Two (or three) with tea

Needing a lighter complement, I knew I had just the thing  to serve with the quadruple-threat chocolate cookies at Valentine’s.

Light and crispy, these sugar cookies are flavored with sparkling  blood orange zest and floral cardamom pods.

These have a higher butter-to-flour ratio than my usual sugar cookie recipe, I kept them in the fridge until right before popping them in the oven and they held their shape just fine.

I topped half with clear sanding sugar and the other half with a simple blood-orange and confectioner’s sugar icing.  As usual when using blood oranges, no food coloring was needed.  This pink was natural, baby.

I’m not certain if she uses the same recipe, but my mom makes an orange (not blood) cardamom cookie at the Christmas holidays.  The mixture of orange and cardamom is reminiscent of the traditional-holiday pairing of oranges and cloves.  However,  out of context–say, for Valentines Day…or maybe more appropriately at this point St. Patrick’s Day or Easter, these pretty cookies don’t taste out of season at all.

If you like this, you might like these

Chai Cupcakes

Blood Orange Cheesecake

Salty Screw

Cardamom and Blood Orange Sugar Cookies

adapted fromm Bon Appetit, December 2009


  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated blood orange peel (I used a microplane)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • Raw sugar

For icing

  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/2 cup blood orange juice


  1. Whisk flour, cardamom, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in medium bowl to blend.
  2. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until creamy, about 2 minutes. Gradually add 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar; beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in finely grated orange peel and vanilla. Add egg; beat to blend.
  3. Add 1/3 of flour mixture; beat on low speed just to blend. Add remaining flour in 2 additions, beating on low speed just until blended.
  4. Divide dough in half. Place between two sheets of parchment or wax paper and roll-out to about  1/4-1/8 inch depending on desired thickness.  Repeat with second half of dough.  Chill until firm (at least an hour).
  5. Position 1 rack in top third and 1 rack in bottom third of oven; preheat to 350°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
  6. Cut out cookies using festive cookie cutters. Carefully transfer cookies to prepared baking sheets, spacing 1 inch apart. Sprinkle with sugar if not topping with icing.
  7. Gather dough scraps into ball. Flatten, cover, and freeze dough until firm enough to roll out again, about 10 minutes.
  8. Bake cookies until light golden brown, about 16 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through baking for even cooking. Carefully slide parchment paper with cookies onto racks to cool completely.
  9. To ice, whisk together confectioner’s sugar, adding juice a little bit at a time until you reach the desired thickness (I prefer mine runny for better coverage).
  10. Lightly grasping the edges of each cookie, dip into the icing so that only the top of the cookie touches the surface.  Quickly pull up and let cookies dry on a cooling rack.



Butter, cinnamon and sugar my muffin

When I mentioned the big plans I had over the holidays to attempt making my own puff pastry dough, I had morning buns on the brain.  Alas, the sun was too inviting and I decided to play with puff pastry another day.

I still had morning buns on my mind though.

This recipe, if you can even call it that, is embarrassingly simple:  a sheet of puff, some butter, cinnamon and sugar.  Then, right out of the oven, an additional dip in butter and a final cinnamon and sugar bath (sort of like these french doughnuts).

I took these little darlings to work along with the Jesuites.  Someone very important in my organizations who had the ability  threatened to fire me if I ever brought them in again.  I think this means they were a hit.


Mini Morningish Buns

(one sheet of puff pastry yields 16 mini and 6 regular-sized buns, hun)


  • Sheet of puff pastry, thawed
  • 1 C granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp (or more to taste) of ground cinnamon
  • 12 TBS butter, softened


