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Filtering by Category: christmas

Italian Pine Nut Cookies

Patricia Reitz

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By far, the most popular cookie recipe among my extended family during the holidays. These chewy pignoli cookies are completely bursting with deep almond flavor. Pine nuts (pignolis) are pricy, but they’re such an excellent compliment in both texture and flavor, they’re worth using. If you want to be frugal, just place the pine nuts on the top of the cookies before baking; if you want to be decadent, roll the entire ball of cookie dough in the nuts before baking. Pine nuts are highly perishable so be sure to store them in an airtight container in the freezer.

how to make delicious pine nut cookies like a bakery

Start with a bowl of pine nuts (try not to eat them before you make the cookies).

Start with egg whites, confectioners sugar, and a pinch of fine salt.

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And the star ingredient, pure almond paste (not marzipan). Canned almond paste is best…

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But there are some packaged almond pastes that are ok - squeeze the package to see if the paste inside is soft. This brand uses a foil-wrapping inside the box. There are also foil-wrapped logs available that are usually ok, but I find the clear cellophane-wrapped logs are usually hard and dried out. Avoid hard almond paste if you can.

Here you can see the 2 different brands are 2 different colors, but that’s okay - the food processor is going to take care of that in no time.

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Place the almond paste in the food processor and pulse on and off until it resembles coarse sand.

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The sight of ground almond paste makes me happy!

Add the confectioners sugar and salt to the ground almond paste.

Pulse a few more times until the confectioners sugar disappears, then add the egg white and process until a smooth paste forms.

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I like to transfer the paste to a smaller container which makes it easier to work with. Use a #60 scoop (1 tablespoons) to portion out the sticky cookie dough.

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Roll the dough in the pine nuts.

Place the pine nut coated balls of dough on a silicone lined half sheet pan and press the balls slightly so the pine nuts stick after baking.

Bake the cookies for 20 minutes and allow to cool for 10 minutes before transferring to a rack to cool completely. Store in airtight container for up to a week (best eaten within 3 or 4 days).


Italian Pine Nut Cookies (Pinoli, Pignoli, Pinon)

makes 60 cookies (#60 scoop)

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds (680 grams) canned almond paste (not almond filling or marzipan)

  • 1 1/3 cups (150 grams) confectioners sugar

  • 3 large (90 grams) egg whites, room temperature

  • pinch of salt

  • 1/2 pound (227 grams) pine nuts (aka pinoli, pignoli, pinon)

  • optional: confectioners sugar for dusting

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325F, place rack in center position, and line 2 half sheet pans with silicone liners.

  2. Pulse almond paste in food processor until it resembles crumbs.

  3. Add confectioners sugar and salt; pulse until it resembles sand.

  4. Add egg whites and processes until a fine paste forms.

  5. Use a #60 scoop to portion dough; roll in pine nuts and place on half sheet pan (12 per pan).

  6. Flatten each ball of dough slightly and bake for 20 minutes; rest for 10 minutes before transferring to a rack to cool completely.

  7. Dust with additional confectioners sugar if desired.

Cream Puffs

Patricia Reitz

Cream puffs are the perfect crowd-pleasing treat because absolutely everybody loves them. The pastry shells can be baked and frozen up to a month ahead of time, and the filling can be made and refrigerated a day or two ahead. When you’re ready to serve them, just whip up a batch of whipped cream, fold it into the pastry cream, and spoon or pipe it into the empty pastry shells. Finish with a quick sprinkling of confectioner’s sugar and get ready to be the hit of the party.

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We'll start by making the pastry which is technically called pate a choux (sounds like pot-ah-shoo).

In a 4-quart nonstick saucepan, heat water, milk, butter, salt, and sugar until it boils.

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While you're waiting for the mixture to boil, have the flour and eggs ready to go.

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Okay, the milk mixture is just starting to boil - time to add the flour.

Add all the flour at once...

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And stir vigorously until all the liquid is absorbed.

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When all the liquid is absorbed, continue stirring constantly...

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Until a smooth paste forms and pulls away from the sides of the pan.  We're not quite there yet, but almost.

Just a few more moments and we're done.  Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the dough to the bowl of a stand mixer.

how to make homemade cream puffs.

Add the eggs, mixing one at a time, until no traces of raw egg remains. If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can stir the eggs in by hand - it’ll take some time, but you can do it.

Transfer the mixture to a large pastry bag fitted with a large star tip (like this one).  I like to use disposable bags (like these).  Using a star tip helps the pastry dough expand evenly in the oven.

I piped long skinny shapes for eclairs as well as round mounds for cream puffs, but didn’t get photos of the cream puff mounds - oops. You’ll figure it out though.

