Tuesday, April 19, 2011

cookie o' the month...

From Baker Beth comes this month's cookie, just in time to celebrate Easter. We've all seen and probably will partake of our share of brightly pastel frosted, egg shaped, sugar cookies. Believe me, I'm on that mission, especially when the frosting is real buttercream, soft and not too sugary. But our Beth, being Beth-Like, isn't content being just your average bear.

So, she brings us this cookie recipe for Easter. Think of it as a great palette cleanser to all the store bought Holiday candy and cookies.

And, who doesn't like candied walnuts? Actually, I know a few people that don't. Sad really, but I can't judge since I fear raisins. -angelo



Cheese.

I love cheese. Angelo loves cheese. So we both flipped out over this recipe at food52:
Roasted Feta with Thyme Honey.

Let me write that again: Roasted.
Feta. ... With. Thyme. Honey.

Nearly perfection. Perfection, I decided, would be achieved with the addition of walnuts. Toasty, crunchy walnuts to contrast the creamy feta and the caramelized honey? Heaven.

So why not interpret it all into a cookie?

Why not indeed.

Now, feta – as much as I love it – does not lend itself to cookies. For a moment, I considered the tanginess of goat cheese as a replacement. But then I shed my literal thoughts and turned my attention toward a classic cream cheese cookie dough: simple, subtle, buttery, flaky goodness.

I thought of variations of walnut fillings, but eventually decided on
candied walnut halves, gilded with a barely crunchy coating of honey and sugar with the faintest herbaceous note of thyme. (If you can't find thyme honey, you can warm some honey with a sprig or two of thyme and achieve a similar effect.)

April 24 is Greek Orthodox Easter so April seemed like a fine month for a cookie that involves the genius Greek pairing of walnuts and honey – don't even get me started on my love of baklava! – and flaky pastry with a hint of cheese. The candied walnuts require a bit of effort, but they're well worth it. And the cookie dough is so ridiculously easy, the walnut step and the cookie step balance each other out.

The walnuts, for their shellacking of sugar-and-honey syrup, are only subtly sweet, and the cookie skews savory, so just before serving, I'd recommend a drizzle of honey on these cookies for an extra touch of sweetness and sticky goodness.

Enjoy.
— Beth


Honey-Candied Walnuts
(Converted and adapted from the recipe from
The Suitcase Chef)

1 cup walnut halves
1 cup water
2 T. sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 T. Greek thyme honey
Vegetable oil for frying (See note below)

Boil 1 cup of water in a small saucepan. Remove from heat. Add walnuts. Soak for 5 minutes. Drain the nuts. Add sugar to the pan and place nuts on top of sugar. Add enough water to barely cover the nuts. Add a pinch of salt. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low. Tilt the pan toward you slightly, push the nuts toward the top of the pan, and allow the syrup to pool toward the bottom. Continually spoon the syrup over the nuts until the liquid is reduced by half. Stir in honey. Continue to spoon the syrup over the nuts until only
3 tablespoons of syrup remain. Drain the nuts. Clip a candy thermometer onto a heavy saucepan. Gradually heat oil to 284º F / 140º C. Take care to maintain this temperature throughout the cooking process. Carefully place nuts in the oil and stir constantly. When the bubbles surrounding the nuts almost disappear, and when their color is golden brown, remove the nuts carefully using a strainer. Spread the nuts on a plate, separating them to prevent them from sticking together. Let cool completely then transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate to absorb any excess oil.

Beth Note: I fried the walnut halves individually, which may seem obsessive, but doing so allowed me to time the first one, starting at 20 seconds, to see how quickly it achieved the perfect golden-brown color, and also to monitor the temperature of the oil and make sure it stayed constant. For me, 40 seconds produced a perfectly golden-brown walnut half, and with only a cup of nuts to fry, the process didn't take long. If you're proficient in frying and have a spider or other large strainer that will enable you to remove most of the nuts at once, they can be fried in a batch. If you opt for that method, I'd use a whole bottle of vegetable oil and a larger pan to accommodate the frying of the larger, all-at-once quantity of nuts.

Cream Cheese Cookies
(Adapted from my Aunt Stana's recipe binder, c. 1950)

Beth Note: This recipe yields about 24 cookies but can easily be doubled, tripled, or
quadrupled depending on how many walnut halves you prepare.

1 3 oz. package cream cheese, softened
1 stick butter, softened
1 cup flour

Cream the cheese and butter, blend in flour and knead until smooth. Place dough between pieces of parchment paper and roll out to between 1/4th and 1/8th of an inch. Cut with medium round or oval cookie cutter. Place cookies on ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 375 for 15-18 minutes or until cookies just begin to brown at the edges. Remove from oven. Cool on baking sheet for two minutes, then transfer to cooling rack. While cookies are still warm, lightly press a candied walnut half into each.

By the by, if you're thinking this looks exactly like the recipe for kolacky dough, you're exactly right.

2 comments:

Doreen said...

"Our Beth" never disappoints!!!

Beth said...

Aw, "your Beth" is blushing!

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