Chocolate Peppermint Linzer Cookies

Chocolate Peppermint Linzer Cookies

Granted, these cookies have nothing to do with Linzer tarts, but a few days ago I made Linzer cookies and thought they were so good I'd like to make a variation and this is what I came up with.  The Linzer cookie recipe follows.


8 oz. butter at room temperature
½ cup granulated sugar
2 ½ cups flour
½ cup cocoa
8 oz. white chocolate
2 small candy canes, finely crushed

Preheat oven to 325°
  1. Sift together flour and cocoa.
  2. Combine butter and sugar in mixer and beat until well blended.
  3. Gradually add flour mixture and beat until combined.
  4. Turn mixture out onto counter and knead lightly.
  5. Divide mixture in half.  
  6. Place on a sheet of waxed paper, pat out slightly, cover with a second sheet of waxed paper and roll out until about ¼" thick.
  7. Cut out into 1½" circles and place on parchment lined cookie sheet.
  8. Repeat with second half of dough, cutting out a circle or star in center of circles.
  9. Gather scraps together and reroll.
  10. Bake for about 12 minutes or until just set.
  11. Remove to cooling racks and cool completely.
  12. Melt chocolate, add crushed candy canes and mix well.
  13. Spread a small teaspoon of chocolate mixture on bottom cookie, top with cutout cookie and allow to set.
These will keep for a few days or may be frozen.

To make Linzer cookies

Follow the same recipe, substituting ½ cup of ground hazelnuts in place of the cocoa powder and spread the cookies with seedless raspberry jam.
Watch the video demonstration:

Crème Anglaise

Crème Anglaise is a versatile custard sauce that can be used to enhance many desserts.  One of my favorite uses is with bread pudding but it is also delicious with apple pie in place of the ubiquitous  vanilla ice cream.


½ cup whole milk
½ cup heavy cream
3 egg yolks
2 or 3 tablespoons sugar
½ a vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Slit vanilla bean and scrape out seeds.
Combine milk and cream in a saucepan and heat until mixture simmers.  Add vanilla seeds
Beat egg yolks and sugar in a bowl until combined.
Slowly add hot milk mixture stirring constantly.
Return mixture to the saucepan and cook, stirring until mixture barely simmers, about 170º to 175º.
Strain mixture into a clean bowl set in a bowl of ice and water and stir until custard is cool.
Cover and refrigerate.
Sauce will keep refrigerated for 2 days.

Crème Anglaise
View the Video:

Panettone Bread Pudding

Panettone is a rich, eggy bread with raisins, citron and citrus peel usually found at the holidays.  It originated in Milan but is now found all over Europe as well as the U.S.
While it is delicious as is or toasted for breakfast, it makes a wonderful bread pudding.  It can be a simple dessert or you can fancy it up by adding some crème anglaise  You can make it truly elegant by adding a bruleé topping and serving it with an individual sauce boat of the crème anglaise.  Because both the pudding and the sauce can be made ahead, it's a perfect dessert to prepare for company.

Panettone Bread Pudding

½ lb. panettone, cubed
4 large eggs
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract

Butter a 9 x 6 baking dish and add panettone cubes.
Whisk eggs and sugar, add remaining ingredients and whsk to combine.
Pour over bread cubes and allow to soak for at least 30 minutes, pressing down on bread cubes a few times.
  You may cover the dish and refrigerate overnight if you so desire.
Preheat oven to 350°.
Bake pudding for about 45 minutes or until puffed and lightly browned.
Allow to cool for about 30 minutes before serving.
Serve with crème anglaise.

Pudding will keep in refrigerator for 2 days.
View the video:

Dinner Party Menu-Part 5-Dessert Chocolate Amaretti Torte (Chocolate cake)

This is a cake I developed many years ago for a friend whose father imported chocolate and cocoa from Holland.  It is quite chocolatey and rich with an interesting texture.  It doesn't require frosting but a dollop of whipped cream goes very well - and a few raspberries don't hurt either!

The cake keeps, covered, very well for a few days and also freezes well.

