It's time once again to share some of the sweet holiday treats that I baked up for what is now our 3rd Annual Dunn Sibling Holiday Cookie Swap. Per my brother's recommendation a couple years back, he and I and our sister (along with a few other select invitees) have exchanged holiday cookies to commemorate the season now that we've all reached the point in our lives where we need absolutely NOTHING in the way of traditional Christmas gifts, and our kids, poor deprived things, have so much that they can no longer even generate a Christmas wish list, let alone come up with a request for things they may actually need.
It was a brilliant idea really, because regardless of age, sex, hair color, jean size, or political affiliation, a good holiday cookie looks good on/in everyone! Rather than send the same cookies year after year, I use this swap as an excuse to explore and try out some new recipes. So far, I've been really pleased with the cookies I've sent AND received. Many of these new finds have found their way into our normal cookie rotation because I tend not to make very traditional "decorated" holiday cookies, hence they are easier to make year-round without seeming seasonally inappropriate (God forbid I try to serve anyone a seasonally inappropriate cookie….sheesh).
I don't know whether it's a question of lack of patience on my part when it comes to cookie decorating, or the paralyzing fear I have about working with royal icing (I can NEVER get the consistency right to either pipe or flow….grrrr), but I long ago decided to leave the "pretty" cookie production to my talented sister-in-law who is a terrific baker, while I stick to the plenty tasty, but rather pedestrian looking cookies I share with you here. I hope you can forgive me.
This recipe is by Leslie Mackie, owner of the popular Macrina Bakery in Seattle and author of a number of great cookbooks. I first stumbled across her work years ago when she was the pastry chef of one of my favorite (now closed…so sad) Boston restaurants, Biba, and have since then been a BIG fan and have enjoyed watching her career develop from afar. While these cookies may look plain-Jane, let me assure you that they are little rock-stars that I've already elevated to my high pantheon of cookie greatness. Without a doubt, these are among the best cookies I've ever had, surprisingly simple to make and subtle in flavor, yet so rich and well balanced that I bet you can't eat just one – three – seven at a sitting!
These are roll and slice cookies, so go make a double batch right now, freeze one log for later use and slice and bake one up for crack-like immediate gratification….you can thank me later.
Cheers – Steve
- 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for the work surface
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup shelled raw or roasted pistachios
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
- 1 to 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, sanding sugar, or raw sugar, for garnish
- Pulse the flour, granulated sugar, salt, pistachios, and vanilla in the bowl of a food processor for 1 to 2 minutes, until the pistachios are finely ground. Scatter the butter pieces in the food processor and pulse several times to cut the butter into the flour. Stop pulsing when the ingredients just come together and cling to one another. (Watch carefully, as food processors work very fast and can easily overmix the dough. At first the mixture will have a coarse, crumbly texture, but then if you’re not careful it will quickly turn into a paste.)
- Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and shape it into a log about 2 inches in diameter and 10 inches long. (If the dough is too sticky, toss it in the fridge for 10 or so minutes to make it easier to work with. Dampening your hands ever so slightly with cold water also helps.) Place the log on a piece of plastic wrap or parchment paper. Tightly roll the wrap around the log and twist the ends to seal them securely. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 5 days. (This dough also freezes well for up to 3 weeks if wrapped tightly in plastic.)
- Position 2 racks in the center of the oven and preheat to 325ºF (163ºC). Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
- Cut the chilled cookie dough into 1⁄2-inch-thick coins and place about 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Lightly brush the top of each shortbread cookie with water and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until the cookies are lightly golden brown on both top and bottom. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store the pistachio shortbread cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.