With White Chocolate and Pistachios
I’ve got a real Jekyll and Hyde thing going when it comes to the Christmas holidays (and winter in general really). Perhaps a ‘Santa and Scrooge’ relationship would be more accurate. I adore the gatherings of family and friends, giving gifts, and the festive feeling that seems to permeate the air. But like many people, I once worked in retail, which meant a non-stop barrage of cranky shoppers, terrible Christmas music n repeat, and long hours with low pay. As a result, while I do get excited about Christmas, I’ve got my holiday limits, and I get decidedly Grinch-y when pushed past them. It makes for strange, and at times chaotic behaviour at this time of the year. For example, I’ll go well out of my way to avoid hearing whatever miserable pop-Christmas schlock is plaguing the airwaves, but I’ll play the Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack by the Vince Guaraldi Trio over and over and over again. Christmas lights in November? Shoot me now. Twinkling, unexpected outdoor Christmas tree on a quiet roadside in mid-December? Winter Wonderland! It’s a semi-unpredictable ride really, but I think that it has a lot to do with the feeling behind the festivity; some things just feel more festive and authentic, and they make up for the crass commercialism that seems to rear its ugly head at this time of the year.
What does all this have to do with food? A lot, actually. I had no real intentions of doing any Christmas cooking on the site, because Christmas recipes seem to walk the thin tinsel line between charming and ridiculous. I watched gleefully as many of my fellow Canadian food bloggers wrote up dozens of different holiday cookie recipes, but it never once occurred to me to submit something of my own. Because while I love Christmas cookies (like many people, we have a handful of beloved family classics), I didn’t feel like I had anything interesting to contribute to the discussion. I was happy with my role as cookie consumer (very, very happy), but I loathed the idea of trying to slap together some green-and-red monstrosity just for the sake of surfing the Christmas-blog-traffic wave. Basically, I put it out of my mind altogether. No cookie recipes for me.
One damp and chilly afternoon alone with my kids changed things. Feeling a little bored and cooped up, we collectively decided that some baking was in order. My two boys are fascinated by cooking and being in the kitchen. My oldest is old enough to help (or ‘help,’ depending on the situation), and my youngest is old enough to want to watch and/or touch every last thing, so I wanted to do something that we could all get in on, but that wouldn’t be too complicated. I realized I didn’t really have a recipe to work with, but I did have a pantry full of odds and ends, and an abiding love of shortbread. I had just the right amount of butter, but plain shortbread didn’t seem exciting enough. So we brainstormed. Both my kids adore dried cranberries, and my oldest loves white chocolate (son #2 probably does too, but he’s too little to actually have it yet). I’m not the world’s biggest white chocolate fan, as I find it overwhelmingly sweet and rich, but I realized it would work perfectly when used in moderation and partnered with pistachios. A recipe crystallized before our eyes, and before I even knew what was happening, we’d come up with a family Christmas cookie recipe, that also happens to be red, white, and green. Like our furry green friend the Grinch, my cranky Christmas heart grew three sizes that day.
If you’re looking for a great little Christmas cookie to add to your repertoire, this one is full of love. And butter. But mostly love. Or… ok, it’s like 50/50 love and butter. Regardless, it’s a great treat to make and share with the ones you love. And whether your holiday involves rocking out to Boney-M on repeat, knitting a scarf for your dog, or curling up in front of the fireplace with a good book and a cup of cocoa, I hope that it FEELS like the holidays to you. After all, it’s not what you do – but why you do it, and for whom.
Ho ho ho.
The instructions for these cookies are pretty by-the-books, but there are a couple of tips to getting the best out of them. This recipe is easily doubled (or more) if you’re looking to make a good cookie to give away over the holidays.
If you are cooking with kids, you can do a fair bit with them. Kids of all ages can measure the ingredients, and older children could use a mixer to combine the sugar and butter. Once the flour is added you need a bit more arm strength to keep things under control. If you’ve got a stand mixer, kids can add and monitor everything quite nicely. Depending on how uniform you want the cookies to be, you might be able to delegate forming duties to your kids, but you could also roll the dough out to a uniform thickness and use cookie cutters. Older kids can do the white chocolate portion (make sure to keep them well away from the hot water), and younger kids can roll on the pistachios. Be prepared for plenty of chocolaty finger licking.
I supposed you could make these will full-sized dried cranberries, but I absolutely adore the visual and textural quality that comes from finely chopping them into little bits. You can do this by hand (ugh), but if you toss the cranberries and the sugar together in a food processor for a minute or two, you end up with tiny little sugary bits of cranberry. It’s perfect really.
I’m not even really sure if you can buy crushed pistachios, but if you can, don’t bother. You’ll get the best flavour if you find whole ones (shelled, ideally) and crushing them yourself. You could always throw them in a bag and smash ’em up with a rolling pin or mallet, but I put mine in a food processor and chopped them up. This gives you a mix of bigger pieces and finer pistachio crumbs that give the cookie rims texture and fill the gaps nicely.
As for the white chocolate, it’s easy to work with, if a little bit messy. I realize that a bain-marie or double boiler might sound complicated, but you don’t need anything elaborate. I simple float a smallish metal bowl in a pot full of hot (not boiling) water. Give the white chocolate a little whisk as it melts to even it out and speed things up, then start carefully rolling the cookies rims in it. Place your pistachios in a small, broad bowl, and roll the white chocolate in the bits of nut. Place them on a rack, and you’re good to go.
If you’re not a huge fan of white chocolate (I’m not really either, but it really is a great flavour on these cookies, and you don’t use too much), you could substitute dark chocolate for a slightly bolder and more grown-up flavour.
Mini Cookie Variation
As you can see from some of the pictures, I did a version of these cookies in miniature with decoration in the center instead of around the rims. They’re really easy to do, and very shareable – simply take a tablespoon of dough, form it into a ball, dent the center with your thumb (picture a donut with a hole that doesn’t go through all the way), and bake. When they’re cool enough to handle, put a dollop of white chocolate on top and dip them in the pistachios. Easy peasy.
No ingredient pages have been written yet for any of the ingredients in this recipe. Like to see one? Let me know in the comments below or by email.
No pantry pages have been written yet for any of the ingredients in this recipe. Like to see one? Let me know in the comments below or by email.
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