You will get 12 - 16 servings from this cake.  If you are serving a smaller group, divide the mixture into 2 7" cake pans.  Enjoy one cake now and freeze the second.

  1. Grease a 10" cake pan, line the bottom with parchment paper, and grease again.
  2. Preheat oven to 350º.
  3. Dissolve coffee powder in Amaretto.
  4. Beat sugar and butter on high speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  5. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating just until incorporated into mixture.  Beat in coffee mixture, cocoa, almonds and Amaretti crumbs.  
  6. In a clean bowl, beat egg whites with cream of tartar until stiff but not dry.
  7. Mix in ¼ of the egg whites into chocolate mixture then fold in remaining whites with a large rubber spatula.
  8. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 40-45 minutes, or until a skewer comes out with just a few crumbs attached.
  9. Let cool for 10 - 15 minutes.  Invert onto a cooling rack, peel off parchment paper and invert onto another rack to cool completely.
  10. Transfer to serving dish and dust with powdered sugar.
NOTE:  If you don't have Amaretto liqueur, substitute ¼ cup water with 1 teaspoon almond extract.

Please watch the video:

Dinner Party Menu-Part Four: Entree (Chicken Francese)

It would never have occurred to me that this is a dish which could be prepared the day before until we had lunch at our favorite local Italian restaurant.  The portions were quite large, so I took half my chicken home. 
I reheated it - gently! - the next day and was amazed that it was just as good.  Of course, if you are preparing a family meal, you can do it at the last minute since it is quite quick to prepare - especially if you have chicken breasts in your freezer already sliced and pounded!

Chicken Francese with vegetables

Chicken Francese

4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
Salt and ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 eggs, beaten
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup dry white wine
½ cup chicken broth, preferably home made
Juice of 1 lemon
Lemon slices
Thyme sprigs or chopped parsley to garnish

Slice chicken breasts in half, horizontally, place between sheets of plastic wrap and pound until about ¼” thin.
Add salt and pepper to flour
Have ready a large skillet with the butter and olive oil heating over medium heat.
Dredge chicken breast in flour to coat thoroughly, shake off excess and then dip in beaten egg.
Add to skillet and cook for about 3 minutes on each side.  Don’t crowd the skillet.
When cooked, drain on paper towels and move to a large platter.
When all of the chicken is cooked, add the wine to the skillet and cook for a few minutes.  Add the chicken broth and lemon juice and cook until slightly reduced.
Return the chicken to the skillet to heat through.
Plate on individual serving plates, garnish with lemon slices and thyme or parsley and add vegetables.

You may note the difference in spelling. Is it Francaise or Francese? Both are correct spellings for this dish. Chicken Francese is used by most Italian-American cooks. Chicken Francaise is French.

This looks quick and easy, thanks Betty.

Watch the video

Dinner Party Menu- Part Three: Side Dishes

It's hard to give exact quantities for the vegetable portion of the menu, but a guideline would be:

Per person:
2 oz. green beans
2 oz. carrot, cut into batons about the same size as the green beans
1 medium red-skinned potato

If you know your guests are hearty eaters - just increase the quantity!

Cook the beans in salted, boiling water for about 5 minutes and transfer to a colander.
Add the carrots to the same water and, again, cook for about 5 minutes, and drain.
You are going to cook them again for a few minutes just prior to serving so check to see they are cooked the way you like them.  You can cook these the day before and store, covered, in the refrigerator.

Cut the potatoes in quarters, or smaller if the potato is large, and cook in salted, boiling water for about 5 minutes.
Drain well

Transfer the potatoes to a roasting pan, just large enough to hold them, sprinkle with 2 or 3 tablespoons of olive oil, just enough to make sure they are well coated, and cook at 400º for about 30 minutes or until nicely browned.

Just before serving, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a skillet, add the beans and carrots, sprinkle with a little garlic salt and cook until heated through.

Watch the video:

Dinner Menu-Part Two: Salad

In food and fashion trends come and go.  A few years ago, no self-respecting chef would offer anything containing iceberg lettuce in his restaurant but it has suddenly started to appear in some high-end restaurants as "Wedge Salad".  Topped with a blue cheese dressing, crumbled blue cheese, crisp crumbles of bacon and some diced tomato, its a delicious way to start a meal.  Portions can be as large or small as you like!

