Eighteen years ago mutual friends introduced me to The Artist on St. Patrick’s Day. Yes, good things can come from hanging out in bars, LOL! In honor of our anniversary and in celebration of my favorite day of year, these cookies are a blending of our two heritages, Italian and Irish.
The original recipe follows the tradition of Italian olive oil cookies, one of The Artist’s favorites from his childhood. He saw the recipe in Fine Cooking and begged me to make him some. In the intervening years I have made changes, adapted them to gluten-free, and added the glaze. While the originals were wonderful, I think these are even better and certainly make my guy happy!
If you are watching your calories or want to avoid dairy, leave off the glaze. These cookies are beautiful all on their own and are especially good served alongside a strong cup of espresso. With the addition of the dried fruits and Fiori di Sicilia, they are a bit reminiscent of the flavor of panettone and other Italian baked goods. Fiori di Sicilia is one of my secret weapons from King Arthur Flour. The flavor is a blend of vanilla and citrus, which is intriguing and mysterious.
I have been using a rasp-style grater for years and thought nothing would ever beat a Microplane grater. Well I have found one that does everything a Microplane does and more! Allow me to introduce you to the Better Zester from Edgeware. It has an angled handle that is non-slip and easy to use, it comes with a cover to protect the blades and your fingers when you’re grabbing it out of the drawer, and best of all, a container to catch the zest and measure it at the same time! And if that wasn’t enough, the designers even figured out how to include an automatic “squeegee” that scrapes all the wet zest from the back of blade, making sure you get every bit without risk of injury. Brilliant!
I love this new and improved grater for all kinds of tasks. It is strong and versatile and even dishwasher safe. You can use it for grating fresh Parmesan cheese on your pasta, nutmeg in your cookies or eggnog and of course all kinds of citrus for zest that has all the flavor and none of the annoying chewiness. At under $15 this is one heck of a bargain and a perfect hostess gift for the cooks in your life.
Whenever I make these cookies I freeze half the dough for future baking. Roll it into a log and wrap in parchment paper. On the outside of the parchment roll write down the oven temperature and length of baking time. Then wrap the entire log in a double-layer of plastic wrap. If your spouse or kids want freshly baked cookies, all they have to do is pull the log of dough out of the freezer, cut into slices and bake them off. It saves us a lot of work and we get to sit back and eat the goodies while they take their bows.
I am off to celebrate with The Artist and some friends tonight. I wish you all a very Happy St. Patrick’s Day and a wonderful Chocolate Monday!
Erin go Bragh and Buon Appetito!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
Use the timing as a guideline only when baking these cookies. You will know they are done when they are firm in the center when touched gently with your fingertip and by the aroma in the kitchen. They won’t look done, but the bottoms will be lightly golden brown. Don’t overcook them and you’ll be thrilled with the results!
Use my favorite basic recipe for gluten-free all-purpose flour and keep it in a bucket on your counter for easy baking any time. Just make sure you shake it well to redistribute all the different flours, leaveners, and gums every time before measuring.
- 1 cup “European Candied Mixed Peel” from King Arthur Flour or mixed candied lemon, orange, and citron fruit peels
- 3 cups pecans (you can also use walnuts, almonds or hazelnuts if you have nut allergies in your house)
- 2-1/4 cups (315g) all-purpose flour or a Gluten-Free flour blend with xanthan or guar gum (http://theheritagecook.com/gluten-free-3/sample-gluten-free-flour-blend-recipes/)
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup light olive oil or vegetable oil
- 2 large eggs (or use egg substitute for a vegan cookie)
- 1/2 tsp Fiori di Sicilia or pure vanilla extract
- Turbinado or raw sugar crystals
- White Chocolate-Orange Glaze
- 1 cup white chocolate, chopped
- 2 to 3 tbsp mascarpone cheese
- Zest of 1 orange, very finely minced
- Make the Cookie Dough: In a food processor, finely chop the candied peels and/or fruits. Set aside. If you do not have food processor, chop very finely with a sharp knife.
- Add pecans to the food processor bowl and pulse a few times. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt. Process until nuts are finely chopped.
- In the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer combine sugar, oil, eggs, and flavoring. Mix on low speed until eggs are blended and then increase to medium for about 30 seconds until smooth. Blend in the chopped fruit. Add the dry ingredients to the bowl and carefully mix on low until it just holds together, about 30 to 45 seconds. Do not overbeat.
- Transfer half of dough to a sheet of parchment paper. Using the paper to help you, form into a log about 12-inches long. Wrap with the parchment and twist the ends closed. Repeat with remaining dough.
- Place both logs in the freezer to firm up, for about 30 minutes to 1 hour. I like to flatten out the edges of the logs to make rectangular-shaped cookies. It adds a nice variety to the shapes on a platter of mixed cookies and you don’t have to worry about trying to keep the logs perfectly round.
- The dough can be frozen for up to 1 month. Write baking directions on outside of parchment and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. These make wonderful hostess gifts!!
- When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350°F, with the racks set in the upper and lower thirds of oven.
- Roll the logs in the coarse or colored sugar, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices, and place on parchment or Silpat-lined baking sheets. They do not spread during baking so you can set them fairly close together.
- Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until bottoms are golden brown and the tops feel fairly firm to the touch. They will get very little color on the top so watch carefully. You can also tell they are done when you can smell them baking – your nose can often tell before your eyes when baked goods are ready! Make sure you spin the baking sheet front to back halfway through for most even baking, and if you are baking two sheets at once, move the ones on the top rack to the bottom and the bottom to the top.
- Transfer to wire racks to cool completely before glazing them.
- Make the Glaze: In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, combine the white chocolate and mascarpone cheese. Whisk continuously until melted and smooth. White chocolate burns easily and keeping it moving will help protect it from the heat. When it is smooth, remove from the heat and stir in the orange zest. Set aside to cool. Glaze will thicken as it cools.
- Set cooled cookies on a sheet of parchment paper and using a small spoon, drop a dollop of glaze in the center of each cookie. Use the back of the spoon to gently spread the glaze out to the edges of the cookies. If some of it spills over the side, the parchment will save your counter.
- This glaze will remain tacky unless chilled thoroughly. If you want to stack the cookies make sure you cool them in the refrigerator first. Mine never last long enough to worry about this!
- Yield: about 4 dozen cookies
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