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When the mounds are done baking, allow them to cool slightly, turn each puff upside down, poke a hole in the bottom with a paring knife or skewer, and allow excess steam to escape. Allow them to cool completely before cutting the pastry shells in half and proceeding with the recipe.

Note: if you plan to freeze the puffs for use later, flash freeze the cooled, uncut pastry shells for about an hour, then transfer to an airtight freezer-safe container for up to a month. Thaw overnight, in the refrigerator, inside the airtight container.

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To assemble, cut the pastry shell puffs in half with a serrated knife and fill with a mixture made of 50% pastry cream and 50% sweetened whipped cream. You can spoon the mixture in, or you can use a pastry bag fitted with a pasty tip as shown.

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Once filled, sprinkle with a dusting of confectioner’s sugar and serve immediately. Enjoy!

Items I used to make this recipe:


Cream Puffs

makes about 20

Ingredients

Pastry Shells:

  • 1/2 cup water

  • 1/2 cup whole milk

  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 1 teaspoon table salt

  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar

  • 1 cup all purpose flour

  • 5 large eggs

  • confectioner's sugar for dusting

Filling (equal parts of each):

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450F and place rack in center position.

  2. In a 4-quart nonstick saucepan, heat the milk, water, butter, salt, and sugar until it boils.

  3. Immediately add the flour and stir vigorously until all the liquid is absorbed by the flour and a paste forms; continue stirring constantly until the paste dries out and forms a ball that cleans the sides of the pan.

  4. Transfer the paste to the bowl of a stand mixer or food processor and allow it to cool for a couple of minutes. 

  5. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until each is fully incorporated.

  6. Transfer paste to a large disposable pastry bag that has been fitted with a large star tip (I used Ateco #826).

  7. Pipe the paste into 3-inch round by 1-inch tall mounds on a silpat lined sheet pan; dust with confectioner's sugar.

  8. Bake in 450F oven for 5 minutes, then reduce heat to 350F and continue baking for 25 to 30 minutes more.  

  9. Remove from oven and allow to rest until they're cool enough to handle, then poke a couple of vent holes in the bottom and allow to cool completely.

  10. When completely cool, fill with a mixture of 1 part pastry cream and 1 part sweetened whipped cream.

Snowball Cookies

Patricia Reitz

Whether you call them snowballs, Russian tea cakes, or Mexican wedding cookies, these melt-in-your-mouth cookies are a must for so many people during the holidays. It seems no cookie platter is complete without them. I like to make them with ground pecans, but feel free to substitute ground walnuts or almonds.

This cookie dough is extremely easy to make as long as you start with room temperature butter. Just place all the ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer and combine until no traces of dry flour remain. If you use BeaterBlade attachment, you won’t have to stop and scrape down the sides of your bowl.

Tip: Whatever you do, don’t be tempted to microwave cold butter to soften it - melted butter and softened butter act very different in recipes so just be patient and wait until the butter reaches room temperature naturally.

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Use a #60 cookie scoop to portion out the dough.

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Place them evenly on a silicone lined half sheet pan and bake as directed below. If you like, roll the dough into balls (I don’t because they roll all over the place).

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Allow the cookies to cool for about 5 minutes before rolling in confectioner’s sugar.

Tip: I like to store used vanilla bean pods in my confectioner’s sugar. It really improves the flavor.

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Just remove the vanilla bean pods from the confectioner’s sugar while you roll the cookies so they don’t get in your way. Replace them when you’re done.

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Mmmm… your kitchen is going to smell like vanilla!

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Allow the cookies to cool completely and, if you like, give them a 2nd toss in the confectioner’s sugar. Enjoy!

Items used to make this recipe:


Snowball Cookies (aka Russian Tea Cakes or Mexican Wedding Cookies)

makes 48 cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (226g) unsalted butter, room temperature (70F)

  • 1/2 cup (63g) confectioner’s sugar, sifted

  • 1 teaspoon (4g) pure vanilla extract

  • 2 1/4 cups (270g) all purpose flour

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 3/4 cup (90g) finely chopped toasted pecans (or walnuts or almonds)

  • extra confectioner’s sugar for coating the cookies

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375F and place rack in center position.

  2. Place the first 6 ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a BeaterBlade or paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until no traces of dry flour remain (if you us a paddle attachment, scrape down sides of bowl as needed).

  3. Use a #60 cookie scoop to portion 12 cookies per tray; bake one tray at a time for 8-10 minutes.

  4. Remove cookies from oven and allow to rest on tray for 5 minutes before rolling in confectioner’s sugar; return cookies to tray and allow to cool completely before rolling in confectioner’s sugar a second time.

Note: to toast pecans, place in a 350F oven for 5 minutes; cool completely before using.