Sprinkle Sugar Cookies

Sprinkle Sugar Cookies

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 1/4 cups Sunflower Self Rising flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • Sugar
  • Decorator sugars, if desired
Directions:
Heat oven to 375°F. Combine butter, powdered sugar and 1/2 cup sugar in large bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy. Add egg and vanilla; continue beating until well mixed. Reduce speed to low; add flour, cream of tartar and baking soda. Beat until dough forms a ball.
Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place 2 inches apart onto Reynolds Parchment paper on cookie sheets. Flatten to about 1 1/2 inches with bottom of glass dipped in sugar; sprinkle with decorator sugars, if desired. Bake for 7 to 9 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Let stand 1 minute on cookie sheet; remove to cooling rack.

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Puff Pastry Dough

Quick Puff Pastry Dough
Yield:Original recipe makes 3 pounds

  • 1 1/4 cups Sunflower Self-Rising flour
  • 3 3/4 cups bread flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups cold butter, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces
  • 1 1/4 cups cold water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
Directions:
1.In a large bowl, stir together the Sunflower Self-Rising flour, bread flour, salt and white sugar. Stir in the chunks of butter so that each one is completely coated in flour. Combine the cold water and lemon juice; stir into the bowl while lightly tossing the ingredients to moisten them evenly. Gather the dough into a ball.
2.On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a rectangle about 1/2 inch thick. Keep the edges as square as possible. The dough will look terrible, but don’t worry, it will shape up. Fold the dough into thirds like a business letter, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
3.Place the dough on the floured work surface and turn at a 90 degree angle from the last time you rolled it out. Roll again into a rectangle again and fold into thirds. If the dough is still cold and manageable, rotate and roll again, then fold into thirds, or refrigerate and continue in 30 minutes. Finish by rolling the dough out to the size of a baking sheet. Place on a lightly floured baking sheet and wrap in plastic. refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before using.
4.To use, roll out dough to 1/4 inch thickness and cut into shapes with a sharp knife. Use as directed in recipes calling for puff pastry, or alternatively, enclose desired fillings and bake in a preheated 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) oven until puffed and golden brown.

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Peach Pie

Peach Pie
Yield:  One 9 inch Pie
For the Peach Pie:

Peach Pie

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 4-1/2 cups sliced peeled peaches
  • Pastry for double-crust pie (9 inches)
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon butter
Directions:
1. In a large bowl, combine sugars; add peaches and toss gently.
Cover and let stand for 1 hour. Line a 9-in. pie plate with bottom
pastry; trim even with edge. Set aside. Drain peaches, reserving
juice.
2. In a small saucepan, combine the cornstarch, nutmeg, cinnamon
and salt; gradually stir in reserved juice. Bring to a boil; cook
and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from the heat;
stir in lemon juice and butter. Gently fold in peaches. Pour into
crust.
3. Roll out remaining pastry; make a lattice crust. Trim, seal and
flute edges. Cover edges loosely with foil. Bake at 400° for 50-
60 minutes or until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbly.
Remove foil. Cool on a wire rack. Yield: 6-8 servings.

