Pistachio Piezadas, My New Favorite Cookie – Unless That’s Black Walnut Honey Drops
Around here, it’s not too late to be trottin’ out the recipes. Holiday cookie season isn’t officially over until 12th Night and I still have plenty to go.
The assortment is always a mixture of old favorites and new thrills and ideally there would be about half of each. But now that this has gone on for years and years (and years), I feel like a long-running hit restaurant: there isn’t much room for anything new because the menu is already crowded with dishes that cannot be removed or the customers will rebel.
This year, I’ve again made most of our classics – everybody’s classics, like gingerbread persons and butter cookies, and our personal classics, like chocolate rum balls (recipes for those and more here). Also some equally must-have Universal Suit Yourself Fruit and Nut Bars.
Also, thank goodness, three new ones, all of them cookies that should come in useful whenever cookies are needed, regardless of the season: Pistachio Piezadas, Lime Cornmeal Biscotti and Black Walnut Honey Drops.
The Honey Drops (why didn’t I think of this before?) are simply the honey cake I’ve been making for years, very slightly adapted – see recipe below.
The Lime Cornmeal Biscotti come straight from Food 52. Some of this batch was left unglazed because I like them just as well without, although it appears I’m the only one of whom this is true.
Thus we arrive at the just sweet enough obscenely rich orange flower perfumed Pistachio Piezadas, addictive as potato chips and as far as I know my own invention although they totally wouldn’t exist without Claudia Roden’s Guizadas.
Back story on the Piezadas:
I’m a file-toting member of the “clip it out; you might use it someday” school of recipe preservation, as was my mother before me, and I say “toting” because I’ve been doing this for so long the file weighs almost as much as I do.
Well, not really. But it is full enough to mean that wonderful sounding, easy recipes can still languish for some time. Such was the case with the Guizadas, one of several recipes in a New York Times Magazine piece about Roden, written back in 1997 by the inimitable Molly O’Neil, one of our finest story-tellers in the food department.
The relevant page went into the file shortly after publication. In the spring of 2010, I finally got around to trying them. Delicious! And almost absurdly easy to make. But they are a tad on the chewy side, right between cookies and candy, and they must be baked in candy cups.
I assume this is to keep the loose dough together and to keep the Guizadas from sticking to your fingers. Unfortunately, it does not keep them from sticking to the cups, so after the first two tries I switched to baking them as cookies – dropped onto back oblaten, ultra thin, tasteless wheat wafers designed for just this sort of purpose and manufactured in Germany.
Tastewise, the adaptation was a big success. I’ve made this version over and over. But the cookies were not pretty; consistently depositing exactly enough Guizada to completely cover the wafer without overflowing it is not a skill I possess.
Then when I went just a week ago to get this year’s supply of the necessary, there were none to be had at my usual oblaten source – or anywhere else local that I tried. Internet suppliers would not deliver before Christmas.
Rice paper might have worked just as well, but instead of trying it, I decided to be glad there’s always a supply of pie crust in the freezer. Unlike oblaten, piecrust tastes good, so leaving a bit of it exposed did a lot for deposit control without compromising flavor. In fact, flavor was improved, and as piecrust is attractive, which oblaten are not, so were the looks of the thing. A cookie is born!
(please feel free to suggest a better name)
For about 60 cookies:
Enough pastry for a two crust pie
Claudia Roden’s Guizada paste:
- 2 1/3 c. shelled raw pistachio kernels
- 1 c. sugar
- 2 scant tbl. orange flower water
- 2 whole eggs
- 2 egg yolks
1. Roll the dough between sheets of waxed paper, making two dough sheets about 1/8th inch thick. Chill. Heat the oven to 350.
2. Coarsely chop the nuts in a processor, add everything else and process just enough to mix thoroughly, nuts should grind a little finer but remain in recognizable chunks. Transfer the mixture to a pastry bag with a 1/3 inch plain tip or a thick plastic freezer bag with simple (not pleated) corners. Chill.
3. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Peel the waxed paper from one side of a crust sheet. Put the paper back loosely, reverse the sheet and remove the second piece of waxed paper. Cut decorative rounds about 2 1/2 inches in diameter and place on the parchment about 1 inch apart. Save the scraps. Repeat with the second sheet of crust. Combine the scraps and set aside in case you need more crust.
4. Bake the crust shapes until the tops have dried but have not begun to brown, about 7 minutes. Remove them from the oven. Retrieve the filling (and if using the plastic bag, cut off a corner to produce a roughly 1/3 inch opening). Squeeze a generous teaspoon sized blob of filling onto the center of each cookie, using a finger to nudge it into place as necessary.
5. Return the cookies to the oven and bake until the crust is browned and the filling is set, about 12 -15 minutes. Slide the sheet of parchment onto a rack and cool the cookies before lifting them; they’re fragile when hot.
Black Walnut Honey Drops
Like classic German honey cookies, these keep very well and may even improve with age. And as they are not crumbly even a little they’re excellent for shipping (or carrying on long hikes… or going to school in lunch boxes if you use regular walnuts or no nuts at all).
The cake that inspired them is itself an adaptation – of the recipe for Candy Cake in the American Heritage Cookbook, published in 1964. It was out of print for some time but is now in print once more, thanks, if that’s the word, to one of those bottom-feeder publishers that get deals on reprint rights to out-of-print classics.
I haven’t seen the reprint edition but can pretty much guarantee that a clean used copy of one of the originals, complete with historical essays and photographs, will be a much better quality book. I wouldn’t say this if I thought there were any chance the original creators were getting royalties from the reprint, but I’m sufficiently sure they aren’t to offer to eat my copy if I’m wrong about this.
For about 60 cookies:
- ½ c. butter
- 2 c. plus 2 tbl. all purpose flour
- ½ tsp. baking powder
- ¼ tsp. soda
- ¼ tsp. salt
- a scant ½ c. sugar
- 3 well-beaten eggs
- ½ c. mild honey
- 2 tsp. vanilla
- 1 c. coarsely chopped black walnuts
1. Put the butter in a large bowl and let soften to cool room temperature. Heat the oven to 350. Thoroughly mix flour, baking powder, soda and salt and set aside.
2. Cream the sugar with the butter until the mixture lightens in color. Beat in the eggs, honey and vanilla, then lightly stir in the flour mixture. Add walnuts and stir/fold just enough to mix them through.
3. Drop the dough by scant tablespoons on parchment paper lined cookie sheets and bake until richly browned, about 25 minutes. Cool on wire racks.
When freshly made, the cookies have a shell of firm, almost crisp crust and a cakelike interior. Airtight storage gradually softens them until they are cakelike throughout.