel that starts melting as soon as it hits your tongue. And as rich as this cheesecake is, compared to other New York-style cheesecakes, you don’t have to feel too guilty. Go for it.

Chocolate Truffle Cheesecake

Recipe

Yield: 6 Servings

Ingredients

Yield: About 6 servings

Ingredients

Crust (This is the amount in the original recipe which makes a delicious but fairly thick crust)

250 g of crushed chocolate cookies such as Oreos (This is about 2.5 cups)

1/2 cup (113 g) melted butter (salted or unsalted)

Filling

8 oz. (225 g) full-fat cream cheese in a block, softened

1/2 cup (120 g) heavy or double cream

1 teaspoon espresso powder

1/25 cups of dark (70%) chocolate (about 175 g)

2 Tablespoons cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt

1 Tablespoon Black Natural Cocoa Powder (Dutch cocoa could be used instead)

2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or Dark Rum

1 cup (306 g) of Sweetened Condensed Milk

Directions

Lightly grease the bottom of the springform pan and line it with a round of parchment. You don’t have to do this but it will make it easy to transfer the cake off of the bottom of the tin.

Chocolate Truffle Cheesecake

Blitz the biscuits in a food processor or with a rolling pin until you have fine crumbs. Do not wash the food processor. Just try to remove any excess crumbs. Transfer the crumbs to a bowl and add the melted butter. Mix until all of the crumbs are moist. Press the crumbs into the bottom of the prepared pan. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F or 160 C.

Using a hand beater or the food processor (why dirty another utensil?) beat the cream cheese until light and fluffy.

Chocolate Truffle Cheesecake

In a smallish bowl, whisk the heavy cream and corn starch until smooth. Add this to the cream cheese. Add the vanilla, sweetened condensed milk and citrus zest. Blitz until the batter is completely smooth. Pour the batter into the pan over the crumb base.

Wrap the bottom of the pan in two layers of aluminum foil to prevent any leakage. Set the pan in a baking dish large enough to hold it. I used a 9-inch square pan. Carefully add hot tap water to the pan until it comes up about half-way up the sides of the springform mold.

Place in the oven and bake for about 1 hour or until the center just slightly jiggles. Turn off the oven and leave the door ajar with the cheesecake inside. Keep the pan in there until your oven fan turns off or the cheesecake cools down. This prevents the crust from cracking.

Remove the cooled cake to a wire rack and using a sharp, flat blade, just carefully run it around the circumference of the cake. Cool the cake in the fridge for 4 to 6 hours.

When you are ready to serve, unlock the springform and carefully remove the ring. You can then either leave the cake on the bottom for serving or it should come off easily once the suction has been broken. Transfer to a serving plate and enjoy.

Lemon Lime Pistachio White Chocolate Cookies

Lemon Lime White Chocolate Pistachio Cookies

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Lemon Lime White Chocolate Pistachio Cookies is a mouthful of a name. I get it. But these utterly delightful, bright cookies just scream Spring! They have the fresh, bright burst of citrus with the rich, sweetness of the white chocolate chips and added depth from the lightly toasted pistachios. Everything you could want in a cookie. Lumpy and bumpy with pistachios and chips. Crispy at the edges with a soft center! And oh, how they smell!

I saw Valerie Bertinelli make her version of these and instantly knew that I wanted to try them. Anything with citrus has my attention even though I have never been a white chocolate fan. Now I grew up in a candy family. My father was in the business and I know my chocolate. And it has always bugged me when I hear the term “white chocolate.” There is no such thing. It is made from cocoa butter without any cocoa solids. However, with age, I have come to accept that it is universally referred to as “chocolate” and has its place in the baking pantheon. But, to be clear, I am a very dark chocolate person. So while the ease of making these cookies, combined with the citrus were an invitation to me, I wanted something to be a counterpoint to the white chocolate. Toasted pistachios!

Therefore, I have tweaked the original recipe to suit my tastes and the result is a real winner. These delicious Lemon Lime Pistachio White Chocolate Cookies are now a new favorite and very easy to whip up.