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Marbled Pound Cake

Yummy Marbled Pound CakeThis is my favorite pound cake. Light and tender, it has a crisp crust that’s deliberately thick, created by baking it in an oven that’s initially a bit hotter than usual. The batter makes adorable marbled cupcakes, too, which are such fun to do with the kids!
Yield:  One (9 x 5-inch) loaf or 12 cupcakes
For the pound cake:
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter, for brushing, plus 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened for the batter
  • 1 generous tablespoon plain whisked cake flour, for dusting, plus 1 2/3 cups cake flour, for the batter (Whisk, don’t sift, before measuring.)
  • 2 rounded tablespoons (one 0.8-ounce packet) dried buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 rounded teaspoon salt
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 extra-large eggs, made tepid by submerging in a bowl of very hot tap water for 10 minutes
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons minced lemon or orange zest (optional)
  • Powdered sugar, for dusting (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Brush the interior of a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with the melted butter, then sprinkle the greased surface with 1 generous tablespoon of cake flour. Tilt the pan to coat it with flour, then knock out any excess.
Whisk together 1 2/3 cups of cake flour with the dried buttermilk, baking powder and salt, and sift this into another bowl. Melt the chocolate either in the top of a double boiler over barely simmering water, or in a microwave, on high power for 1 minute. Using an electric mixer, cream the softened butter, until lightened. Add the sugar in increments, beating well after each addition. In a 2-cup capacity liquid measuring cup (or other vessel with a spout), beat the eggs with the vanilla and zest, if you use it. Drizzle the eggs into the creamed butter mixture, a little at a time, allowing each addition to be fully incorporated before adding the next. When done, the mixture should be very light. Stop the machine, and, using a large rubber spatula, scrape the butter down from the sides and up from the bottom. Beat briefly. Stop the machine, and add a heaping 1/2 cup of the flour mixture. Turn the machine on low, then up to medium and mix until the flour is almost totally incorporated. Continue to stop the machine, add another scoop of the flour mixture, and beat again until almost combined. After adding all the dry ingredients, beat the batter, still on medium speed, for 30 to 40 seconds, or until the batter is very smooth and silky looking. Scrape half the batter into another bowl and add the melted chocolate to the first bowl, folding it in until homogenous.
Pour and spread half of the plain cake batter into the prepared loaf pan, then do the same with half of the chocolate batter. Repeat this with the plain batter and then the rest of the chocolate batter, creating 4 layers in all. Beginning at one end of the loaf, drag a plain table knife through the batter, going up and down, in a soft, sweeping, swirling motion, making loops at the top and then at the bottom, while traveling to the opposite end of the loaf pan. (Don’t overdo this, or you’ll actually lose your marbled design.).When done, pull the knife blade straight up and out of the batter, and gently smooth the top, using a short metal spreader. Place the pan into the center of a preheated oven and reduce the temperature to 325°F. Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean and the cake is golden. Place the pan on a wire rack, and carefully run a knife around the sides of the pan. Turn the cake out of the pan and let it cool on the rack. Just before serving, dust the top with confectioner’s sugar, if desired, and cut into thick slices.
For marbled cupcakes:
Line a 12-muffin tin with paper liners. Fill each cup with three layers of batter, starting and ending with chocolate (or reverse this for a different look). Spread each layer using a short, off-set spatula. Stick a skewer down into the batter and make several twists (either a couple of figure-8s, or swirl the skewer around in a circular motion, creating a design in the batter. No need to smooth the top. Bake the cupcakes in a preheated 325°F oven for 18 minutes, or until a tester comes out “just clean”—avoid over-baking. Allow the cupcakes to cool fully, or serve when still warm. Either way, dust the tops with powdered sugar.
Plain Pound Cake Variation:
Prepare the batter as directed, omitting the chocolate. Add the entire batter to the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 65 minutes (about 5 minutes less than you would a marbled pound cake). Cool and serve as previously described.
Timing is Everything:
If you love pound cake – and who doesn’t-why not keep several sealed bags of the dry mixture in your pantry? That way, it’s much quicker to get this cake into the oven.

