Originally published in July 2006, this updated ingredient post features new photos, links and tweaks to the recipe. If you like shortbread cookies that aren't too sweet, you'll love these buttery pine nut cookies with a hint of cinnamon.
This weekend we finally got our basil plants into the garden. In fact, they're in need of a trim, and that means pesto, and that means pine nuts.
Or pignoli. Or piñon. Or pinocchi, pinhao, pinolos, pinoccoli ....
Whatever you call them, pine nuts are the edible seeds of pine trees: European stone pine, Colorado and Mexican pinyon, and Korean pine, which provide most of what's found in our markets. It takes 15-25 years for a tree to begin producing seeds. They are picked from the ground, taken from squirrel caches, or extracted by hand from the cones — a costly harvesting process that explains the high price of pine nuts.
The high oil content of pine nuts (all nuts, really) means they will turn rancid quickly if not stored properly, especially when you buy them shelled, as most of us do. Keep nuts in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a month, or in the freezer for several months. Though pine nuts can be eaten raw, they have better flavor when toasted for 2-3 minutes in a dry frying pan until just slightly golden.
I haven't tried making Pine Nut Aphrodisiac Soup, but fresh pesto made with good-quality pine nuts, real Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, fruity olive oil, and basil pulled right from the garden makes me swoon. And that's the recipe I planned to share with you, until I found this one.
Toasted piñon shortbread cookies
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma's New American Cooking. Makes approximately 30 cookies.
1/2 cup pine nuts (or piñon nuts, if you happen to have them)
2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1/2 cup sugar
1-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces
Preheat oven to 300°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat (silicone mat).
In a small nonstick dry frying pan over low heat, toast the pine nuts for 3 minutes or until they are lightly browned and aromatic. Empty the pan into the work bowl of a food processor, and set aside to cool for 5 minutes.
Then, combine the flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt in the food processor with the nuts. Pulse 10 times to combine the ingredients and to coarsely chop the nuts. Add the butter and pulse for 30 seconds, or until the mixture just comes together into a ball.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough 1/2-inch thick. Cut out the cookies with a 2-inch round cutter, or use a knife to cut into squares, or make them any shape you like. Reroll the scraps, and cut out more cookies until the dough is used up.
Place cookies on the baking sheet, and put the baking sheet in the refrigerator or freezer to chill for 1 hour. If you don't have that much time, don't worry. You can bake the cookies without pre-chilling them, but they'll be a bit more delicate; add 1-2 minutes to the baking time. (The cookies can be frozen on the tray at this point, then transferred to a plastic bag; they will keep in the freezer for up to 1 month.)
Bake the cookies, in batches, until slightly puffed and firm but not browned, 45-48 minutes. Transfer the baking sheet to a rack and let cool for 10 minutes, then transfer the cookies to the rack and let cool completely.
More ways to use your pine nuts:
Penne with roasted red pepper pesto
Cauliflower salad with white beans, feta and pine nuts
Pita pizzas with caramelized onions, sun-dried tomatoes, olives and pine nuts
Vegan quinoa salad with roasted sweet potato, apples, dried cranberries and pine nuts
Pasta bow ties with broccoli, white beans, pine nuts and feta
Other recipes that use these pantry ingredients:
Pine nut and brown sugar ice cream, from Cookin' Canuck
Pine nut rosemary shortbread, from 101 Cookbooks
Pine nut honey squares, from Baking Obsession
Snow peas with pine nuts and mint, from Simply Recipes
Couscous with toasted pine nuts, from Sugar and Spice by Celeste
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