Pistachio, Rosewater and Cardamom Shortbread Cookies #CreativeCookieExchange

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These pistachio, rosewater and cardamom shortbread cookies…aren't half bad. Now you're probably thinking that "not half bad" isn't exactly a ringing endorsement but you've got to consider the source. Which would be me. A lifelong hater of all things nut and a person who would rather be stuck in a sulphur pit than a subway car full of women who've doused themselves in rose perfume. So when I say that cookies with nuts and rosewater aren't half bad, it translates to "OMG! ARE THESE, LIKE, THE BEST COOKIES EVAR, OR WHAT?" 

I've harbored a major hate for nuts my entire life—it's both a taste and a texture thing. I can pick out a nut blindfolded, they'll seriously ruin whatever it is I'm eating and yes, even at my advanced age, I'll make a face and spit 'em out. But let's face it, the world isn't kind to the nut averse. They're EVERYwhere. In EVERYthing.  So at least once a year, I'll make an attempt to get over my aversion. And after decades of trying, I've gotten to the point where I can just barely tolerate pistachios and cashews and that's it. I'll occasionally eat them out of hand but still can't eat them mixed into food. So of course, when the theme for this month's Creative Cookie Exchange was Nuts in Cookies (I knew it had to come sometime), and we had the option of NOT baking with nuts, I went ahead and baked with them anyway. Glutton for punishment, that's me. Especially when cookies are also made with rosewater.

Oppressively heavy floral scents are another of my (many) dislikes, with rose at the top of the list. I know that when used with a clunky hand, rose essence in food can be gag-inducing but when used sparingly, it was a bit of a revelation to me. It's not heavy or overly floral at all. In fact, I'd describe the flavor as citrus-y and I've actually become a fan. So in searching for a nutty cookie when I came upon these, I figured the rosewater and cardamom—and the crunch of a good shortbread, probably my favorite cookie—could help disguise the pistachios. And they did. Almost. 

Since I know I'm biased, I brought a big batch of these to work so they could be scrutinized by the Official Shaggy Dough Taste Testing Team and they were an unqualified hit. Everyone loved the shortbread texture and the flavors (pistachio, rose and cardamom are a very Persian combo and these cookies were originally inspired by Nowruz, the Iranian new year). Three dozen cookies barely lasted til lunchtime. And dare I say that when I made the second batch over the weekend, someone who will remain nameless (moi, but I'll deny it) was seen nibbling on more than one. So yeah, not half bad.

Be sure to check out the links below to see what the nut-loving Creative Cookie Exchange bakers came up with.

Pistachio, Rosewater and Cardamom Shortbread Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup confectioner's (powdered) sugar
  • 1 tsp rosewater
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom, preferably freshly ground
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup salted, shelled pistachios, coarsely chopped (see notes)
  • sparkling sugar (optional)

Directions

  1. Add the butter to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream at medium speed for about one minute.
  2. Add the sugar, rosewater and cardamom and mix on low speed. As soon as the ingredients come together, increase speed to medium and mix for 3 minutes. The mixture should be light and fluffy.
  3. Add in the flour and mix on low until just incorporated. The dough will look a little crumbly but don't overmix.
  4. Add the pistachios and again, mix on low until just incorporated.
  5. Divide the dough onto two sheets of parchment or wax paper and form each half into a log, about 12" long. (See notes) Roll up the paper and twist the ends closed.
  6. Chill for 1–2 hours or until completely firm.
  7. Preheat oven to 325°F.
  8. When ready to bake, slice each log into 1/4" pieces and place about 1" apart on cookie sheets lined with parchment or silicone mats.
  9. Bake for 18–20 minutes or until the edges are just slightly golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.
  10. Optional: Before slicing roll each log in sparkling sugar.

Notes

The first time I baked these, I used pre-shelled pistachios. The second time, I shelled them myself. I thought there was a big difference, both in taste and appearance. The ones I shelled were larger, had a fresher, more pronounced taste and looked more…pistachio-y. (They were greener.) It was a time-consuming pain in the butt to shell them all—and I sent more than a few of them flying, much to the delight of the dog (we didn't let her eat them)—but I think it was worth it.