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter your muffin pan.
  2. Combined sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl until cinnamon is thoroughly distributed.  Taste and add-more spice as desired.
  3. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the puff pastry dough until about 18X10 inches.  Be sure to life the dough after each roll so that it does not stick to the surface.
  4. Spread a thin layer of butter over entire surface of dough (it will take about a stick of butter, maybe a little less).
  5. Generously sprinkle cinnamon-sugar mixture across the buttered surface, reserving at least 1/3 of a cup.
  6. Starting at the far long end of the rectangle, roll the dough tightly all the way to the edge of the closest long end.  The finished product will look like a log.
  7. If using a mini-muffin pan, cut log in half and then cut each half into quarters and half each quarter so that you have 16 small rolls.  If using a regular muffin-pan, cut the log in half and then each half into thirds.
  8. Carefully place each cut roll into the wells of the pan, cut side facing up.  You may want to squish the dough down a bit to get it to spread-out in the well.
  9. Bake until dark golden brown (20 to 30 minutes–begin watching at 20).
  10. While buns are baking, melt remaining butter.  Remove from heat and transfer to a small bowl.
  11. Remove buns from oven and let sit for 5 minutes.
  12. Using tongs (or your fingers if you are brave), remove each bun, dip it in butter, roll it in the remaining cinnamon sugar mixture and set atop a cooling rack to cool.
  13. Try not to get fired from your job.


How to catch a valentine

Have a valentine for whom you’d like to show your looooooove?

Need to catch a valentine so that someone will loooooooove you?

Well, have I got a recipe for you.  It has everything….

Oh, how I miss you Stefon.

But seriously.  I promise this quadruple chocolate threat cookie will get the job done.

And you know what they say.  If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.

Quadruple Threat Chocolate Cookies

adapted from Sunset Magazine’s 50 all-time best Sunset Test Kitchen recipes


  • 10 ounce bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup plus 2 tbsp. sugar plus more for dipping (or cocoa could be used to dip)
  • 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder (I used the ground espresso right out of a Nespresso capsule)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 6 tablespoons flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 C bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 3/4 C chopped white chocolate
  • 1 cup finely chopped toasted pecans
  1. Melt butter in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan over low heat.  Once  butter is melted, remove from heat and add-in the chopped bittersweet and unsweetened chocolates. Swirl pan to cover chocolate (as best as it will) and let stand for five minutes.  Using a wire whisk, whisk until chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.  You may need to return to very low heat.
  2. Whisk eggs, sugar, espresso powder, and vanilla into chocolate mixture. In another bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir into chocolate mixture until evenly mixed, then stir in chocolate chips and pecans. Wrap dough airtight and chill until firm enough to hold its shape, at least an hour.
  3. Using a large scoop (I scooped between 1/8 and 1/4 of a cup), scoop dough, placing it on a parchment-lined cookie sheet with two inches in-between (I fit about 8 drops of dough on a half-sheet).
  4. Preheat oven to 350°. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
  5. Dip the bottom of a pint glass or even round surface in sugar or cocoa powder.  Gently press down each drop/ball of dough until flattened slightly (the chunks in the cookie should help to keep the thickness at about 1/2 and inch).
  6. Bake until cookies no longer look wet and you can feel a slight crust on top, about 10 minutes (don’t overbake); switch position of baking sheets halfway through. Let cookies cool on sheets on racks.
  7. Cookies freeze nicely up to two weeks in air-tight containers or freezer bags.

Not just a puff piece

A couple of years ago I went to work for a Catholic university of the St Ignatius of Loyola and Marymount persuasions.  While I’ve made my career in education, most often at the college-level, this was my first religiously-affiliated institution.

Always the diligent researcher, I went deep when preparing to interview for the job.  Part of my motivation was professional—I needed this prospective place of employment to know that I’d done my homework.  Selfishly, I also needed  to understand the values of the private, religiously affiliated institution.   See, I wasn’t raised Catholic.  In fact, even though both of my parents affiliate as Episcopal, WASP is the closest to religion I come.  And by WASP I mean the hair-band wearing, knowing how to use the appropriate fork and then stabbing you in the back with it part…not the actual Protestant part.    But, as usual, I digress.

In my research of this Catholic university in the Jesuit tradition, I was impressed by what I learned.  The Jesuits are known as teachers and seekers of knowledge. Among other things, their educational tradition seeks to produce not just successful leaders, leaders in the service of others.   It’s kind of their jam.  To this end, I was very drawn to the idea of a mission-driven university.  This was especially true provided this university’s triumvirate mission: the encouragement of learning, the education of the whole person and the service of faith and justice.

