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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

Ingredients:

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

Coating:

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

Instructions:

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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Garden Checklist for week of May 19

Temperatures will be a bit higher than normal in the afternoons this week. Take care of chores early in the day – then enjoy the afternoon. It’s time to smell the roses.

* Plant, plant, plant! It’s prime planting season in the Sacramento area. If you haven’t already, it’s time to set out those tomato transplants along with peppers and eggplants. Pinch off any flowers on new transplants to make them concentrate on establishing roots instead of setting premature fruit.

* Direct-seed melons, cucumbers, summer squash, corn, radishes, pumpkins and annual herbs such as basil.

* Harvest cabbage, lettuce, peas and green onions.

* In the flower garden, direct-seed sunflowers, cosmos, salvia, zinnias, marigolds, celosia and asters.

* Plant dahlia tubers. Other perennials to set out include verbena, coreopsis, coneflower and astilbe.

* Transplant petunias, marigolds and perennial flowers such as astilbe, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis, dahlias, rudbeckia and verbena.

* Keep an eye out for slugs, snails, earwigs and aphids that want to dine on tender new growth.

* Feed summer bloomers with a balanced fertilizer.

* For continued bloom, cut off spent flowers on roses as well as other flowering plants.

* Don’t forget to water. Seedlings need moisture. Deep watering will help build strong roots and healthy plants.

* Add mulch to the garden to help keep that precious water from evaporating. Mulch also cuts down on weeds. But don’t let it mound around the stems or trunks of trees or shrubs. Leave about a 6-inch to 1-foot circle to avoid crown rot or other problems.

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