I also divided the dough in two the first time and ended up with cookies that I thought were a little small in diameter. I got a little more than 3 dozen cookies. The second time, I made one log about 2" in diameter and ended up with about 2 dozen. It's really just a personal preference but I just like larger cookies. There was no difference in the baking time since the cookies were still 1/4" thick.

I have a method of rolling cookie logs that I was struggling to describe so I looked online to see if I could find a video. This one from Martha Stewart is a good 'un. It's a great method and it really does help your cookies stay round. 

Even a nut hater needs a nut grinder. Just because.

Recipe source: The Pomegranate Diaries

#CreativeCookieExchange for December: Nuts in Cookies

Nuts in cookies are a tradition celebrated all over the world—and Creative Cookie Exchange has joined the party!

You can also use us as a great resource for cookie recipes. Be sure to check out our Pinterest Board and our monthly posts (you can find all of them here at The Spiced Life). You will be able to find them the first Tuesday after the 15th of each month! Also, if you are looking for inspiration to get in the kitchen and start baking, check out what all of the hosting bloggers have made:

Caramelized Apple Oatmeal Cookies #CreativeCookieExchange

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Way back in the early 70s, my parents' friends invited the whole lot of us to spend a long weekend skiing at their house in Vermont. We were novice skiers (How novice you ask? I-broke-my-wrist-during-a-lesson kind of novice.) but we had a blast. So my parents did what any parents would do when the family has fun at a brand new pursuit. They bought a house in Vermont so we could ski our little hearts out. A house. After skiing one time. Now I'll admit it was a great house (and dirt cheap, I might add). 100 years old on two acres in a quintessential New England town (they still had actual live, human telephone operators when we first moved there and a cemetery dating back pre-Revolutionary War), in the southwestern part of the state, near Killington and a bunch of other ski resorts…but then the year following the purchase, we all went skiing in Colorado, got spoiled (it's just DIFFERENT, people)… and never skied in Vermont again. The house didn't go to waste though. We just did different stuff. We gardened (my mother actually thought that zucchini was SUPPOSED to be as big as your arm), we hiked and biked, we went boating on Lake St. Catherine (have I got stories…) and we spent a ridiculous amount of time sitting on the front porch watching the goings-on at the firehouse hall, which was the happening place in town. And in the fall, when we got to experience leafing season in all its glory, we went apple picking at the orchard down the road.

We always came home with enough apples to feed an army and almost no idea what to do with them all besides make applesauce. Lots and LOTS of applesauce. And an occasional pie. Ah, if only we'd known about these cookies. Okay, it would only have made a small dent in the apple surplus, but still…

It doesn't get much better than this caramelized apple oatmeal cookie. Dense, hearty and chewy. Subtly spiced. Studded with bits of tangy apple that have been caramelized in butter and sugar. Drizzled with just the right amount of sugary glaze. The Ultimate Fall Cookie. It's the kind of cookie that would have had us working together in the Vermont kitchen, then curling up before the wood-burning stove, wrapped in our blankies after a hard day of not skiing, hands wrapped around mugs of hot cider, miffling down cookie after cookie… If only we'd known. The house is gone, sold years ago when the long drive got to be too much for all us, but cookies like this are forever. At least until you eat them all.

This trip down memory lane has been brought to you by the fine bakers at #CreativeCookieExchange, who are Celebrating Autumn this month. Don't forget to check out the links below for more of fall's bounty!

Caramelized Apple Oatmeal Cookies

Ingredients

Apples

  • 2 cups Granny Smith apples, peeled and diced
  • 2 tsp unsalted butter
  • 4 tsp light brown sugar