To serve 8

1 head of iceberg lettuce, cut it wedges
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup sour cream
4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
10 slices bacon, cooked until crisp and crumbled (or more to taste)
2 or 3 tomatoes, diced, seeds and juice discarded

Combine the mayonnaise and sour cream.  Add half the blue cheese and stir to combine. 
If the dressing appears too thick, add milk a tablespoon or two at a time until the desired consistency is reached.

Place lettuce wedge on a serving plate, top with dressing and sprinkle with the reserved blue cheese, bacon, crumbles and diced tomato.

Note:  The day before your party you can make the dressing; the lettuce can be cut into wedges, the tomato diced and all wrapped and stored in the refrigerator.  The bacon can be cooked and crumbled and stored, lightly wrapped on the counter.

Watch the video:

Betty Busciglio’s Infamous Cheesecake (New York Style)

A rich New York style cheesecake, easy to prepare - if you have an electric mixer - and you can make it ahead and freeze it.  Pretty much makes it the perfect dessert.  In a perfect world it would come out of the oven after its cooling period without that annoying crack in the middle, but should that happen - not to worry!  Just add a fruit topping, such as the sliced strawberries that I use and no-one will be the wiser.

Betty Busciglio’s Infamous Cheesecake


24 ounces cream cheese
1½ cups sugar
4 eggs
2 cups sour cream
1 cup  heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1.  Beat cream cheese until smooth in mixer or processor
2.  Add sugar gradually and beat till light and fluffy
3.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition
4.  Add remaining ingredients and mix well.
5.  Pour into 9" springform pan (or 2 6” or 7” pans) which has been prepared with the crust of your choice.
6.  Bake at 350° for one hour, turn off oven and leave cake for one hour.
7.  Remove, cool and refrigerate.  Freezes very well.

Makes 16 generous servings

Graham Cracker Crust:

3/4 package graham crackers, crushed into fine crumbs (processor is great!)
4 tablespoons very soft butter
3 to 4 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped, if desired

Fruit topping of your choice.


Dinner Party Menu: Part One-Appetizers

When I was teaching "live" cooking classes, my most frequent request was for a dinner party menu that would allow the hostess (or host!) to serve a delicious meal but also be able to spend time with their guests.  The following series of videos will do just that: from appetizers, salad, main course, side dishes to dessert.  All designed to let you entertain with ease.

French Gougères

1½ cups water
½ cup butter, cut into cubes
1½ cups flour
6 large eggs
1 cup grated gruyere or Swiss cheese, packed
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, packed
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste

Preheat oven to 400º and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Place the butter, water and salt in a 3 to 4 quarts pan over medium heat and bring to a simmer, stirring until the butter melts.  Add the flour all at once and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture is smooth and thick with no lumps.  Remove from the heat and allow mixture to cool.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating with a hand-held mixture until all are incorporated into the mixture.  Stir in cheeses and pepper.

Transfer mixture to a large piping bag fitted with a plain tube and  pipe mounds onto prepared baking sheets.  Alternatively, you can drop mounds using two spoons.  You should get about 4 dozen from this recipe.

Bake until puffed and golden brown, about 30 minutes.  Rotate your baking sheets about half way through the coking time.

The puffs can be frozen before baking, simply add a few minutes to the cooking time.

These may be made the day before your dinner party and reheated just before serving

Melon and Proscuitto

Cut a melon of your choice into bite-sized cubes, wrap with a strip of thinly sliced proscuitto. 
You can make these in the morning, wrap with saran and arrange on a tray with a toothpick in each cube just before your guests arrive.

Hoisin Chicken Tacos & Wrap

I thought about naming this recipe “Poor Man’s Peking Duck”, but it is really far too delicious to be called a poor anything.  The flavors are similar to Peking Duck but it is a much easier dish to make - and far less expensive!

If you should have leftovers, the chicken reheats well and is also delicious cold.

For the video demonstration, I used double the quantities listed below since we were going to a pot-luck supper.


