deep dish pistachio + plum jam thumbprint cookies

deepdish thumbprint cookies

And like that, it was Christmas.

This saddens me, because it means that pretty soon it will stop being acceptable to listen to my NKOTB and Hanson Christmas CD’s day every day all day. And it means that I won’t be able to talk about them on this space for roughly 315 days. Phew, man, I just gotta be strong. I got this.

You know what else I’ve got? New skis. A gorgeous new winter coat. Loads of not-new stuff. Chipped nails. Constantly-splitting ends. A truck with snow through-the-grill from plowing myself through 15″ of fresh snow. Cat affection. Cat reflection. Cat detection. Cat protection. Cat selection. Cat complexion. Cat infection. jk.

I also have these Deep Dish Pistachio + Plum Jam Thumbprint Cookies, and tell you what, they are infectiously good. Speaking of infections, after making Seasons 1 and 2 of The Walking Dead last for months, we found a little contagion of our own and watched 10 FLIPPING EPISODES in a one-day time span over the weekend. Disgusting. Disgustingly good. And yet also, disgustingly bad. Poor actors who get all emotional, pick a point somewhere off yonder and stare pointedly, I’m looking at you. While Eli comforted my conscience by quoting the recent and surely scientific study of Netflix users, wherein 73% felt awesome after binge-watching the program of their choice, I can’t help but feel a bit rueful about time lost.

mirabelle plum jam

I used Mirabelle plum preserves for these thumbprint cookies, because it is gorgeously golden in color, decadently sweet in taste, and delightfully refreshing as far as jams go. I also added in a few splashes of red currant jelly, for festive flare and extra yumminess.  Spell check recommended I change yumminess to crumminess, but I don’t believe it for a minute. I’ll mention now that when I say deep dish, I mean huge monstrous dish – – so if you are jam-averse in the slightest, this is not a cookie for you. These cookies have jam for days.

And pistachios, darling gems of the plant world. I had a sudden onset of confusion while at the grocery store the other day, realizing that I didn’t know what a pistachio…. tree?bush?shrub? looks like. Sure enough, it is a small tree native to the Middle East and Central Asia. Surprise factoid of the day: pistachio trees actually contain urushiol, the same toxin found in poison ivy (as well as mango, cashew, and sumac trees). How about that. No urushiol here, though, because good golly am I allergic.

If you make these, make sure to let them cool fully, or else you’ll have jam running every which way like I did. One cookie makes an excellent treat split between two people, but then you’ll just want to eat twice as many. An interesting conundrum with an easy solution. Deep dish holidays are here to stay, I think.

Deep Dish Pistachio + Plum Jam Thumbprint Cookies

Makes 12 deep dish cookies

++Ingredients:++

1/2 c. roasted + salted pistachios, shelled and chopped fine
2 sticks (1 c.) unsalted butter, softened
Heaping 1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
2 egg yolks
2 c. flour

7 oz. Mirabelle plum preserves (or other plum jam)
1-2 oz. red currant jelly

++Directions:++

In a large bowl, beat softened butter two to three minutes until floofy and light-colored. Add in sugar and salt, and cream together. Beat in vanilla and egg yolks, one at a time.

Add flour, and mix until just combined. The dough will look pebbly and crumbly. Cover, and chill in the fridge for at least an hour.

Butter and flour one 12-cup muffin tin; set aside. Heat oven to 350 F. When dough is chilled, remove from fridge and divide into twelve equal portions. Roll each dough ball in the crushed pistachios, then set into the prepared muffin wells. Push down in the center and up around the sides, to create a bowl or cup shape out of the dough. As you can see in the above picture, I brought the dough up nearly evenly with the edge of the pan.

Place one heaping tablespoon of Mirabelle plum preserves in the center of each cookie. Add 1/2 tsp of red currant jelly on top of each for extra color and tasty taste. Sprinkle with any remaining pistachios.

Bake for 22-26 minutes, until edges are light golden brown. Remove from oven, and allow to cool in the pan for at least 20 minutes – they are fragile and jammy until the cool significantly. Run a thin knife around the edge of each cookie, until you can pop each one out of the tin. Set on a cooling rack to cool further, before storing in an air-proof container, preferably in the fridge.

