strawberry pistachio thumbprint cookies

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Once upon a time it was January. And it was very cold and dry and the markets were full of citrus. My, how things have changed. 2014 has been full of surprises. Anything and everything has happened in these past four months. I could say a million things about the goings-on, like favorites coming to town, and babies being born, and little brothers getting engaged. But I wouldn’t even know where to begin. So on to May we go…

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Summer is just a heartbeat away, but it still very much feels like spring around here. It’s all chambray and strawberries at the moment. Which reminds me of these cookies.

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I first made these for an office cookie party last year. I’m coming to realize that I don’t bake cookies very often. I’m more of a cupcake/cake maker when it comes to baking. But I do love a good cookie. I think I’m going to really work on my cookie repertoire this year. More cookies! I’ll let you know how it goes.

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This is exactly my kind of cookie. It’s buttery and shortbread-ish and encrusted in toasty pistachios. I love pistachios – they’re my favorite nut for snacking. Finished off with a well of jammy strawberry goodness makes these a big fat yesssss. It’s a perfect cookie, ideal for tea parties and springtime.

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strawberry pistachio thumbprint cookies 

adapted from joyofbaking.com

makes about three dozen cookies

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature 

1/2 cup granulated sugar 

2 large eggs, separated 

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1-1/2 cups pistachios, toasted and finely chopped

1/2 – 3/4 cup strawberry jam

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg yolks and vanilla extract and beat until combined.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Add the flour mixture to the batter and beat until just combined. If the dough is too soft to roll into balls, refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350F and place rack in the center of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk the egg whites until frothy. Place the finely chopped pistachios on a plate. Roll the dough into 1-inch balls. Taking one ball of dough at a time, dip into the egg white and then roll in the nuts until completely coated. Place on prepared baking sheets, spacing about 1-inch apart. Using your thumb or end of a wooden spoon, make an indentation in the center of each cookie and fill with about 1/2 teaspoon of jam.

Bake for about 12-15 minutes, or until cookies are set and the nuts have nicely browned. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool.

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chocolate dipped fruitcake cookies

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Is everybody ready for the holidays? It’s been a busy busy season already. So far, I’ve made gingerbread houses at two back-to-back gingerbread parties, and attended one of my favorite annual holiday soirees. As per usual, I’m running a little behind on getting my cards mailed, and I still haven’t figured out what I’ll be baking. I have a feeling things are going to start getting crazy around here in the next couple of days. But it wouldn’t be the holidays if I wasn’t baking and gift making up until the last possible moment. That’s just how I roll.

And it wouldn’t be the holidays without cookies. And this is definitely a holiday cookie.

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I know most people are unenthusiastic about fruitcake. And understandably so. Fruitcake has a bad rap. Growing up, my parents would receive fruitcakes as holiday gifts, which would go uneaten, and eventually get thrown away, year after year. There was just something kind of unappetizing about that brick of pastry dimpled with weird, artificially colored fruit. I couldn’t get into it.

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It wasn’t until my twenties that I came to appreciate fruitcake. One Christmas, my Auntie Pam gave my dad a tiny loaf of homemade fruitcake. And since my very talented auntie (who happens to be one of my personal foodie heroes) made this confection herself, I knew I had to at least have a nibble. The cake was chock full of really good quality dried fruits and nuts, and there wasn’t a bright green cherry in sight. It was superb. I slowly ate the entire loaf all by myself, and totally forgot to share with my dad.

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Though I’ve contemplated making my own fruitcake, I’ve yet to commit to such a project. From what I’ve gathered, it’s a labor intensive endeavor and requires ripening time, which means I would have to start a couple of weeks before Christmas. As you’ve probably figured out by now, I’m not the best at doing things and planning in advance. So when I landed on this recipe for fruitcake cookies, I felt like I had to make them.

chocolate dipped fruitcake cookies

This is a fantastic cookie. It’s a buttery cookie dough studded with dried figs, apricots, raisins, and pecans, so there are a variety of textures and flavors. And because it’s the holidays and I like things just a little on the decadent side, I thought a dip in some melted bittersweet chocolate , or even a drizzle, would make these extra special. Everything is better with chocolate, right?

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chocolate dipped fruitcake cookies

adapted just barely from the barefoot contessa

makes about 5 dozen cookies

1/2 pound dried figs

1/4 pound raisins

2 ounces candied cherries, coarsely chopped

2 ounces dried apricots, coarsely chopped

1 tablespoon honey

2 tablespoons dry sherry

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

6 ounces chopped pecans

kosher salt

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 cup superfine sugar

1/3 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed

1 extra-large egg

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

12 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped

Snip off the hard stems of the figs with scissors or a small knife and coarsely chop the figs. In a medium bowl, combine the figs, raisins, cherries, apricots, honey, sherry, lemon juice, pecans, and a pinch of salt. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to sit overnight at room temperature.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, cloves, superfine sugar, and brown sugar on medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the egg and mix until incorporated. With the mixer still on low, slowly add the flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt just until combined. Don’t over mix! Add the fruits and nuts, including any liquid in the bowl.

Divide the dough in half and place each half on the long edge of a 12 by 18-inch piece of parchment or waxed paper. Roll each half into a log, 1 1/2 to 1 3/4-inch thick, making an 18-inch-long roll. Refrigerate the dough for several hours, or until firm.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

With a small, sharp knife, cut the logs into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Place the slices 1/2-inch apart on parchment-lined sheet pans and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until lightly golden. Cool for 5 minutes on cookie sheets, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

To temper the chocolate for dipping, bring 1 inch of water to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Reduce the heat to very low. Place 8 ounces of the chocolate in a wide, heatproof bowl. Transfer the bowl to the saucepan, being sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Let stand, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate reaches 110° to 112°F on a thermometer. Remove the bowl from the heat and place on a kitchen towel. Add the remaining 4 ounces of chocolate and stir until melted. Let stand, stirring every minute or so, until the chocolate reaches 88°F.

Line a sheet pan with fresh parchment paper. One at a time, dip a cookie in the melted chocolate, letting the chocolate come about half way up the sides of the cookie. Give the cookie a gentle shake to remove the excess chocolate, then carefully place the cookie on the pan. Push each cookie with your finger to move it about 1/8 inch from its position on the pan to dislodge and remove the “foot” the chocolate has formed. Let the cookies stand until the chocolate sets.

If you prefer a less chocolatey cookie, you can drizzle each cookie with melted chocolate rather than dipping.

chocolate fruitcake cookies