“Refrescante” – Flavor and Friends

refrescante cookies on a plate
Cornmeal, Parmesan cheese, cream cheese and jalapeno pepper

Refrescante’s base is a flaky sweet-corn crunch. Filled with Parmesan, cream cheese, lemon and jalapeno, the cookie’s creamy, spicy center creates a wonderful hot-cool sensation. Out of the hundreds of cookies my husband agreeably tasted as I wrote this book, this stands out as his favorite.

Ingredients
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons lemon zest
4 teaspoons lemon juice, divided
3 large egg yolks
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons, fresh or canned
jalapeno pepper, finely chopped (with juice if canned), divided

Instructions
1) Preheat oven to 350° F. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in lemon zest, 1 teaspoon lemon juice and egg yolks. Beat until well blended.
2) Whisk together flour, cornmeal and salt in a small bowl and add to butter mixture. Beat until just incorporated.
3) Shape dough into 1-inch diameter balls and, using your thumb, press a deep well into each. Place 1 inch apart on a parchment-lined or nonstick baking sheet. Bake for 12 minutes or until bottoms are golden. Let sit for a few minutes and transfer to a cooling rack.
4) In a separate bowl, mix cheeses, remaining 3 teaspoons lemon juice, and 1/4 cup jalapeno until smooth. Adjust consistency with lemon juice so it is soft enough to not crack the cookie when filling. Fill cooled cookies. Using the remaining 2 tablespoons chopped jalapenos, top each with a small piece of pepper. Keep refrigerated in an airtight container until serving. Best served the day of assembly.

Yields about 2 dozen

“Nosh” – Fall and Football

nosh cookies, with peanuts and cilantro on a plate

Dry roasted peanut, dried chili and fresh cilantro

Turn off your phone, put up your feet and chill. Nosh is an addictive cookie that’ll take your mind away from responsibilities until another day. It pairs perfectly with beer, peanuts and 49er football. Dried chili flakes and cilantro will keep you awake enough to eat several and have a second beer.

Ingredients
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups dry-roasted salted peanuts
2 tablespoons dried chili flakes (reduce if you prefer a milder flavor)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons coarse salt

Instructions
1) In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugars until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in egg, vanilla and cilantro. Beat until well blended.
2) Whisk together flour, peanuts, chili flakes, baking powder and salt in a small bowl and add to butter mixture. Beat until just incorporated. Refrigerate dough for 1 hour.
3) Preheat oven to 350° F. Scoop or drop dough by 1 teaspoon portions, sprinkle each with a pinch of coarse salt and place 1½ inches apart on a parchment-lined or nonstick baking sheet. Bake for 9-11 minutes or until bottoms are golden brown. Let sit for a few minutes and transfer to a cooling rack.

Yields about 4 dozen

“Delectable” – Holiday Refreshment

pear cookies with coffee
Caramelized pear, crystallized ginger and walnut

We served Delectable at the recent Northern California Independent Booksellers Association Conference in San Francisco. Inspired by caramelized pear desserts in upscale restaurants, Delectable’s Bosc pears with underlying hints of butter and brown sugar fuse with the cookie’s shortbread-style base and subtle walnut and crystallized ginger flavors. A tin of these bars makes a wonderful hostess gift or addition to a family picnic. Simply delectable.

Ingredients
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed, divided
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger root
2 tablespoons crystallized ginger,
chopped medium
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup walnuts, finely chopped
3-1/2 cups Bosc pears, slivered
3 tablespoons butter, melted

Ingredients
1) Preheat oven to 375° F. Lightly butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch by-13-inch baking dish. Set aside. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, cream together butter, sugar and 1/3 cup light brown sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in vanilla, fresh grated ginger root and crystallized ginger. Blend until just incorporated.
2) Whisk together flour, cinnamon and salt in a small bowl and add to butter mixture. Beat until just blended. Stir in walnuts.
3) Press dough into prepared pan (smaller dishes will create a thicker cobbler dish). Spread pears evenly over the dough in pan. Sprinkle remaining 1/3 cup brown sugar over pears. Drizzle melted butter over the top.
4. Bake for 40 minutes or until knife comes out clean. Let cool for 15 minutes. Cut into squares and serve.