++Options:++ Switch up the jams or the nuts if this combination isn’t to your liking. Also, feel free to add a dollop of your favorite brown sugar-based streusel on top, prior to baking. The computer wants to auto correct streusel to stressful, but streusel is only stressful when you’re out of brown sugar like I was, hence the lack of streusel here. These are very pretty as is, though. Like giant cheery Christmas eyes, watching you…. always watching.

deepdish thumbprint cookies

I’m really quite jazzed for Christmas. I spent weeks eying various fir trees alongside the roads I drive every day, only to end up cutting the tree next to the tree I had chosen, upon discovering that aforementioned chosen one was a reeeeeeally wide load. I cut it down in a freezing rain downpour, and once it had thawed out at home, we lit it up with our five strings of lights and various homemade ornaments. I create a wood-burned ornament for the tree each year, and this year, it was an homage to my thousand times gorgeous teal Yeti mountain bike.

Sunday was a snow day. We took to the streets on our new skis, and had the greatest time bombing down mini hills and plowing through the foot or so of snow that we had accumulated at that point. We brunched at our local organic cafe, The Whole Potato, where I discovered this frightful puppet looming above me, working to finagle some of my sweet potato hash. Stay back, haunting little person.

The snow days continue out here in the woods. Only a few more days to be spent plowing through the snow in my truck, before launching into fully-fledged Christmas cookie consumption and cat adoration/infection. Happy holidays to each and every one of you – may whatever you celebrate be celebrated with peace, joy, and love.

frightful puppetpistachio kittytruck plow

burnt butter + gold tea cookies

burnt butter + gold tea cookies

This time last year, we couldn’t afford to buy butter.

I became a stupid-smart shopper, able to build a week’s worth of healthy meals – for two – for cheap. I mean ridiculously cheap, insanely cheap, mistaken-for-a-bygone-war-torn-era sort of cheap. I remember cringing one week when my total bill cost $24. Twenty four bucks.

Those were the dark days, though they were also filled with sparkles and light, since I spent a good deal of my time petting my kitty and creating recipes, albeit recipes that I couldn’t make because I couldn’t buy the ingredients.

Things have changed.

We financed a truck, bought a sweet-ass bike, and are saving up for the next big thing (whatever that may be). Having two incomes sure makes a difference, and I am thankful for our recent tide of relative prosperity every day.

gold tea

One thing I have always made room for in my budget is quality tea. Tea time is the best time, and if you are a tea drinker like myself, you will surely agree. There are a lot of great teas out there, and each has their place. Darjeeling and jasmine are old standbys, oolong, rooibos, yerba maté, and Irish breakfast are enjoyable, and silver needle and puerh, while relatively new to me, have become fast favorites.

But there is one amazing tea that stands out from the rest, and I literally cannot get enough of it. TeaSource Gold, sold by Minnesota tea store TeaSource, is so flipping incredible it makes me want to do cartwheels. If you know me IRL, chances are you’ve seen me drinking a cup or two hundred of this at some point. Black congou tea leaves are balanced by orange blossoms, red sandalwood, elderberry, passionfruit, and other mystery ingredients. While it smells floral and fruity, it isn’t a pansy cup of tea – it’s quite hearty and black. A fascinating contradiction…. like tea, like tea drinker?

My mum and I discovered the tea by chance and I latched on like a vulture after my first cup. Every few days, I go without tea just to make sure that it is the taste, and not the caffeine, that I am addicted to. My affection for this damn tea is so strong, it makes me feel effusively maudlin.

So enjoyable
Gift from the gods of Tea Time
Gold be still my heart

Your hue is gentle
Dark mystery with hints of
deliciousness, yes

I love to drink you
Dregs but an invite for more
More more more more now.

That was nice, no? There is a reason I don’t share my poetry here…. and that reason would be that I don’t write poetry. Except for that gem.

gold tea

Despite a love so strong that I keep this tea everywhere (in my lunchbox, in my truck, in my pockets), I had never baked with Gold until now. Uff da, these cookies are good. All icebox cookies are, true, but these are quite enjoyable. Perfect for tea time.

In honor of those times when I couldn’t afford butter, how about a recipe starring the stuff? I chose to lightly burn the butter (or brown, for the pretentious among us), to give it an extra deep nutty taste. As if butter needs help to be tastier, but as I always say, there’s nothing wrong with an extra ounce of tasty.

If you’re curious, and would like to try TeaSource Gold before buying, I would be happy to send you a little sachet of it, provided you don’t mind any germs my grubby cookie hands might have. Anything I can do to spread the tea love in the world, you guys.

Burnt Butter + Gold Tea Cookies

Original recipe || Makes 24-28 small cookies

++Ingredients:++

1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 tbsp + 2 tsp TeaSource Gold tea
Heaping 1/4 tsp salt
1 c. flour
1/2 c. powdered sugar

++Directions:++

In a saucepan or sauté pan, heat the butter over medium heat until it begins to turn golden brown. Remove from heat and stir – the butter should darken an additional amount before cooling. [Unless the solids from the butter are seriously burnt, do not strain them out, as they will add extra flavor]

With a mortar and pestle (or small grinder), crush the tea leaves until fine. Add salt, and combine. Pour tea mixture into butter, and let steep / cool for five to ten minutes.