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Indian Apple Gingerbread

Light and tender and not too heavily spiced…the addition of chopped apples really makes this gingerbread scream “autumn!”
Ingredients:
  • additional melted butter, as needed, for the baking pan
  • yellow cornmeal (medium ground) for the baking pan
  • * 1 ¼ cups sifted, self-rising flour (Optional: see the note at the end of step 2.)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ginger
  • ¾ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon mace
  • * 1 cup self rising corn meal
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 extra-large egg, beaten
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • ½ cup molasses
  • ¾ cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted (Use this to grease the pan as well.)
  • 1 cup chopped peeled apples
  • plain cornmeal, to dust the greased pan
To set up:
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Brush the interior of a 9 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan with melted butter (400°F, if using glass). Dust the greased interior with medium-ground cornmeal. Knock out the excess meal and set the pan aside.
To combine the dry mixture:
Whisk together the self-rising flour, ginger, cinnamon, mace and self-rising cornmeal.
Note: If plain corn meal and flour are used, add 2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt and increase the baking soda to ½ teaspoon. Sift this into another bowl before combining with remaining ingredients).
To combine the remaining ingredients and finish the batter:
Beat the egg and add brown sugar together thoroughly with a whisk. Add the molasses, buttermilk, melted butter and the vanilla and whisk well.  Blend the wet with the dry ingredients, and then fold in the chopped apples. Pour into the prepared baking pan and place into the preheated oven. Bake for 35 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.
To serve:
Allow the cake to cool on a wire rack (in its pan). To serve, cut into squares and serve with whipped cream.
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Pumpkin Custard Torte

