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Orange, spices update a classic

Recipe: Cardamom and turmeric are the surprising ingredients

Orange olive-oil cookies
These spiced sugar cookies, loaded with orange zest, brighten up a gray day. (Photos: Kathy Morrison)

Wet, gray, cold -- sounds like perfect cookie-baking weather. And a couple of large oranges self-harvested from my little Washington navel tree. They're not at their ripest, but the zest is definitely usable.

So I found a new winter cookie  among the group of recipes that King Arthur Flour released this year, a collection dubbed "The New Classics." A sugar cookie is about as classic as you can get, and this zesty version is a winner -- and very pretty. It's more likely to appeal to adults than kids, and would go especially well with a good cup of tea.

The cardamom and turmeric are less-common spices in baking but they shine here. Substitute allspice for the cardamom if you're not a fan, but the turmeric is essential for the cookies' delightful color.

Orange,  olive oil and spice containers
The flavor group: an orange, olive oil and spices.

Olive oil-orange sugar cookies

Makes about 30 cookies


8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened but not melty

1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted if lumpy

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup good-quality olive oil

Zest of 1 large or 2 small oranges

1 large egg

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom (or allspice)

Sugar, orange zest and spices
Orange zest and spices enhance the sugar coating.

1/8 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour


1/2 cup granulated sugar or sanding sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom (or allspice)

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

Zest of 1 large or 2 small oranges


Cream the butter with the sugars. Add the olive oil and zest and combine thoroughly. Stir in the egg, vanilla and spices until mixture is smooth.

Stir in the baking soda, baking powder, salt and flour, mixing until smooth.

Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees, and line baking sheets with parchment paper. (Alternatively, lightly grease the baking pans.)

Make the coating by combining all the ingredients in a small bowl. Scoop the dough by tablespoons  (a cookie scoop is ideal) and roll into balls, then roll the balls in the sugar coating.

Dough balls and a green bowl of zest-sugar coating
The zest makes the coating a bit thicker, but it doesn't seem
that way once the cookies are baked.

Place the balls on the parchment paper about 1-1/2 inches apart.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until the edges just are starting to brown. Let them cool on the pan on a cooling rack for about 10 minutes before removing to cool completely.

Make-ahead note: The balls of dough, without the sugar coating, can be frozen. When ready to bake, make the coating and roll the frozen dough in it; no need to defrost, but allow a little extra time for baking.


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of Dec. 3:

Make the most of gaps between raindrops. This is a busy month!

* Windy conditions brought down a lot of leaves. Make sure to rake them away from storm drains.

* Use those leaves as mulch around frost-tender shrubs and new transplants.

* Rake and remove dead leaves and stems from dormant perennials.

* Just because it rained doesn't mean every plant got watered. Give a drink to plants that the rain didn't reach, such as under eves or under evergreen trees. Also, well-watered plants hold up better to frost than thirsty plants.

* Prune non-flowering trees and shrubs while they're dormant.

* Clean and sharpen garden tools before storing for the winter.

* Brighten the holidays with winter bloomers such as poinsettias, amaryllis, calendulas, Iceland poppies, pansies and primroses.

* Keep poinsettias in a sunny, warm location. Water thoroughly. After the holidays, feed your plants monthly so they'll bloom again next December.

* Plant one last round of spring bulbs including daffodils, crocuses, hyacinths, anemones and scillas. Get those tulips out of the refrigerator and into the ground.

* This is also a good time to seed wildflowers such as California poppies.

* Plant such spring bloomers as sweet pea, sweet alyssum and bachelor buttons.

* Late fall is the best time to plant most trees and shrubs. This gives them plenty of time for root development before spring growth. They also benefit from fall and winter rains.

* Lettuce, cabbage and broccoli also can be planted now.

* Plant garlic and onions.

* Bare-root season begins. Plant bare-root berries, kiwifruit, grapes, artichokes, horseradish and rhubarb. Beware of soggy soil. It can rot bare-root plants.

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