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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strawberry rhubarb pie

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Ooooh weee. That was quite a break if I do say so myself. It feels like those carbomb cupcakes happened a lifetime ago. I’ve gotta start by saying that I sure have missed you. Not a single day went by where I didn’t think about this place. And I made several attempts to share things here. But nothing felt right. So it seemed like the only thing to do was take a time out.

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But being away for so long was beginning to stress me out a bit, similar to the way cutting class in high school and college would make me feel crazy. One day turns into five and then you find yourself scrambling for an excuse for your absence. I was starting to worry that I’d never find my way back here. But I love this space more than anything, so I knew I’d figure it out eventually.

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I don’t have much of an excuse for our little hiatus. I didn’t skip town or run into any trouble with the law. I did have a mean case of writer’s block. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a grand ole time. There were parties and dance parties and really great shows (Band of Horses and Beach House in the same week!) and brunches and nights out with friends – old friends, new friends, best friends, friends from out of town. I drank fantastic whiskey cocktails. I Instagramed. There were a few serious, not-so-fun moments thrown in there as well. To sum it up, life was just happening.

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If you’ve been tuning in here for a while now, you might’ve figured out that I have a thing for rhubarb. I wait all year for those gorgeous pink stalks to show up at the market. And when they do, I can’t contain myself. One year it was these ice pops, last year it was this boozy fool and a couple of batches of jam. This time around, all I really wanted was a good old fashioned strawberry rhubarb pie.

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I’ve made a couple of strawberry rhubarb pies in my time, and if I’m being totally honest, none of them were great. They were all a little too soupy, a bit too tart. So when I found a recipe that required sauteing the rhubarb, and macerating and draining the strawberries before baking, I was pretty sure I had found a winner. Plus, an all-butter lattice-top crust is always enticing.

I was totally smitten with this pie, but I was convinced that I would love it even more if I swapped out the allspice in the original recipe for vanilla bean. So I gave it another go. And it was just what the doctor ordered. Flaky crust, sweet-tart fruit and a dollop of whipped cream on top is a truly wonderful thing.

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strawberry rhubarb pie 

adapted just slightly from The Wall Street Journal Online

makes one 9-inch pie

for the all-butter pie crust:

2-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces

8 to 10 tablespoons ice water, or more as needed, with a splash of cider vinegar

Stir dry ingredients together in a large bowl.

Add butter to the dry ingredients and coat it using a spoon or spatula. Using a pastry blender, cut butter into the flour until mostly pea-sized pieces of butter remain (a few larger pieces are okay; do not over-blend).

Sprinkle 4 tablespoons ice water over the mixture and cut the water in with a spatula. When water is fully incorporated, add more water, one to two tablespoons at a time, and mix until the dough comes together in a ball, with some dry bits remaining.

Squeeze and pinch with your fingertips to bring all the dough together, sprinkling dry bits with drops of ice water if necessary to combine.

Divide dough in half. Shape each half into a flat disc, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour, preferably overnight. Wrapped tightly, dough can be refrigerated for three days or frozen for one month.

for the pie:

all butter pie crust 

2 cups strawberries, hulled and quartered

3 cups rhubarb, cut into ¾-inch pieces

2 tablespoons vegetable oil 

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped

1 grind fresh black pepper

3 tablespoons arrowroot (or tapioca starch or corn starch)

1 to 2 dashes Fee Brothers rhubarb bitters (or Old Fashioned bitters)

1 teaspoon orange zest

1-1/2 teaspoons al-purpose flour 

1 egg

1 tablespoon milk or heavy cream

1 tablespoon raw sugar

Preheat oven to 425°F. Butter a 9-inch pie pan.

Sprinkle 1 tablespoon sugar over strawberries. Let sit 1 hour.

Roll out one disc of pie dough into a 12-inch circle, about  1/8 of an inch thick. Place disc in pie pan and trim the edge, leaving 1 inch of overhang. Place in fridge to chill.

Roll out the second disc of pie dough and cut into 1-inch-wide lattice strips. Lay strips on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and place in fridge to chill.

Heat vegetable oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Sauté rhubarb until it softens slightly, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl, sprinkle with lemon juice and let cool.

In a medium bowl, whisk together brown sugar, ¼ cup sugar, salt, black pepper and arrowroot.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer strawberries into bowl with cooled rhubarb, leaving behind most juices.

Add bitters, orange zest, vanilla, and dry mixture to fruit mixture. Stir gently with a spatula.

Sprinkle 1½ teaspoons flour and 1½ teaspoons granulated sugar into bottom of prepared pie shell and spread around with your fingertips.

Pour filling into pie pan, arrange lattice on top and crimp edges.

Lightly beat together egg and cream or milk and brush pie top with it. Sprinkle with raw sugar.

Place pie on a baking sheet and bake in the lower third of the oven for 15 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 350°F, move pie to center rack and continue to bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until filling is bubbling and pastry is golden.

Allow to cool at least 2 hours. Serve with fresh whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Best served same day it is made.

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