Pumpkin Custard TorteWhether for Thanksgiving or Christmas, this dessert is—to put it bluntly– drop-dead gorgeous! More importantly, the flavor and texture combination of the creamy pumpkin custard, the bittersweet chocolate ganache topping and the cookie crumb crust is just sensational. And just to guild the lily, the top border is sprinkled with crunchy pepita (pumpkin-seed) praline and the top center is decorated with overlapping, life-like chocolate leaves. Although this recipe is “involved,” every single component of the torte is completely do-ahead, making it unusually easy to pull this truly impressive dessert together.
Yield: One 10-inch torte, serving 10 to 12
Special Equipment:
  • 10 inch cake pan, 2-inches deep
  • Parchment paper
  • Electric mixer with a paddle attachment
  • Nutmeg grater (optional)
  • Small pastry brush or feather brush for making chocolate leaves
For the cookie crust:
  • Vegetable oil spray, as needed
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • One 9-ounce box Nabisco chocolate wafer cookies (less about 5 cookies)
  • 1/2 cup walnuts or pecans, finely chopped
For the pumpkin custard filling:
  • One 8-ounce block cream cheese, softened and at room temperature (not at all chilled)
  • 1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup (pure or pancake syrup)
  • 2 cups fresh pumpkin puree or use a 1-pound can of solid-pack pumpkin
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/4 teaspoon homemade Cookie Spice Blend  (See the end of this recipe.)
  • 6 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon natural maple extract (omit if unavailable)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (Increase to 1 1/2 teaspoons, if not using maple extract.)
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
For the chocolate leaves:
  • 16 ounces chopped chocolate (Use any combination of bittersweet and semisweet.)
  • 2 generous teaspoons solid vegetable shortening
  • 20 to 30 lemon leaves (in a variety of sizes), from your local flower shop
For the pepita praline:
  • 1 cup hulled raw pumpkin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons clarified butter
  • flavorless vegetable oil, as needed, for brushing
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the ganache top:
  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon flavorless vegetable oil
To set up:
Line the bottom of a 10-inch cake pan (2 inches deep) with a round of parchment paper, and spray the paper and the sides of the pan with vegetable oil spray. Preheat the oven to 350°F, with the rack in the center shelf position. Fill a tea kettle and turn it on. When the water boils, turn it to a simmer, until needed.
To prepare the crust:
Finely grind the chocolate wafer cookies either in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade, or place the cookies in an unsealed heavy-duty plastic bag, and roll over them with a rolling pin. Combine 2 cups of the cookie crumbs with the chopped nuts in a medium-sized bowl. Stir in the melted butter until the crumbs are evenly moistened. Turn the crumbs into the prepared cake pan and press them down firmly, covering the bottom evenly, without extending up the sides. Refrigerate the pan while you prepare the custard filling. 
To make the filling:
Using an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese until very smooth. Add the brown and white sugars, and mix well. Add the maple syrup, and, when well combined, add the pumpkin and the spice blend. When smooth, add the eggs, one at a time, combining well after each addition. Add the maple and vanilla extracts along with the heavy cream. When mixed, remove the cookie crust from the refrigerator and push the custard mixture through a medium-mesh wire sieve directly into the crust using a rubber spatula, leaving behind any stray bits of cream cheese in the sieve. 
To bake:
Fill a roasting pan with a scant 1-inch of simmering water from the kettle and transfer the pan to the preheated oven. Carefully carry the custard-filled cake pan to the oven and place it into the roasting pan. The water should come one-half to two-thirds up the sides of the pan, so pour in more simmering water, if needed. Bake the torte for 1-hour and check for doneness by inserting a knife into the top-center. When done, the blade should come out almost clean. The custard should jiggle a little bit, since it will set further when refrigerated, but, if very loose, bake longer, checking after every 5-minute interval.  When done, carefully lift the cake pan out of the water, and place it on a wire rack to cool. Lay a doubled sheet of paper towel, pulled taut, over the torte, and then cover it with aluminum foil. Refrigerate the torte for 6 hours, or up to 2 days, before continuing.
To prepare the garnishes:
While the custard chills, prepare the garnishes. (Be sure to check out my “Timing Tips” to make these garnishes way ahead of time so final assembly is a snap!)
For the chocolate leaves:
Line a tray with wax paper and place it in the freezer. Pick out about 20 lemon leaves, in a variety of sizes, and wipe each one clean with a dampened paper towel. Use a dry paper towel to dry the leaves meticulously and lay them on your work surface. Melt the chocolate with the shortening in the top of a double boiler, or in a bowl that sits in a larger pan of barely simmering water, stirring constantly until smooth. Be careful not to allow any water to enter the bowl of chocolate, which would cause it to quickly stiffen, a process called “seizing.”  When smooth, remove the melted chocolate from the stove and dry the bottom of the bowl.
Working with one leaf at a time, turn it so the visibly raised veins (the under-side) are facing up. Using a small paint brush, designated specifically for food purposes, carefully paint only the veined side with a generous layer of melted chocolate. Apply a slightly thicker layer of chocolate at the stem end, which will make it easier to unmold the leaves later. Use your finger to carefully wipe off the outer edges of the leaf and lay it, chocolate-side up, in the freezer, on the tray. Continue with the remaining leaves and allow them to remain in the freezer for 30 minutes to 1 hour before unmolding them.
