Archive | January 2014

The Dervishes – twirling whirling cookies

They look  intricate and yet are so easy to create – think Swiss roll! A layer of simple shortcake mix rolled out and then covered with a contrasting mix. Rolled out – spread over –  rolled up-chilled and then sliced! So easy, so versatile and so delicious.

Takes a little time and thought – but is pretty well foolproof.  Simply make your shortcake/pastry mix. It will be delicate – so chill it and roll it out carefully – then cover with whatever you think is the best ‘filling’. Roll up and chill again before slicing and baking. I love them because they look like they were so much more trouble than they were.  You could fill with jam, a bit  like a traditional Swiss roll, or with Nutella, melted caramel or cinnamon sugar and nuts.  Fillings are as wide as your imagination (or store cupboard) will allow.


Here is the first trick- just roll out the shortbread dough between two sheets of parchment paper. This means you can mark the size you are trying to work towards  on the top piece (i.e. pencil out the 12 inch square) To be honest – for me regular squares are difficult to achieve and I’ve never worried about them – but a guide stops you producing some totally loopy unworkable blob!

Next  stage is to spread on the filling ( in this case dates simmered in lemon juice, honey and a little cinnamon )

spreading the filling

spreading the filling

It looks a little gooey as you can see- and in this case I think I kind of overdid the filling. However, once it is rolled up – it looks fine.


Once rolled and chilled  for an hour- all that you need to do is slice and bake!  Here are results

little whirls and scrolls of date inside a lemon crust
little whirls and scrolls of date inside a lemon crust

Now for the recipe -( I have made these with orange instead of lemon – the flavours combine well – never be afraid to experiment!)

Date and Lemon Spirals


225g/80z unsalted butter

175g/60z caster sugar

1 egg yolk lightly beaten

1 tsp lemon extract

280g/10oz. plain flour

2 tbsp clear honey

5 tbsp lemon juice

1 tbsp finely grated lemon rind

125ml/4 fl oz water

1 tsp ground cinnamon


Preheat oven to 190c/375f/gas mark 5

Put the butter and 140 g /5 0z of the sugar into a bowl and mix well. Stir in the egg yolk and lemon extract until well absorbed. Sift in the flour and salt until thoroughly combined. Roll into a ball – wrap in cling-film and chill for 30 mins.

Meanwhile put the dates, honey, lemon juice and grated rind into a saucepan. Bring to the boil, stirring often to stop the dates sticking, finally reduce the heat and let simmer for five minutes. Ideally the dates will have formed a kind of paste – if not add more water or a little more honey. Chill the mix for 15 minutes.

Mix together the remaining sugar and cinnamon. Roll out the dough ( See above for help with this) It should be roughly a 12″ square – but don’t stress on this – all you need is something vaguely square or rectangular so you don’t waste pastry when you roll it up.

Once rolled, cover with clingfilm and chill for 60 mins. Unwrap and slice – the mix makes around 20 – 24 slices.  Place the slices on baking trays lined with parchment and bake for 12-15 mins. the dough should be tinged golden brown.  Leave to cool for 10 minutes then transfer to cooling trays.

If you need to – they will keep in an airtight container – but maybe you will find they have been eaten before you know it.

Other ‘Dervish’ cookies will follow soon……….






‘Forgotten’ Cookies from Lauren (my daughter-in-law)

It was while she was driving me to the airport in Washington DC that Lauren mentioned these cookies. At first I thought it was a joke. She had forgotten about ‘Forgotten cookies‘ ! She was a little vague about them at first, but then remembered that her mom used to put them in the oven and leave them overnight – hence the name ‘forgotten’ Lauren’s family are from New Orleans – the legendary Big Easy where food in all its forms is celebrated and certainly where I once attended a cookery school, run by one of its legends Kev Belton. I would highly recommend his courses – a great way to learn something of Southern Food as well as chat to other friendly visitors and of course to drink a Dixie beer and eat some great Gumbo!

forgotten 3

I did some more research and found that they were in fact a mixture of meringue and chocolate chip ( with variations including some form of chopped nuts – in Louisiana this would normally be pecans)  So when I got back to UK, I was determined to explore the theme. Egg white, sugar and chocolate chips and chopped nuts didn’t seem such a bad notion. I wonder why quality chocolate chips are so expensive to buy here in UK – whereas in US they are very  cheap? I bought quantities of Nestle Toll House chocolate morsels (bitter/sweet as well as milk chocolate and white….yummy!) So once I had unpacked, got my head back into the winds and torrential rain of My Homeland (not to mention the flooding and the fact darkness arrives at 3.30 p.m.) I found I had stowed away multi packets of  morsels and decided not to forget ‘Forgotten cookies’ any more.

forgotten 4

As you can see – they are a kind of meringue. However they have little in common with  the crispy dried out numbers that I have made in the past. These are soft and gooey and deliciously chocolatey.






