SMS Pistachio

This week’s Sweet Melissa Sundays recipe was selected by Dawn of Growing Up (And Having Fun) After 40: pistachio linzer thumbprints!  Unfortunately, something came up and Dawn wasn’t able to bake along this week so I was asked to host and was happy to help out.  I was actually contemplating skipping this week as I am not a pistachio person so this was just the incentive I needed to give these cookies a go and then hand them off to someone who’d enjoy them.

SMS Pistachio

The first challenge with this recipe was tracking down the unsalted pistachios called for.  As someone who has never purchased pistachios, I had no idea it was going to be so challenging to find them!  I checked 5 or 6 stores, each time finding another variation on roasted, salted pistachios, before giving up and deciding that it just wasn’t going to happen.  Did anyone manage to find unsalted?  I’d love to hear where if you did.  To compensate for using the salted pistachios, I skipped the salt in the recipe, hopeful it would all work out in the end. 

SMS: Pistachio Linzer Thumbprints

The cookie dough is put together entirely in a food processor, which I love – it just makes it so easy.  We also escaped having to bring butter to room temperature for this recipe, letting the food processor work chilled butter into the flour.  In other words, the recipe probably couldn’t have been much quicker or more simple.  Perhaps the hardest part was making sure curious kitties didn’t get their paws on the dough.

SMS Pistachio

Shaping the cookies, though – that was a bit more tricky.  The recipe instructed you to chill the dough until firm (about an hour) after making it.  I do think it’s a good idea to chill the dough a bit so your butter will be cold when the cookies go in the oven, but an hour may have been too much.  My dough was so cold it kept cracking when I tried to press the hole in the center for the jam.  I let it warm up a bit and it became easier, but I was wary of letting it get too warm.  I used apricot preserves in my cookies and having made half of the recipe, I wound up with about 18 cookies.  The cracks worsened in the oven, but the cookies mostly maintained their shape otherwise.  In the end, I liked the cracks in my cookies – the color and texture of the pistachios already gave the cookies a rustic appearance and I think the cracks just made them more endearing.  

SMS: Pistachio Linzer Thumbprints

My mom was kind enough to take these cookies home so they didn’t go to waste here.  Both she and my step-father reported back to me that they enjoyed them!  Neither told me they were too salty so I assume using the salted pistachios and eliminating the other salt from the recipe worked out well.  My mom thought the pistachios and apricot preserves complemented one another nicely.  They both commented on the texture added by the chopped pistachios (it was a good thing) and my mom even thought the cookies were hearty enough to justify them as breakfast food (and unlike me, she doesn’t generally believe baked goods are perfectly acceptable breakfast options) :)

Thanks to everyone who baked along this week!  You can check out how the other bakers fared by visiting the SMS blogroll.

Pistachio Linzer Thumbprints
from The Sweet Melissa Baking Book by Melissa Murphy

1 cup shelled unsalted pistachios, plus 2/3 cup shelled unsalted pistachios, finely chopped, for rolling
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 lb (2 sticks) very cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 large eggs, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup seedless raspberry or apricot preserves
confectioners’ sugar, for sprinkling

In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, pulse 1 cup of pistachios with 1/2 cup flour until fine but not powdery.  Add the remaining 1 3/4 cups flour as well as the sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.  Pulse to combine.

Add the butter and lemon zest to the bowl of the food processor and carefully use your fingers to toss and coat the butter with flour.  Pulse until the mixture resembles cornmeal.  Add the egg yolks and vanilla and pulse until the dough just holds together.

Refrigerate the dough until firm, about 1 hour.  (The dough can be tightly wrapped with plastic then aluminum foil and frozen for up to 3 weeks.)

Preheat oven to 350 F with a rack in the center.  Line two baking sheets with parchment.

Using a 1-oz cookie scoop or a tablespoon, scoop the dough into 1-inch balls.  Roll the balls in the egg whites, then the chopped pistachios.  Place the cookies 1 1/2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets.  Using a floured thumb, press an indentation into the center of each cookie.

Keep the cookies chilled while you fill a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4-inch pastry tip with the preserves.  (Alternatively, you could use a resealable plastic bag.)  Fill each cookie with about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of preserves.

Bake for 20 minutes or until the cookies are lightly browned.  Remove to a wire rack to cool.

When cool, dust generously with confectioners’ sugar.  Dip your finger in water and tap on the centers of each cookie so the jam shines through the sugar.

(Cookies keep at room temp for 3 days, for up to 5 days in the fridge or up to 3 weeks in the freezer.  You can also use hazelnuts instead of pistachios.)