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February 2010

Traditional Hamantaschen

Hamantaschen cookies1

Hamantaschen are a triangular-shaped cookie made to commemorate the Jewish celebration of Purim. and are traditionally stuffed with sweet fillings made of poppy seeds, dried fruits, or fruit preserves


Download Hamantaschen Recipe


Makes about 60 cookies.


1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

2 tablespoons orange juice

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

3 large eggs

4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted

4 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup poppy seeds

1/2 cup milk

1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons honey

1/4 cup golden raisins or currants

½ teaspoon grated orange zest



1.    In the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar on medium speed until light in color and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add orange zest, orange juice, vanilla extract, and 2 eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl when necessary


2.    Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add to butter mixture until just combined. Divide dough into thirds. Wrap tightly in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.


3.    Meanwhile make the poppy-seed filling: Grind poppy seeds in a food processor. Place seeds in a medium saucepan. Add milk and honey. Cook over a medium-low heat until thickened, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Add raisins and lemon zest. Remove from heat. Cool completely before using. (you can also use apricot jam in place of the poppy filling)


4.    Heat oven to 350 degrees. Remove one-third of the dough from the refrigerator at a time. On a liberally floured surface, roll dough to a 1/8-inch thickness. With a 3-inch fluted round cutter, cut out as many circles as possible, and place on a prepared baking pan. Chill until firm, about 30 minutes.


5.    Meanwhile make the poppy-seed filling: Grind poppy seeds in a food processor. Place seeds in a medium saucepan. Add milk and honey. Cook over a medium-low heat until thickened, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Add raisins and lemon zest. Remove from heat. Cool completely before using.


6.    Remove chilled circles from refrigerator. Spoon 2 teaspoons of filling into the center of each circle. Whisk together remaining egg with 1 teaspoon of water. Brush edges with egg wash. Fold in sides to form a triangle. Pinch dough to enclose the filling.


7.    Bake the cookies in the center rack of the oven until golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool cookies on baking sheets for 5 minutes; then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.


Hamantaschen prebake

Tender Buttery Oat Scones with Currants

Oat scones 

There’s nothing like a tender flaky scone, especially when it’s lathered in English Double cream and jam. I’ve tried a variety of recipes but I prefer the method described Cook’s Illustrated. Feel free to substitute any dried fruit for the currants. 


Download Oat Scones with Currants Recipe


1 1/2 cups rolled oats (4 1/2 ounces)

1/4 cup whole milk 

1/4 cup heavy cream 

1 large egg 

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (7 1/2 ounces)

1/3 cup granulated sugar (2 1/4 ounces)

2 teaspoons baking powder 

1/2 teaspoon table salt 

10 tablespoons unsalted butter (cold), cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1 tablespoon Demerara sugar for sprinkling


1.    Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spread oats evenly on baking sheet and toast in oven on middle rack until fragrant and lightly browned, 7 to 9 minutes; cool on wire rack. Measure out 2 tablespoons of oats and set aside.


2.    Adjust oven temperature to 450 degrees. Line another baking sheet with parchment paper.


3.    Whisk milk, cream, and egg in large measuring cup until  combined; remove 1 tablespoon to small bowl and reserve for glazing.


4.    Pulse flour, 1/3 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt in food processor to combine. Scatter cold butter evenly over dry ingredients and pulse until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal, twelve to fourteen 1-second pulses. Transfer mixture to medium bowl; stir in cooled oats. Using rubber spatula, fold in liquid ingredients until large clumps form. Gently mix dough by hand in bowl until dough forms cohesive mass.


5.    Sprinkle work surface with 1 tablespoon of reserved oats, turn dough out onto work surface, and sprinkle top with remaining oats. Gently pat into 7-inch circle about 1 inch thick. Using bench scraper or chef’s knife, cut dough into 8 wedges and set on parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart.