2 large egg whites

120 g golden castor sugar ( you can throw golden granulated into a liquidiser and grind it up if you don’t have any castor)

(120g chopped pecans or other nuts if desired)

150g chocolate morsels – mixed plain and milk ( or more if not using nuts)

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C/gas 4/fan 160C. Line two baking sheets with parchment. In a large clean bowl, whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff and dry. You should be able to hold the bowl upside-down when they are fully whisked. Gradually whisk in the sugar a little at a time – you will notice that the meringue mix becomes not only thick and creamy but very glossy at this point. Tip in the pecan nuts and chocolate, then the vanilla extract and gently fold into the meringue with a silicon spatula. Go easy on the stirring – you don’t want to disturb the mixture. Remember to stir in the vanilla – this is the Southern ingredient!
  2. Spoon heaped teaspoonfuls of the meringue mixture on the lined baking sheets. I made twelve blobs from this recipe.
  3. Carefully lower the baking sheets into the oven – close the door and then – SWITCH THE OVEN OFF! How abandoned is that? You can actually go shopping or even go to bed and nothing can go wrong!
  4. To be honest – you might need to pop them in for another 30 mins or to lower/raise the heat of your particular oven. They should still be squidgy and chocolatey when finished and I am sure everyone in the family will love them. They could be served along with ice-cream, chocolate mousse or  some other creamy dessert which needs  just a touch  of crunch!
forgotten cookies

chocolate morsels just melted

forgotten 5

fresh from the oven







Do you have any variations on this? recipe?



Who’d have thought it? – German Christmas cookies in the Deep South?

Two ladies in their kitchens just before Christmas. Very intent on what they are doing! What could it be that occupies them so intently?

What else but COOKIES! 

Penny in New Orleans kitchen

Penny in New Orleans kitchen

On the left is Penny – she lives in New Orleans with her husband Martyn who is a professor at Tulane University. She is an administrator for a large company. On the right is Petra, she lives in Richmond Hill Georgia and  works as a cook at a local school. Her husband is a retired military an and is currently studying for a degree.

I met up with both of them on my Southern tour and was astonished to find they were baking exactly the same things! Penny lived in Tubingen southern Germany for more than 15 years and it obviously had a lasting effect

Petra in Savannah Georgia

Petra in Savannah Georgia

Petra on the right is German, although she has lived in US for quite a long time. Once December arrives she launches into cookie production big time! How strange that in different ways the German cookie tradition is alive and well in the Deep South – clearly once you have spent a December rolling and sugaring and icing little stars, crescents and circles, you can never stop, no matter where you live.

German cookie 2jammy gems

German cookie 1knobbly macaroonstrayful






Determined ladies of the Deep South. I admire you for keeping theses old European traditions alive in a place where sugary confectionery dominates the local grocery store and Crispy Creme donuts or iced ‘Danish’  are seen as appropriate breakfast food. (Call me an old fuddy duddy if you will!)

Here is the one recipe which was shared with me

 Basel Leckerli ( biscuits from Basel – which is actually in Switzerland)


  • 450 g honey (16 ounces)
  • 300 g sugar (10.5 ounces)
  • 1½ tablespoons of cinnamon
  • 1 pinch of clove powder
  • ½ teaspoon of nutmeg
  • 100 g (3.5 ounces) ground candied orange peel
  • 100 g (3.5 ounces) ground candied lemon peel
  • 200 g (7 ounces) ground almonds
  • Grated  skin of one lemon
  • 1 spoonful  (0.4 cup) of kirsch
  • 600g (21 ounces) flour
  • 1½ teaspoon of baking powder
  • 150 g (5 ounces) castor sugar
  • 3 to 5 tablespoons of kirsch –  water is fine at this stage unless you really want the buzz from kirsch.


  1. Put honey, sugar, cinnamon, clove powder and nut meg in a pan, heat up slowly, then remove from stove.
  2. Add candied orange peel, candied lemon peel, almonds and grated skin of lemon, stir until mixed evenly.
  3. Add kirsch, flour and baking powder, knead on a table to form a soft dough.
  4. While the dough is still warm, roll it out on the back of two greased baking sheets approximately 5 mm (0.2 inches) thick.
  5. Let it rest for about 5 to 6 hours or over night in a dry place.
  6. Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes in the center of the pre-heated oven at 220 °C (430 °F).
  7. Mix confectioner’s sugar and kirsch or water, chill dough immediately.
  8. Cut off edges. Cut dough in small pieces (5 x 3 cm, 2 x 1.5 inches), take them off the baking sheets and let them cool.

 Basel cookies

 All so delicious and don’t I just wish I had the patience. Thank you for inviting me into your kitchens in Georgia and Louisiana my friends. My tasting (compulsory you understand) was a wonderful Christmas event.