To unmold:
Keep all the leaves in the freezer while working with one at a time. Lay a piece of paper towel on the palm of your non-working hand. Lay the chocolate coated leaf on the paper towel, chocolate-side up, and, using the thumb and forefinger of your working hand, grasp the small exposed tip of the stem. Invert the leaf, chocolate-side down, and carefully lift and peel back the stem tip, separating the leaf from the chocolate. (The chocolate should be resting on the paper towel to keep the warmth of your hand from melting it.) Immediately place the leaf back in the freezer and continue unmolding the remaining leaves. (Although you won’t need all of the leaves for the torte, it’s best to make extra to allow for some breakage.)
To make the praline:
Sauté the hulled pumpkin seeds in the melted clarified butter over medium heat, stirring constantly, until nicely toasted, about 3 minutes. Drain the seeds on paper towels, then place them in a bowl and toss them with the salt. Brush the interior of a shallow (preferably nonstick) baking sheet well, with flavorless vegetable oil and set it near the stove. Brush the blade of a long metal icing spatula or a table knife with some oil, as well, and place this next to the baking sheet. Place the sugar and 1/4 cup water into a small heavy-bottomed saucepan, preferably with a light-colored interior. Stir the mixture, just to help liquefy the sugar, without getting any sugar crystals on the side of the pan. Place a small cup of boiling water next to the stove and insert a pastry brush. Bring the sugar to a boil, uncovered, over medium-high heat, and let it bubble until it turns a deep amber color. If, as the mixture bubbles, any sugar jumps to the side of the saucepan, use the wet pastry brush to wash this away. When the correct color is achieved (it should look like a well-brewed cup of regular tea), remove the pan from the heat and stir in the pepitas and the vanilla.
Immediately, pour the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet, and, using the oiled spatula or knife, spread the praline so it has an even thickness. Place the pan on a wire rack, and let the praline cool and harden completely, about 1 hour. When cool, lift off the praline and break it into irregular pieces. Place these pieces into a doubled, heavy-duty freezer bag and, using a heavy mallet or a hammer, bust up the praline into very small pieces without pulverizing it. Alternatively, pulse the praline in a food processor, fitted with the steel blade, being careful not to turn it into dust. Transfer the praline to a bowl and set it aside.
When ready to fully assemble the torte, make the ganache topping:
Position a medium-mesh sieve over a mixing bowl and set it aside. Place the chopped chocolate in a small bowl. Heat 1/2 cup cream in a small saucepan over low heat and, when it comes to a boil, remove it from the heat and pour it over the chocolate. Let it sit for 1 minute, then stir the mixture until it’s very smooth. Stir in the vanilla and vegetable oil, and then force the ganache through the sieve, using a rubber spatula. Set it aside, until just warm.
To assemble the torte:
If very chilled, remove the torte from the refrigerator 10 to 20 minutes before ready to unmold. Run the blade of a sharp knife around the circumference of the pan, and place the bottom of the pan on a kitchen towel that’s been soaked in very hot water and wrung out. Leave it this way for 3 to 5 minutes. Place a piece of wax paper on top of the torte and place a flat cookie sheet or a tray over the paper. Invert the pan onto the tray and lift off the cake pan. (If stubborn, place the pan on the stove, over low heat, for only a few seconds.) Remove and discard the parchment paper. Carefully center your serving platter on top of the exposed cookie crust and invert it, so the custard is facing up. Discard the wax paper.
If the ganache has become too stiff to pour, rewarm it briefly, either by placing the bowl in a skillet of hot water, or, for several seconds, in the microwave. Pour the ganache onto the center of the baked custard. Using a long, metal icing spatula, spread the ganache over the custard, just shy of the edge of the torte, without letting the chocolate drip down the sides. Using either the jagged edge of a decorating comb or the tines of a fork, make decorative ridges or lines over the entire top, starting at the outer rim. As you do this, the ganache will naturally move toward the outer edge of custard. If the ganache starts to fall over the edge, use your icing spatula to push it back up, while smoothing the sides. Decorate the top rim with a border of crushed praline, and then lay several of the chocolate leaves, slightly overlapping, in the center, in the shape of a flower. Place a small mound of crushed praline in the eye of the flower, then cover the torte with a domed cake cover and refrigerate it, until 10 to 20 minutes before serving.
To serve:
  • Present the torte whole, and then slice it into individual wedges, each accompanied by a chocolate leaf.
  • If you don’t have the pre-assembled spice blend:
  • Use 1 teaspoon each: ground cinnamon, ginger, and freshly grated nutmeg.  Add 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves.
Timing is Everything:
The pumpkin custard torte can be baked up to two days ahead and, once cool, covered well and refrigerated.
The praline can be made two weeks ahead and stored in the refrigerator in a sealed heavy-duty plastic container.
The chocolate leaves can be made one month ahead and kept in the freezer, in an airtight tin, separated by sheets of wax paper.
Apply the praline and leaves to the top of the torte no more than 3 hours ahead and keep it refrigerated until 10 to 20 minutes before serving. Don’t keep the assembled torte in a hot kitchen, however, or the leaves can start to soften and lose their shape.

