Pine nut cookies, or pignoli cookies as my Italian (say it like an Irish-American, “Eye-talyan”) friends might call them, are something I have always wanted to try. Martha Stewart published a recipe that looked do-able, so I gave it a go the other day. The verdict? What a pain in the ass for a tasty cookie. I did not follow the recipe in terms of the size of the little balls of cookie dough, and then I overbaked the first batch, as you can see in the back. The second batch, while still oversized, came out right, and they were awfully good, but I don’t think I’d make the recipe again. Why? Several reasons– first, I had to buy marzipan, and now I have a half a tube I didn’t use in the recipe that I have to find a use for. Second, this dough is sooooo sticky. I got out the can of olive oil Pam and sprayed my hands over and over again while I was rolling the balls of dough in the pine nuts, and when it was over, there was dough everywhere, and I had to scrub my Pam can. Finally? I am sure this is the ne plus ultra of pignoli cookie recipes, but I’d rather have a macaroon.
Lemon Rosemary Cornmeal Shortbread. Mmm. You need to make this one. Look at the greasy parchment paper! This is a recipe I adapted from Fine Cooking’s 2005 Holiday Baking issue. I love Fine Cooking. I have never had a recipe go wrong, and they are usually pretty fuss-free. And when they are fussy, it’s always worth it. This recipe came to me as a hybrid with a rosemary butter cookie recipe I saw in a Martha cookie porn publication from a few years ago, so I thought I would try to combine all the flavors. It worked, and these will now be a part of the rotation of cookies I will actually bake.
Lemon Rosemary Cornmeal Shortbread Bars
Adapted from Fine Cooking Holiday Baking 2005, original recipe by Abigail Johnson Dodge
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (King Arthur Flour if you can get it)
1 cup finely ground yellow cornmeal (I used Goya’s, which is also labeled “masa harina”)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups softened unsalted butter
1 3/4 cups powdered sugar
Zest of 1 lemon (love my Microplane zester)
Juice of one lemon, strained for seeds
Needles of 2-3 rosemary branches, washed and finely chopped.
Heat oven to 325F. Grease a 9 x 13 baking pan– I use Pyrex. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment. (I just stuffed an oversized piece of parchment I couldn’t be bothered to trim in there, and it overhung the sides. The edge pieces were not so nice, but I could lift the cookies out of the pan altogether, for transferring to the cutting board for cutting.)
In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, cornmeal, and salt. In a large bowl, cream the butter, sugar, lemon zest and rosemary until light and creamy, 3-4 minutes. It should look like the fluffiest frosting you’ve ever had. Scrape the bowl, adding the flour mixture in two batches on low speed. The dough will look moist and clumpy.
Transfer the dough to the pan. With a rubber spatula sprayed with vegetable or olive oil, smoothe the batter into the corners of the pan, trying for an even thickness. If you like, use a long knife or bench scraper to mark the dough into 1 x 2 1/2 inch bars. (I didn’t bother.) Bake until the top looks dry and golden brown, 35-40 minutes.
Transfer the pan to a rack. Immediately use your knife or bench scraper (I used a bench scraper) to cut your shortbread– if you don’t do it while it’s warm, it will be too crumbly later.) Let the bars cool in the pan before removing them with a small spatula.
Note: The rosemary flavor is more pronounced after spending a night, wrapped in plastic wrap, in a tin or tupperware container.
Oh.My.Goodness. These are awfully good. You need to make them. Now. These are a variation on the Brownie Thins recipe published in December’s Bon Appetit, and available at Epicurious. The variations aren’t enough to re-write the whole recipe, so I will just note instead that instead of doing the plastic wrap trick to flatten the sticky sticky cookie dough, I just sprayed the back of a serving spoon with olive oil cooking spray every third cookie, and used the back of the spoon to flatten the dough balls. The other thing is this– I don’t have any chopped pistachios and am not that wild about them anyway, so I used cashew pieces instead. And finally, evil genius that I try to be, after the cookies were cooling on their rack, I drizzled them with dulce de leche sauce I had in the pantry, because really, a brownie is good, but a caramel cashew turtle brownie is better. I baked these on silpat liners, and you should know that the cookies are very fragile– I would actually spray my liners with cooking spray for extra detaching power next time. And, I used a very thin metal cookie spatula to detach the cookies, because my regular nonstick one was making me break the cookies. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go back to my cookies and milk for breakfast.