Within the last week I’ve had two separate people suggest cookie recipes to me (Patty suggested lemon-clove sandwich cookies, and Sarah wrote a post about chocolate cookies) but I’m still months behind on my cookie plans! Ages ago I saw a recipe for something called Pine Nut Tassies. I’d never made tassies before. I had, come to think of it, never even heard of tassies before. But they sounded so cool I couldn’t resist. I hacked into Schnookie’s epicurious recipe box and saved the link. And then I sat back and waited for the perfect day.
Today was that perfect day — just over halfway through a nice long vacation, a lazy summer Friday, everything is feeling like Autumn is really just around the corner. The active prep time on the recipe (which is from Gourmet magazine) said 1 1/4 hours but the instructions seemed really easy. Just make a simple butter cookie dough and line mini-muffin trays with this pastry-crust-like-material.
Whip up a caramel-ish filling with brown sugar, butter, and an egg then stir in pine nuts. Make sure, though, that you get the right amount of pine nuts. I forgot to remind my personal grocery shopper to read the recipe before getting the nuts, so I was missing 1 3/4 ounces of the little buggers and my personal errand runner had to zip back out for more.
Filling the shells with the sticky, gooey mixture made me feel like I was Sandra Lee making some ridiculously fussy recipe made from 99% crappy ingredients like pancake batter in a can and cherry pie filling and 1% stupidly expensive, hard-to-find items like rose soda. All I needed was the Semi-Homemade theme song, a bushel full of fake apples, and an over-the-top window treatment.
The funny thing about this, though, was that it wasn’t fussy. At all. It was fun and easy throughout the entire process. I never felt like I was tired of bending over muffin tins or tired of having sticky fingers from the filling.
The butter cookies were insanely easy to make and divide (helpfully leaving us with just the right amount of snacking dough, to boot).
The filling was simple and quick, and super-fun. I’d never made anything like it before and probably could have swirled it around for hours because the texture was fascinating.
And the cookies came out of the oven perfectly bubbly and golden brown after just 10 minutes.
The potential to be scalded with burning hot caramel was enough to scare us into doing the unthinkable — letting the cookies cool completely before trying them. Of course, that did force us to stop and smell the roses, or rather stop and arrange the cookies on the gorgeous new tray Boomer and Schnookie gave me for my birthday.
Sandra Lee would mostly layer the tray with silk flower petals first, and maybe a few pillar candles, and probably a giant faux-chandelier would be involved somewhere. But for me, it’s perfect.
Speaking of perfect, the cookies? Are delicious. The butter cookie crusts are, well, buttery! Buttery, and smooth, and bright. The filling is phenomenal. The caramel darkens the brightness of the crust, balancing it out beautifully. The pine nuts provide a nut-ish flavor but without the traditional nut-ish crunch and chunkiness. They also round out of the overall flavor with a finish that hints at something totally outside the realm of The Cookie Usual, but which manages to also be comfortable and warm
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
For Butter Cookie Pastry Shells:
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 sticks softened butter
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, on medium speed. Add egg and vanilla and beat. On low speed, add the flour until it is just incorporated. Split dough into halves and cool in fridge while making the filling.
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tbl butter, melted and cooled
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1 3/4 cups pine nuts (1/2 lb)
Whisk together sugar, butter, egg, vanilla and salt. Add pine nuts and stir.
Split one half of the dough into 12 1 1/2 tsp-sized chunks. Roll each chunk into a 1-inch ball and place in muffin tin. Using your thumb, press the dough along the bottom and sides of the muffin tin cups. (You will not need to grease the muffin tin.) Fill each shell with about a tsp of filling.
Bake until bubbly and golden brown. In my oven, this took exactly 10 minutes, although the recipe calls for 12-15. Place the tins on trays to cool for 10 minutes, first running a sharp knife around the edges of each cookie. After 10 minutes, remove the cookies from the tins and allow to cool completely on the rack.
The recipe says this will make 4 dozen cookies, but I only had enough filling for 3.