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Christmas Morning Cinnamon Buns

Can you imagine how special it would be to wake up to the aroma of fresh cinnamon buns baking? Well, when it’s this easy, you can make any day feel and taste like a holiday!
Yield:14 cinnamon buns
For the dough:
  • up to 3 ¾ cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 envelope rapid-rise yeast
  • 1 ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 / 2 cup milk
  • 1 / 4 cup butter
  • 1 extra-large egg, at room temperature
For the cinnamon-raisin filling:
  • 1 / 4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup raisins (Mix light and dark.)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
For the egg glaze:
  • 1 extra-large egg mixed with 2 teaspoons water, 1 generous tablespoon maple syrup, and then strain
For the powdered sugar glaze:
  • 2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 tablespoons milk, or as needed
To assemble the dough:
In a large bowl, combine 2-1 / 2 cups flour, sugar, undissolved yeast and salt. Heat water, milk and butter until “hot to the touch” (120° to 130°F). Gradually add to flour mixture. Beat 2 minutes at medium speed of electric mixer (with the paddle attachment), scraping the bowl occasionally. Add the egg and 1 more cup of flour; beat 2 minutes at a moderately high speed. Using a wooden spoon, stir in just enough remaining flour to make the dough leave the sides of the bowl. Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface, and knead until smooth and elastic, about 2 minutes. Cover with a towel, and let rest 15 minutes.
Gather the fillings:
In a small bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon with a whisk. Put raisins in another bowl.
To assemble cinnamon buns and rise:
Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Divide the dough into 2 equal portions; roll each portion to an approximately 12 x 8-inch rectangle. Brush each with melted butter; sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, then scatter the raisins on top.  (Use half of each for each half of dough.) Beginning at short end, roll up tightly as for jelly roll. Pinch seam to seal. With a sharp, serrated knife, cut each roll into 7 pieces. Place, cut sides up, on prepared baking sheet(s). Cover; let rise in warm, draft-free place until double in size…about 1 hour. Or, for morning buns, cover the buns with a clean kitchen towel, and then again with plastic wrap. Refrigerate. In the morning, preheat the oven to between 350°F and 375°F, and allow the buns to sit out of refrigeration for 1 to 1 1/2 hours before glazing.
To glaze and bake:
Brush the buns with the egg glaze, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden and cooked through. (Rotate the sheet front to back once during baking, and, if buns become overly brown, cover loosely with aluminum foil…shiny side up.) Remove from the oven and let buns sit on the sheet for 5 minutes.
While the buns bake, assemble the powdered sugar glaze:
In a small bowl, whisk together powdered sugar and enough milk to make a glaze that’s thick, but able to be drizzled luxuriously. Remove to a wire rack that sits over wax paper. Drizzle with powdered sugar glaze. (Alternatively, you can spoon and then spread the glaze over the warm buns.)

Mixed-Nut Cigar Cookies with Edible Ash (for dipping)