Hoisin Chicken Tacos

10 (4- to 5-inch) flour tortillas

½  cup hoisin sauce

4 tablespoons soy sauce

4 tablespoons mild honey

2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger

2 teaspoons rice vinegar  ( dry sherry makes a good substitute)

4 garlic cloves, minced

¼  teaspoon cayenne

1 ½  lb skinless boneless chicken thighs (about 6)

½  a cucumber, seeds discarded and cut into thin slivers

3 scallions, trimmed and cut into thin diagonal slices.


Preheat broiler and lightly oil rack of a broiler pan. Or grill outside.

Stir together hoisin, soy, honey, ginger, vinegar, garlic, and cayenne in a 1- to 1½-quart saucepan. 

Toss chicken with ¼ cup in a large plastic bag to coat, and marinate for about an how.  Broil 2 to 3 inches from heat,  turning once, until cooked through and deep golden, about 10 minutes. A thermometer insterted into a thick part of the thigh should register 170 degrees. Transfer to a cutting board and let stand, uncovered, 5 minutes. 

Boil sauce until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes, and simmer, stirring, 2 minutes. 

While chicken is resting, put tortillas in a single layer in a dry skillet or griddle to warm.  You can keep them warm wrapped in a clean dish towel.

Cut chicken crosswise into ¼-inch-thick slices. 

To eat, wrap up chicken, sauce, cucumbers, and scallions in tortillas.

NOTE:  You can use  larger tortillas and make a wrap!

Please watch the video:

Betty's Best Taco Recipe-A Healthy Choice

I was in the supermarket a few weeks back and happened to spot taco shells on the shelf.  I hadn't made tacos in years, but when I saw those taco shells I had to have tacos for dinner that night!

The one thing I knew I didn't want to use was a packet of "taco seasoning".  I really don't like using things with ingredients I can't pronounce.  So, like most people these days, I went to the internet to find a recipe.  The one I chose was from Food Network.  The results were not exactly what I was looking for - they were way too spicy, much too salty and greasy.  Other than than, they were great!  After a few tries, this is the recipe I came up with:

1 tablespoon oil
1 medium onion, chopped 
2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
1 lb. ground beef
⅔ cup beef broth (I use low sodium)
Seasoning mix (recipe follows)

12 corn tortillas
Chopped tomato
Chopped avocado
Shredded cheese - your choice!
Shredded iceberg lettuce

Heat oil over medium heat and add the onion.  Cook until softened.  Add the meat and garlic. Cook, breaking up the meat, until browned.  Drain to removes excessive fat and return to the pan.  Add the seasoning mix and beef broth, bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, until mixture has thickened - 3 or 4 minutes.

Assemble the tacos with your choice of toppings and serve immediately.

Seasoning mix:

2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1½ teaspoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Note:  If you enjoy this recipe, you can make up a batch of the seasoning mix and store in a jar.  It will keep for several weeks.  Then just use 4 tablespoons per pound of meat.

Please watch the video demonstration:

How to make Better Buttermilk Pancakes

Buttermilk pancakes are a real breakfast treat - especially with some blueberries folded in!  It's easy just to grab a box of pancake mix from the supermarket, but it only takes a few more minutes to make them from scratch and they don't  contain any preservatives.  Don't be put off by the buttermilk.  If you don't have it on hand, simply mix 1 cup of milk with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar, let stand for 5 minutes and use that.

See my easy tip at the end of the video for making your own mix ahead of time.

Recipe for Two (makes 7 - 8 pancakes).

1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder (non-aluminum is best)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 an egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 cup blueberries (optional)

Combine all dry ingredients.  Whisk in buttermilk and egg.  Just before the mixture is fully mixed, add the melted butter.

Preheat a griddle or large frying pan, butter lightly, and, using a 1/4 cup measure, drop mixture, leaving some space in between.  When tiny bubbles start to appear on top, flip the pancakes and cook for a minute or two on the second side.  Serve with warm maple syrup.

Our youngest granddaughter loves these with chocolate chips instead of blueberries!

