So one of my many, many vices are pistachio nuts. Give me a bag of pistachios while watching a movie or sitting around a campfire and I will demolish those nuts, without even a thought as to the fact that I will inevitably have sore fingers and broken nails. The answer to this heartache (or finger ache) is, of course, shelled pistachio nuts – which I didn’t even realize existed until this week. But beware of the shelled pistachio nut – it looks so naked and shriveled without its shell, but it truly is a dangerous thing. If you take these nuts into your home, you will discover that when you don’t have to take the time to shell them, you will unavoidably eat half your pistachios, and realize that if you eat any more that recipe for pistachio shortbread cookies you’ve been waiting weeks to try will have to be put on hold once again. Not that this happened to me, of course, I have more will power than that….
On to the pistachio shortbread cookies. Other than pistachio ice cream, I have never had a sweet treat that featured the pistachio, which seems odd given that pecans, almonds and cashews show up in just about every other dessert these days. Martha Stewart’s recipe seemed pretty easy to follow. I didn’t have sanding sugar, as her recipe suggested, so I just pulsed regular sugar in the food processor a few times, and that seemed to do the trick. I also chose to go with the circle-shaped cookie cutter – instead of Martha’s recommended fluted square – but then I like to take risks.
Now here’s where Martha failed me – in her recipe she says to bake the cookies at 350 for 18 minutes. Now I’m not a novice baker, so I realized 18 minutes was a long time for cookies, especially ones that are rolled to 1/8 inch thick. So I simply set the timer for 15 minutes and checked back then – but I’m apparently not expert enough to know that even 15 minutes was way too long. The first tray of cookies came out dark brown and crispy – basically not good. So after cursing Martha to high heaven, I put the next tray in for 9 minutes and kept checking until the edges were golden brown at 11 minutes. This tray came out perfect: tender and delicate and tasting of pistachios. So if you try this recipe – which I do recommend – remember, unless you want to get unreasonably mad at Martha Stewart, bake at 350 for 11 minutes. You, your sanity and your stomach, will thank me.
Makes 48 Cookies (or 32 if you burn a tray)
1/2 cup shelled pistachios
1/4 cup fine sanding sugar
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large egg yolks
1 large egg white, lightly beaten
In the bowl of a food processor, grind pistachios until fine but not powdery. Divide ground pistachios equally between sanding sugar and flour; set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar on medium speed until fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add vanilla and salt, and beat for 1 minute. Add yolks one at a time, and beat until evenly combined. Add flour and pistachio mixture, and mix until just combined. Remove dough, and form into a 4-by-6-inch rectangle; wrap in plastic, and chill for 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with Silpats (French nonstick baking mats) or parchment paper, and set aside. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to a 1/8-inch thickness. Brush dough with the egg white to moisten. Cover evenly with pistachio-sanding-sugar mixture. Lightly press mixture into dough with the rolling pin. Using a 1 1/2-inch fluted square cookie cutter, cut cookies as close as possible to avoid waste. Place on prepared baking sheets.
Bake until edges are just lightly golden, about 11 minutes. Transfer cookies to a cooling rack. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.