Pine Nut & Orange Cookies

I hadn’t baked anything since before the baby was born.  But yesterday while Levi and Dad were taking an afternoon nap, I jumped on the opportunity, turned on the Jackie Greene Pandora station and made these pine nut and orange cookies that I’ve been eyeing in Fine Cooking because they use olive oil instead of butter. When I went to the store and saw that pine nuts were $34 a pound I thought to myself, “These better be good cookies!” (Don’t worry – the recipe only uses 1/2 a cup, which turns out to be $5 worth of pine nuts).

The dough was slightly stressful to work with because it was so crumbly. You really have to squeeze it tight in your hands to make it stay together in a ball. When you press down on the ball of dough with a sugared glass, the edges sort of crack and break apart, which looks pretty, but is also stress-inducing. I was doubtful if they would stay together, but sure enough, when they baked they held their shape, and they looked beautiful. The texture of these cookies reminded me of biscotti. They’re slightly crunchy, flavorful, and rich from the olive oil.

Pine Nut & Orange Cookies

(From the Aug./Sept. issue of Fine Cooking)

1/2 cup pine nuts
1-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar; more for rolling
3 Tbs. finely grated orange zest (from 2 medium oranges)
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 large egg, beaten

  • Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and heat the oven to 375°F.
  • Toast the pine nuts on a rimmed baking sheet, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and golden, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl to cool.
  • In a medium bowl, stir the flour, sugar, zest, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and pine nuts. In a small bowl, whisk the oil and egg and add to the dry ingredients. Mix with your hands until the dough is evenly moist and holds together when squeezed, 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Fill a small bowl with about 1/4 cup sugar. Pinch off 1 rounded teaspoonful of dough (about 1/2 oz.). Shape it into a ball, coat it in the sugar, and set it in on a light-colored nonstick cookie sheet. Dip the bottom of a drinking glass in the sugar and flatten the cookie to slightly less than 1/4 inch thick. Repeat to make 13 more cookies.
  • Bake until the tops are golden and the edges are brown, 9 to 13 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the sheet for several minutes, then transfer them to a rack to cool completely. While the first batch of cookies bakes, shape the remaining dough into cookies and arrange on a second cookie sheet. When the first batch is done, bake the second batch.
  • The cookies will keep in an air-tight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Olive Oil Bundt Cake with Blueberries in Red Wine Syrup

Ott’s Berry Farm in Modesto produces the biggest, juiciest, tastiest blueberries. After thankfully receiving several containers of them last week from our friend Chris at the Farmer’s Market, we wanted to highlight them in a simple dessert. This flavorful (dairy-free!) olive oil cake was delicious topped with blueberries that had been warmed in a simple red wine syrup infused with lemon verbena.

Olive Oil Bundt Cake

(Slightly Adapted from the Feb. 2010 issue of Food & Wine )

5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon finely minced lemon verbena*
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups cake flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon fine sea salt

*Original recipe calls for finely grated orange zest

  • Preheat the oven to 325° and butter and flour a 10-cup bundt pan.
  • In a bowl, using a hand-held electric mixer, beat the eggs with the sugar and lemon verbena at medium-high speed until smooth.
  • Gradually beat in the olive oil until creamy, about 2 minutes.
  • In a small bowl, whisk the cake flour with the baking powder and salt.
  • Add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture in 3 batches, beating on medium speed between additions.
  • Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake in the center of the oven for about 1 hour, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
  • Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then invert onto a rack. Let the cake cool completely before cutting into slices and serving.

Blueberries in Red Wine Syrup

  • Combine equal parts red wine and sugar in a saucepan (about 3/4 cup each was a good amount for this cake)
  • Add a branch of lemon verbena. If you don’t have any lemon verbena, try a sprig of rosemary, lavender, or some fresh mint!
  • Simmer the mixture for about 15 minutes or until it boils down. Cool and remove the herb.
  • Warm several big handfuls of blueberries in the syrup before serving. Spoon on top of slices of olive oil cake.

Say "I love you" with Coconut Hot Chocolate

I originally intended to post this recipe around Valentine’s Day, but obviously that didn’t happen. Then I thought of saving it until next year, but I’m too impatient. Luckily the temperature has still been dipping into the low 40s in the evenings, therefore I deem hot chocolate still “in season.” I found this recipe in an article in the Food & Wine section of our local newspaper, in which a woman shared the story of her husband’s request for hot chocolate on Valentine’s Day. Since he couldn’t have dairy, soy milk, rice milk or even nut-milk, this proved to be a challenge for her! After several attempts at various recipes, this hot chocolate was born: rich and creamy with a nice bitterness from the cocoa. Served with some raspberries on the side, you have a decadent dessert for both you and the lactose-free friend/relative/sweetie/person in your life.

Coconut Hot Chocolate for Two:

2 TBS. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 15-ounce can coconut milk
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
Pinch of kosher salt
1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, chopped (about 1/4 cup)
1 tsp. vanilla extract

  • Bring 1/3 cup of water to a boil in a small saucepan. Whisk in the cocoa. Set aside.
  • In a saucepan, combine the coconut milk, brown sugar, and salt. Simmer, stirring, until sugar is dissolved, about 2 minutes.
  • Whisk in hot cocoa and chocolate until smooth. Stir in vanilla.
  • Pour into two mugs.
  • For an (optional) dairy-free topping: Beat 1 egg white with an electric mixer on medium speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Add 3 TBS. of sugar (one tablespoon at a time) while the mixer is running. Continue to beat until egg white forms soft peaks and is shiny, about 5 minutes. Dollop onto mugs of hot chocolate.