6.    Brush surfaces with reserved egg mixture and sprinkle with demerara sugar. Bake until golden brown, 12 to 14 minutes; cool scones on baking sheet on wire rack 5 minutes, then remove scones to cooling rack and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

Oat scones dough cut

Oat scones prebake

Best White Chocolate Chip Macadamia Nut Cookies

Macadamia nut cookies 

A very close friend of mine has a beautiful Macadamia nut farm on the Big Island in Hawaii, so I’m always trying recipes with “mac nuts”. The first time I visited, I had visions of eating handfuls of fresh macadamia nuts straight from the trees, but it turns out they’re a tough nut to crack! The shells are the hardest in the nut family. It actually takes 300 pounds per square inch of pressure to crack the nut shell.  Nevertheless, this cookie is well worth the extra price for shelled macadamia nuts. It gets its deep buttery flavor from browning the butter first.


White Chocolate Chop Macadamia Nut Cookies 

 Download White Chocolate Chip Macademia Nut Cookies Recipes

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour  (8 3/4 ounces)

½ teaspoon baking soda 

¼ teaspoon baking powder

2 sticks unsalted butter 

½ cup granulated sugar  (3 1/2 ounces)

¾ cups packed dark brown sugar  (5 1/4 ounces)

1 teaspoon table salt 

2 teaspoons vanilla extract 

1 large egg 

1 large egg yolk 

1 ½ cups white chocolate chops (I like Guittard)

1 cup lightly toasted macadamia nuts, chopped

½ cup unsweetened lightly toasted coconut

1.    Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 large (18- by 12-inch) baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.

2.    Heat 12 tablespoons butter in 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and, using heatproof spatula, transfer browned butter to large heatproof bowl. Stir remaining 4 tablespoons butter into hot butter until completely melted.

3.    Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla to bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated. Add egg and yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds. Let mixture stand 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds.

4.    Repeat process of resting and whisking 2 more times until mixture is thick, smooth, and shiny. Using rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture until just combined, about 1 minute. Stir in white chocolate chips and nuts  giving dough final stir to combine ingredients.

5.    Divide dough into 16 portions, each about 3 tablespoons (or use #24 cookie scoop). Arrange 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets, 8 dough balls per sheet. (Smaller baking sheets can be used, but will require 3 batches.)

6.    Bake cookies 1 tray at a time until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 10 to 14 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack to cool.

Macadamia nut browning butter

Macadamia nut cookies butter sugar 


Macadamia nuts chopped guittard bag

Macadamia nut cookies baked

Maple Glazed Wild Salmon

Glazed salmon


Download Maple Glazed Wild Salmon Recipe

1 cup pure maple syrup (Dark Amber or Grade B)
2 tablespoons finely grated peeled fresh gingerroot
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic

½  tablespoon Dijon mustard (optional)
2 1/2-pound center-cut Wild salmon fillet with skin
greens from 1 bunch scallions

1.    In a small heavy saucepan simmer maple syrup, gingerroot, 3 tablespoons lemon juice, soy sauce, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste until reduced to about 1 cup, about 30 minutes, and let cool. (Maple glaze may be made 2 days ahead and chilled, covered. Bring maple glaze to room temperature before proceeding.)

2.    Preheat oven to 350° F. Lightly oil a shallow baking pan large enough t hold salmon.

3.    Arrange scallion greens in one layer  in baking pan to form a bed for fish.

4.    In another small saucepan heat half of glaze over low heat until heated through to use as a sauce. Stir in remaining tablespoon lemon juice and ½ tablespoon optional mustard. Remove pan from heat and keep sauce warm, covered.

5.    Put salmon, skin side down, on scallion greens and brush with remaining glaze. Season salmon with salt and pepper and roast in middle of oven until just cooked through, about 20-25 minutes.

6.    Cut salmon crosswise into 6 pieces. On each of 6 plates arrange salmon and scallion greens on a bed of mashed potatoes. Drizzle salmon with warm maple sauce.