In a medium bowl, combine flour and sugar. Mix in the tea butter, and stir until combined. Place dough on a rectangle of wax paper or parchment paper, and work the dough so that it become a thin log – roughly 1″ in diameter, or slightly greater. Wrap with the paper, and freeze for 30 minutes or more.

Heat oven to 350F. With a sharp knife, cut cookie slices that are between 1/4″ and 1/3″ in thickness. Place them on a baking stone or a parchment-lined cookie sheet.

Bake for 14-16 minutes, until edges have begun to turn a light golden and the cookies have puffed slightly. Let cool on the pan, to allow cookies to harden up.

Serve with tea, duh.

burnt butter + gold tea cookies

And to end, an out-of-focus picture of my cat licking a sock.

Dawwww.

cat

pistachio pudding shortbread + rosewater caramel slice

pistachio custard shortbread + rosewater caramel slice

Well, we’ve moved again. I feel like I’m always moving. This is partly because I actually am in constant transit, living out of a cabin during the week, traveling frequently on the weekends, and only seeing my ‘home’ a handful of days each month. On those brief occasions when I have time to zen out in my kitchen, I hope for the best. And this past weekend, right before the spectacle that we call moving house commenced, I zenned myself this delicious four-sticks-of-butter dessert.

This was an idea that sparked into existence after reading about Mary’s pretty Nanaimo Bars last week. She had me thinking about pudding. Thinking about pudding begat a shimmery remembrance of the perennially-delicious Custard Shortbread made with Bird’s Custard Powder. Thinking about a product I no longer have easy access to led me to see what was available to me in the baking aisle. Hence, realization dawned upon me that I could make delicious shortbread with any kind of pudding known to man.

So, duh, I chose to light up my soggy moving weekend with an electric green Pistachio Pudding Shortbread.

pistachio custard shortbread + rosewater caramel slice

But this slice, already off to a roaring neon start, was destined for additional greatness. As I peered into a fridge filled with things to be used up or thrown out, this recipe with only two sticks of butter in it seemed somehow unfinished.

A caramel sauce, made to harden in the fridge, and yet soften nicely when brought to room temperature, was flavored with rosewater – the perfect and classic pistachio pairing.

Could it get any tastier? I believe not, because lordy, I am smitten. Smitten with this incredible treat, which is as versatile as it is pretty. A quick dessert, a workday snack, an easily portioned-out eye-catching party dish. This shortbread touches all the bases.

Pistachio Pudding Shortbread + Rosewater Caramel Slice {recipe by myself}

Makes one 8″ x 8″ pan (16 large, 20 medium slices)

For the shortbread:

16 tbsp (two sticks) unsalted butter, melted
1 package pistachio pudding powder
1/4 c. powdered sugar
1/4 c. sugar
2 c. flour
3/4 tsp salt

Combine butter and pudding powder in a large bowl and mix well. Add in sugars and salt, mix to combine.

Sift flour into mixture in two batches, mixing well. Press into an 8 x 8″ cake pan. No need to score shortbread ahead of time, but prick all over with a fork or chopstick.

Bake at 350 F for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown around the edges and set in the middle. Cool in tin ten minutes before pouring caramel on top.

For the caramel:

1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1/3 c. sugar
1 1/3 c. packed brown sugar
2/3 c. corn syrup
1 tsp salt
1/3 c. heavy cream
2+ tsp rosewater

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine all ingredients except rosewater. Cook over high heat (stirring is not necessary) until caramel reaches the hard ball candy stage, or 250 F. Remove from heat, and allow to cool five to ten minutes. Mix in rosewater to taste – if you add the rosewater when the mixture is still very hot, the flavor of rosewater will disappear.

Pour slightly cooled mixture onto shortbread. Place in the refrigerator (with a hot pad underneath initially) and chill at least two hours. Cover the slice with plastic wrap if desired.

To serve, remove from refrigerator 20-30 minutes prior to serving, or microwave for ten to fifteen seconds. So delicious.

20130601-092821.jpg

Speaking of delicious, we made some French toast out of croissants sliced in half during a few minutes of moving downtime on Memorial Day. And by we, I mean my boyfriend made them while I laid on the floor and squeezed in some serious cat time. She’s so cute!

20130601-094545.jpg
Let me know if this post looks funky. Suffice it to say (and I’m an excellent sufficer), it’s been an insane week. I’m finishing this post up on my phone from the NY LaGuardia airport. Hence, I have no clue what it will really look like.

Vacay, here we come!