While we may argue over whether white chocolate is truly chocolate, there is no arguing over using a quality brand. Same goes for the butter, vanilla and nuts that you use. You can taste the difference.

Let’s talk sugar for a moment. There are soooooooooooooooo many varieties available these days and they each have their place. The original recipe calls for granulated and light brown sugar. As it happens, I don’t buy light brown sugar – only dark, which has more molasses in it. However, I thought that might be a bit overpowering here. What I do happen to have is powdered jaggery, which I started using during the pandemic. It is a cane sugar with lovely caramelly notes – perfect for these and other cookies. My husband and I also really love jaggery when baking with apples and other fruit. If you are interested in trying it, jaggery is available online and through South Asian grocery stores.

Even before the pandemic, my actual travelling had become more limited. Rather than going overseas, we like to go hiking out west. So while I may stay in my armchair so to speak, instead, I travel through food. Every time I try a new recipe, spice or other ingredient, I delve into the culture and customs of another land and another people.

There is a lot of talk these days about cultural appropriation. But I happen to think that when it comes to food (and jewelry!) this should not be viewed as a negative. While I might not always succeed, I hope that I am honoring those cultures and peoples through the food that I cook and eat.

I always used to cook and bake by the seat of my pants, adding things in as I read off the recipe. But since I began my blog, I have found that taking a few extra minutes of preparation (and possibly bowls) at the front end saves me from mistakes and makes the whole process easier. The French call it “mise en place.” Everything is prepped and organized. So that is how I have written the recipe. However, if you aren’t into that, just add things in the order given directly into the mixer.

I guarantee that these cookies will become a new favorite of yours too.

After a day or so the cookies lose their crispiness. Still delicious, but if you are like me, I love when the edges are crispy and the center is soft. In order to achieve this, just place them in a 350 degree oven for a couple of minutes to refresh the cookies.

Lemon Lime White Chocolate Pistachio Cookies

Recipe

Yield: About 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients

Lemon Lime White Chocolate Pistachio Cookies

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room
temperature
3/4 cup light brown sugar or jaggery
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
2 tablespoons lemon zest (About 1 large lemon)
2 tablespoons lime zest (About 1.5 limes)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1.5 cups white chocolate chips, preferably Ghirardelli Classic
1/2 cup lightly pan-toasted and chopped raw, unsalted pistachios

Lemon Lime White Chocolate Pistachio Cookies

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. and line 2 or 3 rimmed baking pans with parchment or Silpat

Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt and set aside.

Combine the sugars in a bowl and set aside.

Zest the lemon and lime(s) and set aside.

Add the softened butter and the sugars to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Cream them for 2 to 3 minutes or until a bit lighter in color and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Lemon Lime White Chocolate Pistachio Cookies

Crack in your egg and beat until incorporated. Then add in the lemon and lime zest and the vanilla extract. Beat until evenly combined.

Add the dry ingredients in all at once and mix until just combined. Remove the bowl from the mixer and using a heavy rubber spatula or wooden spoon, give a good mix from the bottom of the bowl. Toss in the pistachios and white chocolate chips and mix through.

Lemon Lime White Chocolate Pistachio Cookies

Using a 1.5 Tablespoon cookie scoop (Yes, of course, you can do this with a spoon.) drop the dough onto the lined cookie pans about 2-inches apart. I was able to get 12 cookies per pan. If you use a smaller scoop, you will get more. There is no need to flatten the balls; it will happen naturally in the oven.

Lemon Lime White Chocolate Pistachio Cookies

Bake each tray for about 10 to 12 minutes (less if using a smaller scoop). My oven temperature is very uneven so I turn my pans once while baking. You want to bake the cookies until the edges are golden and the center has puffed up. The cookies will deflate as they cool.

Allow the cookies to cool for 5 minutes on the pan before removing them to a cooling rack. Cool completely and enjoy!

NOTE: If you don’t wish to bake all of the cookies now, the dough can be rolled into a log, wrapped well and frozen for up to a month. Defrost the dough slightly before baking.