Dough

  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

Glaze

  • 1 cup confectioner's sugar
  • 1 tbsp apple cider

Directions

  1.  To caramelize the apples, place the butter, brown sugar and diced apples in a medium skillet and cook on medium-high, stirring occasionally. Continue cooking and stirring until the apples are golden and somewhat softened. Transfer to paper towels and let cool.
  2. To make the dough, add the flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl and whisk to combine.
  3. The the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the butter and sugars and beat on medium-high for about 3 minutes. The mixture will be pale and fluffy.
  4. Add the eggs separately, mixing until each is fully blended. Mix for an additional minute, then add the vanilla.
  5. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture and blend until just combined then add the oats and mix.
  6. Fold in the caramelized apples.
  7. Cover and chill the dough for at least 1 hour.
  8. Towards the end of the chilling time, preheat oven to 350°F and line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.
  9. Using a medium cookie scoop, place the dough on the baking sheets about 2" apart.
  10. Bake for 12–15 minutes until edges are slightly browned. Cookies should still be soft in the middle. Remove from oven, cool on baking sheets for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely
  11. To make the glaze, place the sugar in a medium size bowl, add the cider and whisk to combine thoroughly. Add more cider if needed to make a drizzling consistency and drizzle over cookies.
  12. Allow glaze to harden. Store in an airtight container.

Recipe source: Liv for Cake

Notes

I used Granny Smiths but you could also use any good baking apple.

The apples will release a lot of moisture, but once it's cooked out, they'll start to caramelize.

I used apple cider in the glaze but water is fine if you don't have any cider on hand.

I'm a very bad drizzler—big globs here, nothing there—so instead of winging it, I like to use a piping bag for better control.

#CreativeCookieExchange for October: Celebrate Autumn

One of the best things about fall—in addition to crisp, cool weather and gorgeous foliage (still waiting…)—is all of the delightful seasonal themes that come to mind for baking. Pumpkin, apples, late summer and early fall harvest, Halloween, Thanksgiving… They are all fun and delicious to play around with, so check out what we have for you this month!

You can also use us as a great resource for cookie recipes. Be sure to check out our Pinterest Board and our monthly posts (you can find all of them here at The Spiced Life). You will be able to find them the first Tuesday after the 15th of each month! Also, if you are looking for inspiration to get in the kitchen and start baking, check out what all of the hosting bloggers have made:

Apple, Pear and Persimmon Stuffed Brioche #BreadBakers

Apple_Pear_Persimmon_Stuffed_Brioche_Chai_Spice-8.jpg

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Fall. Forget about what the song says. THIS is the most wonderful time of the year as far as I'm concerned. Summer is GONE. Done. Finito. Dead. An ex-season. And for me, that means no more whinging and moaning about the heat and humidity until people want to take me out to sea and throw me overboard with lead weight attached to my ankle. Most importantly though, it means no more baking in a kitchen that feels like a blast furnace. WHEEEEEE!

This certainly hasn't been a typical fall—thanks for nothing, Global Warming! It's mid-October, but the leaves have barely started turning and those that have are just kind of…well, blah. No blaze of color. (Those of you in a no-Fall zone, work with me here.) But the weather has definitely gone from sweltering hot to cool and crisp, and I want something cozy and comforting, something that will give me the warm fuzzies, something that says FALL even if the trees say otherwise. So I'm kicking off the Fall Follies here at the House of Dough with some of the best tastes that fall has to offer—namely, the fruits of the season. This rich, buttery, mock-braided brioche is filled with some of the classics—apple, pears and persimmons—sprinkled with chai spices and topped with a crunchy streusel. You want warm fuzzies? We got 'em right here. So cut yourself a slice or six, make yourself a nice cuppa, curl up on the sofa in your Hello Kitty jammies (not that I have them, no siree), grab a good book and enjoy.

This brioche is my contribution to this month's #BreadBakers, Fall Fruits and Vegetables, hosted by Pavani at Cooks' Hideout. Thanks, Pavani!

Apple, Pear and Persimmon Stuffed Brioche

Ingredients

Dough

  • 2 tsp active dry yeast 
  • 1/3 cup water at 110º F
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 8 tablespoons butter

Filling

  • 1 lb. mixed apples, pears and fuyu persimmons, firm but ripe (about 1 large for each), chopped
  • 1-2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 tsp chai spice blend (recipe below)
  • 1 vanilla bean, scraped
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp all-purpose flour or Instant ClearJel

Streusel Topping

  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 6 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 4 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp chai spice blend
  • pinch of salt