Creamy Butternut Squash Soup with Sugar Spiced Croutons

Butternut squash soup bowl

You usually see this around Thanksgiving – it makes a great first course – but it’s also perfect on a cold winter day. I think the most impressed I’ve ever been with this soup was the first time I had it at Spago’s in Beverly Hills. Wolfgang Puck serves his signature soup with a cranberry relish and cardamom infused cream. I love the taste of cardamom – though a little goes a long way –  it definitely adds a new dimension to both sweet and savory dishes. When makes this at home,  I skip the relish and cream, but I do garnish the soup with sugar-spiced croutons – a worthy substitution!  Spago’s recipe also uses baked squash that is then pureed, but I opted for the method in Cook’s Illustrated which uses the seeds and fibers to build flavor, then steams the squash in a flavorful liquid.

Butternut Squash     Download Butternut Squash Soup Recipe

5 tablespoons butter

2 ½ - 3 pounds butternut squash (about 1 large), unpeeled, squash halved lengthwise, seeds and stringy fibers scraped with spoon and reserved (about 1/4 cup), and each half cut into quarters

1 chopped leek (white and pale green parts only)

½ small brown onion or 2 shallots, finely diced

1 apple peeled, cored, chopped

2 cups good quality chicken or vegetable broth

3 cups water

1/2 cup heavy cream 

2 teaspoons dark brown sugar 

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground ginger

¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom


Sugar Spiced Croutons – recipe follows

1.    Heat butter in large Dutch oven over medium-low heat until foaming; add leek, onion (or shallots) and cook, stirring frequently, until softened and translucent, about 3 minutes. Add squash scrapings and seeds and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and butter turns saffron color, about 4 minutes. Add 2 cups broth, 3 cups water and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt to Dutch oven and bring to boil over high heat; reduce heat to medium-low, place squash cut-side down and chopped apple in steamer basket, and lower basket into pot.

2.    Cover and steam until squash is completely tender, about 30 minutes. Off heat, use tongs to transfer squash to rimmed baking sheet; reserve steaming liquid. When cool enough to handle, use large spoon to scrape flesh from skin into medium bowl; discard skin.

3.    Pour reserved steaming liquid through mesh strainer into second bowl; discard solids in strainer. Rinse and dry Dutch oven.

4.    In blender, puree squash, apple and reserved liquid in batches, pulsing on low until smooth. Transfer puree to Dutch oven; stir in cream, brown sugar and spices; heat over medium-low heat until hot. Add salt to taste.

5.    Serve immediately with Spiced Croutons

Sugar-Spiced Croutons

2 slices white sandwich bread (thick cut)

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

2 ½ teaspoons granulated sugar 

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon 

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground ginger

¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom

1.    Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Remove crusts from bread and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (you should have about 1 1/4 cups). Toss cubes with melted butter. Combine sugar with spices, and toss bread cubes with mixture. Spread cubes in even layer on parchment-lined baking sheet; bake until crisp, 8 to 10 minutes.

Spiced Croutons:

Butternut squash soup croutons

Original Authentic Whoopie Pies

Whoopie Pie 2 

Also featured on the popular site ONE FOR THE TABLE - One for the Table - Whoopie Pies

I'll always love the original Chocolate Whoopie Pie, but you can find countless versions on the web for Pumpkin, Ginger, Red Velvet, Lemon, Banana, and many more creative Whoopie Pies.  The next time you're in the mood for a cupcake, give this "cousin" a try - you'll be glad you did. This recipe uses a traditional filling recipe, but lately I have been using Swiss Meringue Buttercream and I think it's much better.  


Whoopie Pies

(makes 8 generously filled pies) 

Download Whoopie Pies Recipe 








2 ¼  cups all-purpose flour  

1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder  

1 teaspoon baking soda  

½ teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon instant espresso powder

1/2 teaspoon table salt  

1 cup packed light brown sugar  

1 stick unsalted butter, softened but still cool 

1 large egg , at room temperature 

1 teaspoon vanilla extract  

1 cup buttermilk





1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, softened but still cool 

1 ½ cups confectioners' sugar  

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract  

1/8 teaspoon table salt  

5-8 heaping spoonfuls of Marshmallow Fluff *

(*if you can’t find it, order it here - http://www.marshmallowfluff.com/pages/order1.shtml)



 For the cakes:


1.    Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl.