Watch video demonstration:

How to Bake a Better Buttermilk Biscuit

While we were living in Virginia, I met a wonderful cook named Ethel. I was in her kitchen one day whey she was making her famous biscuits. Never one to miss an opportunity to learn, I paid close attention! She used no special equipment - just her hands. 

She gently rubbed the butter into the flour and other ingredients, lightly kneaded the dough and then cut out and baked the feather-light biscuits. I have followed her method ever since with no changes except for an additional step which I discovered by accident. I was in the process of baking when I was interrupted - just at the point where I had finished rubbing in the butter. Because it was quite warm in my kitchen, I stuck the bowl in the freezer to keep the butter cold. I returned about 15 minutes later, added the buttermilk and proceeded to make the best biscuits ever! 

In addition to being delicious served with jam or honey, biscuits make a great topping for chicken pot pie; a crowd-pleasing hors d'oeuvre when made small, spread with a little honey mustard and filled with a little ham; and simply amazing when split and topped with sausage gravy - another Southern specialty!

Buttermilk Biscuits

2½ cups flour
2½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ kosher salt
½ cup (4 oz.) unsalted butter
1⅓ cups buttermilk

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and kosher salt. Cut the butter in small pieces, toss in the flour and gently rub into the flour. You want to end with fairly large flakes of flour-coated butter. Place the bowl in the freezer for 15 minutes. 

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375º and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Gently stir in the buttermilk. Gather the mixture together in the bowl then turn turn out onto a lightly floured surface and fold the dough onto itself until it forms a dough. Pat out until it is slightly less than 1" thick and cut out biscuits using a 2½" cutter. Do not twist the cutter but rather push straight down - twisting prevents the biscuits from rising properly. Place the biscuits on the prepared cookie sheet. Gather the scraps and fold together gently. Pat it out again and continue cutting out biscuits. Because the butter is so cold, you can repeat this process once more. 

If you like soft-sided biscuits, place them fairly close together on the cookie sheet, if you prefer them a little more crisp, set them further apart.
Bake for about 20 minutes or until lightly browned on top. If you can, allow them to cool for a few minutes before eating!

Makes 12 biscuits.

NOTE: You can freeze the unbaked biscuits. Bake as instructed - they will just take a few extra minutes.

Watch the video demonstration:

Clarified Butter...The Easy Way

Clarified butter is butter which has been melted and had the milk solids removed from it.  It is useful for frying since it won't burn like regular butter and it is essential for making Hollandaise sauce.

If stored in a sterile container, it will last for weeks in your refrigerator.

Shortbread- Variations on a Theme

I recently had to produce a LOT of cookies for a family event - about 700 or so.  I decided that everyone loves shortbread and so I would simply make different types.  I used my basic recipe (which follows) and simply added flavorings and fillings.  


½ lb. butter, at room temperature
½ cup sugar
2½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup rice flour

Preheat oven to 325°
Line cookie sheets with parchment paper

Using a mixer, beat butter and sugar until light.  Gradually add flour, beating until a dough forms.  Turn dough out onto a counter and knead with your hands until the dough comes together.

Divide dough in half and roll out between two sheets of waxed paper and cut into desired shapes.  Transfer onto cookie sheets and bake for 17 to 20 minutes.  Check the cookies as they bake - they are done when they just start to color slightly.  You may sprinkle the tops lightly with sugar if you desire.

Allow to cool for 5 minutes and transfer to cooling racks to finish cooling.


Add a half cup of any of the following to the dough after all the flours have been added:

Finely chopped nuts (I used hazelnuts)
The finely grated zest of an orange
Mini chocolate chips

Two tablespoons of finely grated crystallized ginger
I also did one batch with the seeds from a vanilla bean.


I used Nutella to fill the hazelnut cookies
Ganache for the orange
I sandwiched plain cookies with raspberry jam - you may want to boil the jam for a little to make it thicker
The ginger cookies I filled with apricot jam.

As you can see, the combinations are endless - I think a toasted coconut, finely chopped would be good with either raspberry or apricot jam; you could used pecans or walnuts in place of the hazelnuts; I think substituting a ½ cup of almond flour in place of plain flour would be good and on and on.

Watch the video: