Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Pistachio Cranberry Icebox Cookies

One of my favorite holiday traditions is baking up a bunch of treats for family, friends and neighbors. Each year I include our traditional favorites and try to throw in a few new recipes. But, this year, I've been set back a bit. The break in was upsetting to say the least and it took me a good week to settle back in and get on the holiday organizing, gift lists and treat making. So much for that "extra" week after Thanksgiving. I finally feel like I'm back "on track" and ready for some Holiday Cheer.

When I saw this recipe on Pinterest a couple of months ago, I knew I wanted to give it a try. I loved that it had cranberries and pistachios, red and green, and it just screamed "Christmas" to me. A "Slice and Bake" refrigerator cookie is so up my alley this season. I love the idea that you can make up batches of dough, weeks in advance, and then slice and bake as needed for all the various holiday parties and get togethers. I new immediately when I saw it that I'd like this recipe. What I didn't know is that I would LOVE it. Aside from the fact that it is very easy to make, I love love love the taste. The cookie itself is a tender shortbread that's not overly sweet. It has the perfect amount of cinnamon to spice it up without being a "cinnamon cookie." The pistachios and cranberries compliment each other well and then the orange zest just takes all the other flavors to the next level. Don't skip putting the crystal sugar on the outside before baking. It adds just enough sweetness and crunch. I dare say this cookie may make it onto our "traditional favorites" list. Give it a try and see if you don't agree. . .

Start with the usual cookie stuff, plus: AP flour, cinnamon, salt, butter, sugar, zest of a medium orange, shelled pistachios, and dried cranberries. You'll also need a beaten egg and some crystal sugar for later.

Stir together the flour, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.

Cream together the butter, sugar and orange zest (which by the way, smells amazing!)
Remember to get it nice and fluffy and light yellow.

Add the flour mixture a 1/3 at a time mixing just until incorporated. Dough will seem crumbly.

Mix in the pistachios and cranberries by hand. Here's the first change I'd make to original recipe. The recipe calls for whole pistachios but they are pretty big. I would give them a rough chop just to break them into slightly smaller pieces so they are more evenly distributed in the dough.

Gather up the dough and form into a solid chunk. The original recipe says to form into two chunks but I didn't think that was necessary. It's really not a lot of dough.

Form the chunk into a roll that is 9 inches long. Again, the original recipe said to form into two logs 1-1/2 inches in diameter. Again, I though the 9 inch log made more sense. (3 dozen cookies from 1/4 inch slices or 36 x 1/4-inch = 9 inches.)

Square up the sides of the log making sure not to make it longer than 9-inches. Use wax paper to make easy work of this. Wrap in the wax paper and then tightly in plastic wrap and chill at least 2 hours until very firm. (See the note at the end of the recipe for more long term frozen storage.)

When you are ready to bake, set the oven to 350°F. Beat an egg and get some crystal sugar sprinkles.

Brush the sides of the dough log with the beaten egg and then roll in the sparkling sugar to thoroughly cover the sides. (Note: I only did 1/3 of the log to show in the blog because I'm saving the rest to bake up just before Christmas.)

Slice the log into 1/4 inch slices. Rotate the log after each slice to keep the square shape. Use a really sharp knife to get through the pistachios and cranberries. Rough chopping the pistachios rather than keeping whole will make this easier. Lay the slices at least 1/2 inch apart on a lined cookie sheet. Bake for 10-13 minutes, just until edges start to brown.

Transfer cookies to a rack to cool completely.

There you have it. So easy and deliciously festive. The possibilities for slice and bake cookies are endless. Below is the recipe with my changes or check out the original recipe here: Pistachio Cranberry Icebox Cookies.

Pistachio Cranberry Icebox Cookies
Adapted from www.epicurious.com
(Edits to original recipe are in italics.)
Yield: 3 dozen cookies

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
Finely grated fresh zest, medium sized orange
1/2 cup shelled pistachios, roughly chopped (2 1/4 oz; not dyed red)
1/3 cup dried cranberries (1 1/4 oz)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup decorative sugar (preferably coarse)

Make dough:
Stir together flour, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl.

Beat together butter, granulated sugar, and zest in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture in 3 batches, mixing until dough just comes together in clumps, then mix in pistachios and cranberries. Gather and press dough together. Using a sheet of plastic wrap or wax paper as an aid, form dough into a log about 9 inches long. Square off long sides of each log to form a bar, then chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, until very firm, at least 2 hours.

Slice and bake cookies:
Put oven racks in center of oven and preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or Silpat mat. Brush egg over all 4 long sides of bar (but not ends). Sprinkle decorative sugar on a separate sheet of parchment or wax paper and press bar into sugar, coating well. Cut bar crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices, rotating bar after cutting each slice to help keep square shape. (If dough gets too soft to slice, freeze bars briefly until firm.) Arrange cookies about 1/2 inch apart on lined baking sheets. Bake cookies, until edges are pale golden, 10 to 13 minutes total. Transfer cookies from parchment to racks using a slotted spatula and cool completely.

Cooks' notes:
•Dough bars can be chilled up to 3 days or frozen, wrapped in plastic wrap and then foil, 1 month (thaw frozen dough in refrigerator just until dough can be sliced).
•Cookies keep in an airtight container at room temperature 5 days.

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