2.    With stand mixer on medium speed, beat sugar and butter in large bowl until fluffy, 3- 4 minutes. Beat in egg until incorporated, scraping sides of bowl as need with rubber spatula, then beat in vanilla. Reduce speed to low and beat in one-third of flour mixture, then half of buttermilk. Repeat with half of remaining flour mixture, then remaining buttermilk, and finally remaining flour mixture. Using rubber spatula, give batter a stir to incorporate and remaining dry ingredients.


3.    Using 1/4 measure or #16 ice cream scoop, scoop 8 mounds of batter onto each baking sheet, spacing mounds about 2 ½” inches apart. Bake until cakes spring back when pressed, 15 to 18 minutes, switching and rotating pans halfway through baking. Cool completely on baking sheets, at least 1 hour.


For the Filling:


1.    With electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter and sugar together until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in vanilla and salt. Beat in 5 heaping spoonfuls Fluff (about 1 generous cup)until incorporated, about 1-2 minute. Add one or more spoonfuls if necessary for desired consistency and sweetness.


2.    Using a #16 ice cream scoop, dollop about ¼ of cup filling on center of flat side of 8 cakes. Top with flat side of remaining 8 cakes and gently press until filling spreads to edge of cake. Serve. (Whoopie pies can be stored in airtight container for up to 3 days.) 


 Whoopie pie batter scoops 





Baked Eggs - Oeufs en Cocotte

Baked eggs in the garden

Baked Eggs - Oeufs en Cocotte


Download Baked Eggs Recipe

1 serving  (easily increased)

This is a fun way to prepare eggs for a special “breakfast in bed” occasion (or in my case - in the garden). Also known as shirred eggs, baked eggs will give you time to prepare everything else on the tray - toast, coffee, juice (better yet, Mimosa) while the eggs bake in the oven.  Feel free to embellish the eggs to suit your own taste – add some sautéed vegetables, diced ham, crumbled bacon, grated cheese. Just put your additions on the bottom and then top with the eggs and then cream.

2 eggs

1 tablespoon of Boursin cheese or crème fraîche

Sea salt, pepper, paprika, fine herbs

1 tablespoon heavy cream

Parsley, tarragon, or tomato salsa for garnish

1.    Preheat oven to 425 degrees and position a rack in the middle of the oven.

Butter an oven-safe gratin dish with 1 teaspoon of butter.  Place the Boursin or crème fraîche in the center of dish.

2.    Crack 2 eggs into the dish. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper, and sprinkle with fine herbs. Drizzle 1 Tbs. cream the dish, starting over the yolks and working around the dish. Bake until the eggs are bubbly and browned on the edges but not quite set in the middle, 5-6 minutes. For firmer eggs, bake an additional 1 minute.

3.    Heat the broiler to high. Broil the eggs, still on the center rack of the oven, until the center is just set, about 2 minutes. Remove from the oven immediately—the eggs will continue to set.

4.    Garnish with parsley, cilantro, fresh tarragon, or salsa.


 Baked eggs in dish

Baked eggs in dish closeup


Easy Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce

Chicken Satay 1

Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce


I love the bold flavors in recipes like this – it’s such a refreshing change from parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. The turmeric in the curry powder gives the chicken its distinctive yellow color.  One of my favorite Thai restaurants  in Los Angeles– Chan Dara – serves theirs with a  cucumber salsa.



1 cup plain yogurt

1 ½ teaspoons freshly grated ginger

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon curry powder

1 ½ pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into strips

15-20 wooden skewers, soaked in water 30 minutes

Vegetable oil, for grilling

Boston lettuce leaves for garnish

Fresh cilantro leaves


  1. Combine the yogurt, ginger, garlic, and curry powder in a shallow mixing bowl, stir to combine. Place the chicken strips in the yogurt marinade and gently toss until well coated. Cover and let the chicken marinate in the refrigerator for at up to 2 hours.


