Most people associate pine nuts with Italian pesto. But there are many cuisines that use them in desserts. My favorite is the Italian pine nut cookie, sometimes called pignoli cookies. Admittedly I love almost any cookie that has nuts in it but the key for me is that they not be totally hard. That is why this recipe from Martha Stewarts Cookies Cookbook won my heart. This type of cookie should be slightly crunchy on the outside and then moist and soft on the inside. The key to this texture is almond paste.
Pine nuts are expensive but that’s because they take 18 months to be ready for harvest. You can often find ones from China that are less expensive but sometimes they are not of the best quality. While writing this post I came across this wonderful site (pinenut.com) that not only explains the differences between the species of pine nuts (There are 7 species that are the most commonly found in commerce.) but they also sell wild harvested American pine nuts. This site is also very helpful as it provides the varieties and compares their flavors differences. Check out the chart below the recipe.
Perfect Pine Nut Cookies Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Cookies
2 cups pine nuts
1 cup confectioners sugar
1/4 cup almond paste
1 tsp. vanilla extract ( I also add 1/8 tsp. ground vanilla beans. See pantry items)
1 large egg
1/2 cup of flour (these can be made gluten-free if you use almond flour)
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
Place 3/4 of the pine nuts along with the confectioner’s sugar, almond paste, and vanilla(s) into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Add the egg and pulse to combine again. Add the flour, baking powder and salt and process until dough just come together.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Pinch off about 3/4 inch pieces of dough and roll into balls. Place the remaining pine nuts on a flat plate and press the dough into the pine nuts to they stick by gently pressing dough into nuts. Place about 2 inches apart on a parchment lined cookie sheet.
Important: Bake the cookies, rotating the sheets once after 10 minutes for about 20 minutes. Do not over cook. They should be golden. Once I pull mine from the oven I gently slide the parchment onto a cool counter top so that they don’t continue to bake. You could also slide the parchment with the cookies on top onto a large cooling rack.
Enjoy! As you might imagine, these cookies are divine with espresso or tea.