I’ll admit, at the time I didn’t really understand the service of faith piece.  But, the other components certainly read like the kind of place I’d like to be producing our future (in the form of college graduates).  I didn’t learn until I had an employee ID number that the mission truly  saturates the being of the institution.  It is in the classroom.  It is in the activities and programs in which students participate.  It is in the engagement of the alumni.  It is a pleasure to work in a place that strives to walk the talk.

I’ve also come to understand that this is pretty standard across other Catholic-Jesuit institutions.  Values are important.  Being a good person is important.  Striving to create a more just society is important.

Which, brings me to a bit of serendipity.  About the time I went to work at Loyola Marymount University, TD began collaborating with some colleagues on a documentary about the 1951 University of San Francisco football team (also a Jesuit university).  The story is poignantly emblematic of the racial climate of the time.  In a sentence, the University’s undefeated football team chose not to play in a bowl game rather than leave their black teammates behind.  Ironically, 1951 was the last season for football at both USF and Loyola University (now Loyola Marymount University). ’51 DONS airs this Sunday on ESPN (4:00 PM PST) and ESPN2 (7:00 PM PST):

You can also go here to learn more about the team.

Speaking of serendipity.  I had this post for Jesuite pastries scheduled for later in the month.  I actually didn’t think to line up my Jesuit themed bits and pieces until yesterday.  Sometimes I wonder about myself.

Jesuites are a french pastry  filled with almond cream and topped with almonds (and sometimes a layer of icing).  They get their name from the three-pointed hats Jesuits are said to have been fond of wearing back in the day.  Over the holidays I had big plans to make my own puff pastry.  But, unlike most of the country, the sun was shining in Southern California and I abandoned my winter-dark kitchen to go play outside.  So, for this recipe and its partner (that I’ll post later in the month), I used prepared pastry dough.


Almond cream recipe adapted from Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel’s Bouchon Bakery

This recipe makes about a dozen Jesuits with two sheets of puff pastry.  I was pretty wasteful with the dough…a strategic cutting and you could get several more out of it.


  • 1/2 C + 2 1/2 TBS (75 grams) almond flour/meal
  • 2 1/4 tsp (7 grams) all purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 ounces (73 grams) unsalted butter at room temp
  • 1/2 C + 2 TBS confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 large eggs (1 for almond cream, one for egg wash)  (44 grams)
  • 2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • flaked almonds (I like the honey glazed variety from Trader Joes)


note: finished almond cream needs at least 2 hours in the fridge before use

  1. In a medium bowl, sift together almond flour and all purpose flour.  Set aside.
  2. Using an electric hand mixer, cream butter until it is the consistency of mayonnaise.
  3. Sift-in confectioner’s sugar and mix on high until fluffy (2-3 minutes).
  4. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the almond mixture in 2 additions, combining on low.
  5. Scrape the bottom of the bowl to combine all ingredients.
  6. Add in 1 egg and combined on low until mixture is smooth (about 30 seconds).
  7. Refrigerate until cold (at least two hours).  Can be made up to three days in advance, kept in an airtight container in the fridge.
  8. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  9. On a floured work surface, roll-out puff pastry to roughly 14X18 inches.
  10. Using a 12 inch bowl as a template, cut out a round using a sharp knife. Cut the circle into 6 equal parts.  You should have enough dough left at the corners of the rectangle not included in the circle to cut 4 additional triangles.  Repeat with second sheet of pastry.
  11. Space five triangles on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  12. Spread about a tablespoon of almond cream evenly across each triangle leaving about a centimeter along the edges.
  13. Top each triangle with a second triangle, pinching the edges (they’ll break free in the puffing-up process…this is supposed to happen).  Repeat until each triangle on your tray is topped.
  14. Paint each pastry with egg wash and top liberally with flaked almonds.
  15. Repeat with second baking sheet.
  16. Bake baking sheets one-at-a-time for 20-25 minutes until tops are golden brown and pastry puffs to about 3 inches.