Directions

  1. Place the warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer. Sprinkle the yeast on top, whisk gently and let sit for about 5 minutes, until it looks active and bubbly.
  2. Fit the paddle attachment to the mixer, then add the flour and salt to the yeast mixture in the bowl and mix on low speed, scraping down the sides as needed.. The dough will look very dry and shaggy.
  3. Add the eggs and mix gently. Add the sugar then turn the speed up to medium-low and mix for about 4 minutes, until the dough forms a ball.
  4. Switch to the dough hook and with the mixer on low speed, add the butter  2 tablespoons at a time, making sure each piece is incorporated before adding the next one and stopping to pull the dough from the hook and scrape the sides of the bowl. The dough should be very soft. Once the butter is incorporated. continue mixing for about 10 minutes. The dough should pull away from the sides of the bowl.
  5. Transfer the dough to a bowl (I love these Cambro containers; no guessing as to when the dough has doubled), cover and set aside to rise at room temperature until it's doubled in size. Punch down the dough, then cover and place in the refrigerator. Check the dough every half hour and punch it down again. After about 2 hours, the dough will stop rising. Refrigerate overnight.
  6. To make the filling the next day, peel, core and chop the fruits, then place in a large bowl. Add the lemon juice and toss the fruits, then add the sugar, chai spice blend, scraped vanilla bean seeds and a pinch of salt and toss to combine.
  7. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat, then add the fruit mixture and sauté until the fruit has softened slightly. The juices will have thickened somewhat. Transfer to a bowl and let cool. When cooled, stir in the ClearJel or flour.
  8. Remove the dough from the fridge and let it rest for about 15 minutes. Lightly flour a piece of parchment paper, transfer the dough and roll it out to a 10" x 15" rectangle (don't sweat it if it isn't exact). Transfer the parchment with the dough to a baking sheet.
  9. Spoon the cooled fruit mixture down the center of the dough, lengthwise. Then cut diagonal strips about 1-1/2" wide down each side of the dough, leaving an uncut border around the filling. (A bench knife works great for making the cuts.)
  10. Working from alternating sides, fold the strips over the filling in a mock braid. Brush the braid lightly to remove any excess flour, then cover lightly with plastic wrap and set aside to rise until puffy and almost doubled.
  11. While the dough is resting, preheat the oven to 350°F.
  12. To make the streusel topping, place the flour, sugar, chai spice and salt into a bowl and mix together. Add the butter and rub it in with your fingers until it holds together and crumbs form.
  13. When the dough is risen, whisk the egg and brush it lightly over the dough. Sprinkle the streusel on top, breaking up the larger pieces if needed.
  14. Bake until golden brown, about 30-40 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Adapted from Food52 

Chai Spice Blend

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp cardamom pods
  • 1 tbsp whole coriander seeds
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, cut small pieces
  • 3 star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick broken into small pieces (or 2 tsps ground cinnamon)
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 7 allspice berries
  • 1 tsp white peppercorns

Directions

Place all ingredients into a spice grinder and pulse until you have a fine powder. Store in an airtight container.

Notes

You can substitute an equal amount of ground cinnamon for the chai spice if you prefer.

Make sure you use fuyu persimmons, not hachiya. Both are fairly common but fuyus are short and squatty and can be eaten out of hand like apples, while hachiyas are taller and sort of heart shaped and are generally are used to make purees. Trust me, you DON'T want to confuse the two and use hachiyas for something like this, where you need a firm fruit. A firm hachiya is an unripe hachiya and an unripe hachiya is overwhelmingly astringent. Try biting into one and you might never un-pucker. I did it so you don't have to.

 

 

#BreadBakers for October: Fall Fruits and Vegetables

For this month's BreadBakers, we're baking breads with fall fruits and vegetables (apples, grapes, pears, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, acorn squash, butternut squash and so on). Thanks to Pavani at Cook's Hideout for hosting!

#BreadBakers is a group of bread loving bakers who get together once a month to bake bread with a common ingredient or theme. You can see all our of lovely bread by following our Pinterest board right here. Links are also updated after each event on the #BreadBakers home page.

We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient. If you are a food blogger and would like to join us, just send Stacy an email with your blog URL to foodlustpeoplelove@gmail.com.

BreadBakers