Yields about 2 dozen (up to 5 depending on size of cuts, small is great for bites)

“Familiar Memory” – Comfort Food and Family

This recipe begins with an updated version of my grandma’s sugar cookie dough. I love the recipe and the original recipe card in her handwriting. My mom, grandma, and aunt Shirley taught me to bake as a child in Eureka. I started baking for 4-H at the Santa Clara County Fair when I was ten.

white plate with familiar memory cookies

Banana and Brown Sugar, Lemon and Sugar, and Pecan

These cookies are a lot of fun to make. With the dough rolled into a tube shape and partially frozen; you slice the dough. On the bottom slide you lightly place a quick-fried/caramelized banana. On top of the banana you lightly place a second slice of dough and (optional) stick in a pecan or walnut piece. The butter from the caramelization lightly browns and crisps the bottom slice. The top slice bakes over the banana and stays soft. The two texture and slight flavor differences add depth to the taste and the banana is a comfort addition. This is a must-bake cookie :) And thank you once again to the women bakers in my life.

Ingredients
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
4 bananas
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
6 Tablespoons light brown sugar
1/2 cup pecan quarters

Instructions
1) In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, cream together 1 cup butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in egg, vanilla, lemon zest and juice. Blend until well blended.
2) Whisk together flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl and add to the butter mixture. Beat until just incorporated.
3) Form dough into 4 logs (3/4 inch in diameter) and wrap each in parchment paper. Freeze for 30 minutes or refrigerate for 1-1/2 hours.
While the dough chills, peel and slice 1 banana for each log crossways into 1/2-inch-thick slices. For each banana, place 1-1/2 tablespoons light brown sugar on a small plate. Lightly press banana slices in brown sugar, so there is a light amount of sugar on each side. For each banana, melt 1 tablespoon butter in a medium pan over low heat. Quick-fry banana slices for 30 seconds on each side. Remove bananas from the pan, place on a plate and set aside. When all bananas are quick-fried, drizzle the caramelized butter-sugar mixture left in the pan over the top. The bananas don’t need to be dried or cooled to proceed.
4) Preheat oven to 400 F. Slice logs into 1/8-inch-thick rounds. Place half of the slices 1-1/2 inches apart on a parchment-lined or nonstick baking sheet. Place 1 banana slice on each cookie. Then top each with 1 remaining dough slice, sandwiching the banana between the two slices. Do not press the dough over the banana. During baking, the top slice will drape over banana to just meet with the bottom. Place 1 pecan quarter on each cookie top (optional), piercing the top slice rather than just laying the pecan on top. Bake for 7-10 minutes or until bottoms are golden brown. The bottom will be lightly crisp, while the top will be sift. Let sit for a few minutes and transfer to a cooling rack. Let set at least 5 minutes before eating.

Yields about 4 dozen

“Eye Candy” – Passover Gathering

no leavening, easter cookie, coconut macaroon, grown up cookie
                                                                         
Coconut, White Chocolate, and Pistachio

Crunches of coconut and pistachios come together with a hint of white chocolate in this not-too-sweet coconut macaroon – perfect for Passover, simple and fun to make. For best results, use a bar of high-quality white chocolate, not chips.

Ingredients
3/4 cup sugar
2-1/2 cups coconut, sweetened
2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch salt
1/2 cup grated white chocolate (not chips, real chocolate)
1/3 cup roasted, unsalted pistachio meats, chopped

Instructions
1) Preheat oven to 325° F. In a large bowl, gently mix together all of the ingredients.
2) Scoop mixture by 1 tablespoon portions, pat together with hands, and place 1 inch apart on a parchment-lined or nonstick baking sheet. Bake for 14-16 minutes or until just golden. Let sit for a few minutes and transfer to a cooling rack. Continue to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Yields about 2 dozen