I’m taking advantage of the surplus of nuts in the stores during the holidays to make lots of these buttery pistachio shortbread cookies loaded with freshly shelled nuts and a hint of vanilla. I used unsalted roasted pistachios packaged still in the shell, they’re fresher that way, and I used enough of them so that you can actually taste the pistachio flavor. Believe it or not, you can actually buy real PISTACHIO EXTRACT for a more pronounced taste, and someday I may try that, but for me the vanilla and the nuts themselves make for a really subtle and unusual cookie. Depending on how thick you slice them, and precisely how long you cook them, they will either be crispy or buttery, it’s your call.
Slice and bake cookies never turn out quite as perfectly round as roll out cookies, but they have a nicer texture, I think. Make sure the dough is nice and cold, and use a sharp, serrated knife, I used a bread knife, and a gentle sawing motion to slice through the dough cleanly. If you want to insure that the log of dough stays round while it chills, you can take a tube from an empty paper towel roll and cut it open lengthwise. Then set the log of dough inside and it will keep it shape. You can also set the dough on a bed of uncooked rice to support it in the refrigerator.
I’m all about the easy cookie these days. I have lots of more complicated recipes on my to-do list, but as the days before Christmas dwindle, I have to pare things down to the essentials. This is a rustic cookie you can really sink your teeth into, and about as easy as it gets…
- 2 sticks, (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1 cup whole pistachios
- Set oven to 350F
- Cream the butter and the sugar together.
- Beat in the vanilla.
- Whisk together the flour and cornstarch. Blend them into the butter and sugar, until it forms a dough.
- Stir in the pistachios and make sure you get them well distributed in the dough.
- Turn the dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap and form it into a log, about 9 or 10 inches long. Wrap it in the plastic and smooth it into a uniform smooth shape, twisting the ends to secure.
- Refrigerate the dough for at least 3 hours, or overnight.
- Slice the dough into 1/4 - 1/3 inch slices and place on a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet. Thinner slices will bake up crispier, and thicker ones will be more buttery and soft.
- Bake for about 10 minutes, maybe a little longer for thicker cookies. The cookies will still be pale and soft, but will firm up as they cool.
- Cool for 2 minutes on the baking sheet, then cool completely on a rack.
A little stack of these cookies makes the perfect offering if you’re going visiting, or if people show up on your doorstep unexpectedly. I keep a whole lineup of shortbread dough in the freezer during the weeks leading up to Christmas and I can’t tell you how useful they are. Even after it’s baked, shortbread lasts a long time without going stale, so it’s really a holiday workhorse.
I use decorative take out style boxes for small cookie gifts, not only because they look great, but they’re sturdy so you don’t have to worry about crushing all your hard work. They’re small enough that you can make a nice gift out of just a few cookies. You can find them all over the place, mine are from Cost Plus.