Post # 301 Cookies and Nuts

October 27, 2014 at 11:28 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

I was in an online conversation over the weekend where the subject was almonds in chocolate bars.  The person who started the conversation advocated that almonds in a chocolate bar were the best thing to be invented.  I maintained that any nut in a chocolate bar merely takes up valuable space that could otherwise be filled with chocolate.  This does not apply to crispy rice since those are fun.  I also think the new form of chocolate bar with air bubbles in it, making it crunchy, is a rip-off.  We’re paying for air cuz it’s a novelty?

This is actually a lead in to nuts in cooking.  I actually like nuts, most of them, and like cooking with them.  Nuts and seeds are an excellent source of protein, fiber, potassium, calcium, and a host of other minerals and vitamins.  I keep a bag of walnuts at my desk to snack on during the day to stave off hunger pangs and make certain I get the nutrients I need.  Cooking with nuts changes the character of the nut and its flavor.  Baking with nuts is usually as easy as throwing a handful of nuts into whatever you’re making.

But not always.

My favorite cookie is the basic chocolate chip cookie.  I tend to follow the Toll House recipe, but I modify by decreasing the amount of butter, and sugar, and increasing the amount of flour.  Not by vast quantities, but enough that the individual cookie spreads less, and makes a doughier, chewier cookie that I and my family like better.  Many times I’ll add roasted and salted sunflower seeds to create a nuttier flavored cookie.  Other times, I’ll add sweetened flaked coconut to get a candy bar taste going on.

Sometimes, I make oatmeal cookies but I leave out the raisins since no one in my family likes them.  I’m okay with raisins, but I won’t climb a mountain to get one.  But what I do to replace the raisins is add mini chocolate chips to give it a flavor twist.  One time, however, I went, well, nuts.

I followed the basic oatmeal cookie recipe.  I won’t go into it now because it’s a standard that can be found in every cookbook, oatmeal box, or simple internet search.  Butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, cinnamon, flour, oatmeal mixed and baked.  Various recipes call for different amounts of raisins, and some add nuts.  I took that to a whole new level (for me) and I added the following:

  • mini chocolate chips
  • crushed pecans
  • crushed walnuts
  • coconut flakes
  • almond flakes (not a lot since I don’t like them)
  • sesame seeds
  • roasted sunflower seeds
  • dried cherries
  • bran
  • allspice

Until the batter was so thick with stuff it barely held together.  Then I made drop cookies but found I had to mash them flat since they wouldn’t spread properly.  They were so good, and so filling!  Two cookies was like eating a whole bowl full of cooked cereal.  I haven’t made them since, but think about them a lot.  I’ll probably try them again soon.  It’s a harvest time kind of thing to make.  Maybe I’ll add carrots, too.

The one cookie I tend to think of most when thinking about baking with nuts are Pecan Sandies.  Traditional Pecan Sandies are basically a short bread with pecans in it.  It’s origins are lost in history with nearly every culture claiming discovery using one nut or another.  Over time, the recipe was modified from a short bread to a cookie dough.  This is the best recipe I’ve found.

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1-2 cups finely chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup sugar for decoration

Heat your oven to 375.  In a large bowl, cream together the margarine, vegetable oil,  1/2 cup white sugar and confectioners’ sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg, then stir in the vanilla. Combine the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt; stir into the creamed mixture. Mix in the pecans. Roll dough into 1 inch balls, generally about a tablespoon, and roll each ball in remaining white sugar. Place the cookies 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheets.  Bake 10-12 minutes until the edges just start to turn golden.  Do not over cook.  Cool on sheets for a couple of minutes, then remove to wire rack to cool completely.  For a variation, you can add 1/2 tsp cinnamon to the decorative sugar.

pecan sandies 1

A quick and dirty variation is to take packaged sugar cookie dough and follow the cooking directions, but press a pecan half into the center of the dough.

pecan sandies 2

The last cookie I want to talk about is one I found recently at a farmer’s market.  I talked with the lady and she said they were easy to make, but they take practice.  They’re called Pistachio Cream Cheese Cookies.  Because they’re small, the recipe makes a lot of cookies!

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 8oz package of softened cream cheese (do not use whipped)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 3oz package instant pistachio pudding
  • 1/4 cup finely crushed pistachio nuts
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 oz semi sweet chocolate
  • 1 tablespoon shortening

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Combine the flour, dry pudding mix, baking powder, and salt and nuts; stir into the creamed mixture. Cover dough, and refrigerate for at least one hour for easier handling.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets. Shape teaspoonfuls of dough into finger shapes, about 1 1/2 inches long. Place cookies on prepared cookie sheets.  A piping bag makes this easier.  If you don’t have one, use a plastic baggie and snip a small piece of a corner off.  Alternatively, shape pieces of dough into long rolls and cut at appropriate lengths.  Bake for 9 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven, or until set and very lightly browned on bottoms. Cool completely on a wire rack.  In small saucepan over low heat, melt together chocolate and shortening, stirring constantly until smooth and well blended. Drizzle a small amount of chocolate over each cookie. Allow the chocolate to set before storing.  Very good stuff!

pistachio cookie

Enjoy!

 

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