What a hoot! Finally, a cigar that people won’t mind you enjoying indoors! These whimsical cookies are outrageously good. And, when one end is dipped in the edible “ash,” made of powdered sugar whisked with either cinnamon or unsweetened cocoa powder, they’re amazingly life-like.
Yield: nine or ten 8 to 10-inch cigars (may be doubled)
For the cookie batter:
  • 3 tablespoons melted, unsalted butter, for brushing, plus 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, for the batter
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 extra-large egg whites
  • 1/3 cup plain cake flour (not self-rising)
  • 1/2 slightly rounded cup dry-toasted nuts (a combination of macadamia and blanched almonds)
For the instant ash:
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • ground cinnamon or Dutch-processed unsweetened cocoa, as needed
To get ready to bake:
Position the oven rack on the center shelf and preheat the oven to 375oF. Generously butter a few insulated cookie sheets. If you don’t have these, generously grease the bottom underside of a few regular heavy aluminum baking sheets. Place the toasted nuts in the bowl of a food processor, fitted with the steel blade, and pulse them until they’re finely ground, without allowing them to turn into nut butter. (Alternatively, place the nuts in a heavy-duty plastic bag and roll over them with a rolling pin.) Set aside.
Cream the butter with the sugar and salt until creamy, using an electric mixer or a wooden spoon. Add the vanilla and egg whites and mix, at low speed, until combined thoroughly, but not overly light. Use a rubber spatula to scrape any butter up from the bottom of the bowl and mix again. Sift the cake flour directly over the egg white mixture, then sprinkle the nuts on top and fold everything together, combining well.
Drop one generous tablespoon of batter, at two separate places, on your prepared cookie sheet(s) with several inches in between them. Using the back of the spoon, spread the mixture out into very thin rounds between 4 and 5 inches in diameter. Spread the batter evenly within each round, so the cookies bake uniformly. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes, or until the cookies have a deep golden-brown 2-inch boarder with centers that are several shades lighter.
To shape the cigars, remove the cookie sheet from the oven, but don’t turn it off. Rest the sheet on a flat heatproof surface for about twenty seconds. Working quickly, so the cookie doesn’t become brittle, run a long thin metal icing spatula under one round, lifting it off the sheet and flipping it over, flat-side up, keeping it on the hot baking sheet. Place the long handle of either a long-handled wooden spoon or a chopstick across the top end of the cookie. (If using a wooden spoon, the bowl of the spoon must be extended past the counter so you can make full revolutions while wrapping the cookie around the handle, without being interrupted by the bigger shape of the spoon.) Use the spatula to lift the top lip towards the stick and roll the cookie down, snugly, around the handle, as neatly as possible. When you reach the other end, make one final revolution and apply pressure to the seam, sealing it neatly. Lift the stick and, using your working hand, carefully remove the cookie and place it on a wire rack to cool. Quickly shape the remaining cookie, as directed. Keep making cookies this way until you’ve finished the batter, before reusing a cookie sheet, run it under cold water and dry it, before greasing it with butter. (If the baked cookies ever become too hard to roll, place the sheet back into the oven for 30 to 40 seconds, to soften it.) Once cool, store the cookies (carefully), in an air-tight tin, separated by sheets of wax paper. Keep in an out-of-the-way place, to prevent accidental breakage.
To make the edible ash and serve:
Place the powdered sugar in a bowl and whisk in 2 to 4 teaspoons cinnamon or cocoa powder, or enough to create the desired color. To serve the cigars, you have a few choices. Either stack them, horizontally, in an actual humidor (keeping it open) and pass them around the table. Or, before serving, swirl one end of each cigar cookie in the sugar mixture and stack the cigars on a platter with the ash-ends all facing in one direction. Either way, provide each person with their own small bowl of ash, for dipping.
If planning to give these cookies as a gift, package them carefully on a bed of delicately crumpled tissue paper in either a sturdy bakery box or a tin. Place the ash mixture in a small plastic bag and tie it closed with a thin decorative ribbon. Enclose the ash with the cookies with written instructions, for dipping.
Timing is Everything:
If the weather is dry, the cigars can be made one day ahead and stored, at room temperature, as described in the recipe.
The ash can be made a few days ahead and stored at room temperature, well covered.