Peanut Dipping Sauce


1/2 cup smooth peanut butter 

4-6 tablespoons hot water 

1 tablespoon soy sauce 

2-3 tablespoons lime juice from 1 lime

2 tablespoons Asian chili sauce like Sriracha or use Sambal (much spicier)

1 ½ tablespoons dark brown sugar 

1 clove garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 1 teaspoon) 

1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro leaves 

2 scallions white and green parts, sliced thin  

1/4 cup chopped peanuts, for garnish


  1. Whisk the peanut butter and ¼ cup hot water together in a medium bowl. Stir in remaining ingredients. Add additional water if need to adjust consistency. Transfer to a small serving bowl and garnish with the chopped peanuts. Serve with chicken satay.


To Make Chicken Satay:


  1. Thread the coated chicken strips onto the soaked skewers working the skewer in and out of the meat, down the middle of the piece, so that it stays in place during grilling.


  1. Place a grill pan over medium heat and brush it with oil to prevent the meat from sticking. When pan is hot, grill the chicken satays for 3 to 5 minutes on each side, until nicely seared and cooked through. Serve the satays on a platter lined with lettuce leaves and cilantro; accompanied by a small bowl of peanut sauce on the side.

 Chicken satay skewers



Butterscotch Pots de Creme

Butterscotch Pot de Creme 


I had lunch recently at Gjelina (http://www.gjelina.com) on Abbot Kinney in Venice, CA. I suppose it falls under the category of “trendy”, but I love the combination of good food and great people-watching, so I always look forward to having a bite there. They pride themselves on local and home grown ingredients and you really can’t go wrong with anything from the single page menu. The highlight for me, and what keeps bringing me back, is their decadent dessert – Butterscotch Pot de Crème with Salted Caramel and Crème Fraiche. It’s wonderful – a dark, rich, buttery dessert – and I knew I had to duplicate it at home. Don’t confuse this with any store bought butterscotch pudding that you may have tried in the past – this smooth, rich, custard gets its deep caramel flavor from the dark Muscavado sugar. It’s perfect for a Valentine’s Day dessert. 

*Update - The LA Times featured chef Travis Lett and his recipe for Gjelina's Butterscotch Pot de Creme - check it out here - Gjelina Pot de Creme Recipe


Butterscotch Pots de Crème

 Makes 4 servings  Download Butterscotch Pots de Creme Recipe

1 ½ cups heavy cream

6 tablespoons dark muscovado sugar (http://bit.ly/de1lL2)

½ vanilla bean, split and scraped

¼ teaspoon fleur de sel or favorite sea salt

6 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons Demerara sugar (http://bit.ly/cfHnii)

4 large egg yolks

½  teaspoon vanilla

Accompaniments: whipped cream; chocolate shavings or fresh berries

Special equipment: 6 (4-ounce) ramekins


1.    Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 300°F. Place eggs yolks and vanilla in a large bowl and set aside.

2.    Bring cream, muscovado sugar, vanilla pod with seeds, and salt just to a simmer over medium low heat in a small heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Keep warm over low heat, being careful not to scorch cream.

3.    Bring water and Demerara sugar to a boil in a 2-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and bubbly, about 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat and carefully add cream mixture (mixture will bubble up and steam), whisking until combined.

4.    Whisk together yolks and vanilla in the large bowl, then add hot cream mixture in a stream, whisking steadily. Pour custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a 1-quart glass measure. Skim off any foam with a spoon.

5.    Divide custard among ramekins. Arrange ramekins in a small roasting pan and bake in a hot water bath, uncovered, until custards are set around edges but still tremble slightly in centers, about 40 minutes. Transfer ramekins to a rack with tongs and cool to warm or room temperature. Pots de crème will continue to set as they cool. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of dark muscavado sugar or grated chocolate.


Butterscotch pots de creme waterbath
Butterscotch pots de creme spoon dish