Orange-Scented Currant Scones

This recipe produces scones that are (as far as my family and friends are concerned) unsurpassed. The biscuit mix has been specifically designed to make scones that are lighter than most with a very tender, slightly cake-like, crumb. And, if you use my timing strategy at the end of this recipe, you’ll see that making more than one type is a snap.
Yield: serves 6 to 8
For the glaze:
  • 1 egg at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the scones:
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons orange juice (or thawed frozen orange juice concentrate)
  • 1 extra-large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons minced orange zest (the colored part only)
  • 2 cups prepared baking powder biscuit mix (See the end of this recipe.)
  • 1/3 cup vanilla sugar or regular granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • 6 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into small dices
  • 1/2 rounded cup dried (but supple) currants
  • All-purpose flour, as needed, for dusting
  • Powdered sugar for dusting, optional
To prepare the glaze, combine the egg, cream, sugar and vanilla, using a fork. Pour this through a medium-mesh sieve into another bowl, and set it aside.
To assemble the scones, preheat the oven to 400oF with the rack in the center. Line a flat cookie sheet with parchment paper. Combine the cream, orange juice, egg, vanilla and zest, in a 1-cup liquid measuring cup. Whirl the biscuit mix and sugar in the work-bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade, to combine well. Add the currants and pulse, to distribute evenly. Drop the cold, diced butter into the work-bowl and use the pulsing button, to cut the butter into the flour mixture until it looks like coarse meal. Uncover the bowl and pour in most of the liquid ingredients (reserving only about 2 tablespoons) and, after attaching the cover, pulse just until the batter seems cohesive. (Don’t overwork it). If the mixture seems at all dry, add the remaining liquid and pulse it in. (Scone dough should be moist, but not overly wet.)
Turn the mass of dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead the dough gently  about 8 or 9 times. Use a scraper, when necessary, to help lift the dough off the work surface, if wet in certain areas.
Pat the dough into a 1-inch thick round and transfer it to the prepared baking sheet. Using a sharp chef’s knife, cut the dough into 6 or 8 wedges. Wipe off the knife, after each cut, and sprinkle the blade with some flour. Repeat this cutting procedure, going into the original lines and, when the blade reaches the bottom, rock the blade (by its handle) back and forth to widen the space in between each wedge. Do this several times, if necessary, until there’s between 1/8 and 1/4-inch between the wide part of each wedge. Of course, this space will be much narrower at the center.
Use a pastry brush to remove any excess flour on the dough, then brush the tops with the prepared glaze. Sprinkle the tops with sugar and bake for 20 minutes, then remove the sheet from the oven and, using a sharp chef’s knife, cut in between each wedge, wiping off the blade after each cut. If necessary, go over your cuts until sure that all the wedges are completely separate. One by one, place a narrow metal spatula underneath each wedge, and pull it away from the rest, giving them all total exposure to heat. Place the sheet back into the oven, and reduce the temperature to 375oF. Bake for 5 minutes more. Cool the wedges completely, on a rack.
Before serving, if desired, give the tops of the scones a light dusting of powdered sugar. Store scones at room temperature in an airtight container or individually wrapped with plastic wrap.
Chocolate Chip Variation:
Substitute 1/2 cup of mini-chocolate chips for the currants. Keep everything else the same.
Dried Cherry Variation:
Substitute 1/2 cup dried cherries (chopped, if too big). Omit the orange juice and zest and increase the cream by 3 tablespoons. Add to the cream 1/4 teaspoon each pure almond extract and vanilla. All of the remaining directions stay the same.
If you don’t have the pre-assembled biscuit mix:Per each batch of scones, mix 2 cups all-purpose flour with 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1 tablespoon sugar and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Whisk well and follow the previous instructions. Note: If using a bleached flour, you might need a bit less liquid to create the dough as described. Let your hands be your guide!
Timing is Everything: For fresh-baked scones first thing in the morning, do this:
The night before:
Line your baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the biscuit mix and sugar in the bowl of your food processor and leave it there, with the lid on. Place the currants in a bowl, on the counter. Cut the butter into dice and leave it in the refrigerator, covered. Mix the cream, orange juice, zest, egg and the vanilla together and leave it in the refrigerator, covered. Assemble your glaze and refrigerate it, covered. Place a few tablespoons of sugar in a little bowl, for sprinkling, and leave it on your counter.
In the morning:
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Cut the butter into the dry mixture, mix in the currants, add the wet ingredients, and follow the remaining instructions.
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Baking Powder Biscuit Mix

Baking Powder Biscuit MixIf you don’t want to fuss with measuring tools and bags of flour on a hectic weekday, which is when we could all use a good biscuit, why not use a few minutes on a leisurely weekend or on a free evening to quickly put together this mix. That way, a fresh batch of tender biscuits is always just minutes away.
Yield: the mix fills a 5-pound container (about 7 batches of biscuits)
For the biscuit mix:
  • *14 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour (See note.)
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
Use a whisk to thoroughly combine all the ingredients in an extra-large mixing bowl and sift this into another large bowl. Whisk again thoroughly, then spoon the mix into a 5-pound capacity canister with a tight-fitting lid. Store the canister on a cool, dry pantry shelf.
* You can substitute a softer, self-rising flour in this mix, just be sure to omit the baking powder and salt, since these ingredients are already contained in self-rising flour. Also, since this is a softer flour, you might need a bit less liquid to create a dough of proper texture, so let your hands be your guide.

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