Whenever I go home, it never fails to amaze me how my mother still has all of her fingers. Every one. It would amaze you, too, if you ever watched her cut an onion. In her hand.
I think she’s showing off. Or. She’s waiting for me to one-up her and cut my own fingers off in some horrible kitchen accident so that I’m forced to extend my home stay under her care. Oh mama, don’t think I don’t know the plan. I’ve got my eye on you.
The thing I realized today, though, is that that’s what she’s comfortable with. Hands-on -(pun intended)-onion-cutting (she cuts apples like that, too). Cutting boards are for chumps. What I’m comfortable with is my set of gourmet knives, sharp as…well, knives, and a solid cutting board. This level of comfort can make all the difference between trying something new, and wishing you could try something new. I read recipes sometimes and feel like what the author/baker/cook is recommending is so beyond my scope and ability (you want me to stick my hand where?) – I just close the book/browser and move on. But today, I found someone saying this:
It’s not about technique; it’s about getting it done.
Now, don’t go all – I disagree with you – on me. This one liner is for me, to help me see things differently. To help me try new things without talking myself out of it before I even begin. What I’m comfortable with may not exactly be what’s called for, but I can probably figure it out. I don’t have all the right kitchen gadgets or fancy tools. I don’t have all the exact ingredients. I don’t have the stomach to crack that chicken’s spine (I mean, that makes me want to throw up just typing it). But I can figure it out. It’s not about the technique; it’s about getting it done in a way that is comfortable – and feels right – for me.
Today was still a workday for me, and still busy, but I worked from home and the kitchen was all……….wassup? to me. Yes, just like that. So I gave in and made these…
Just Roll With It Cookies
+ Adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s Roasted Chestnut Cookies
++Makes about 4 dozen cookies (40 to be exact)
So here’s the deal. I was planning on making the Roasted Chestnut Cookies just as they were. I’d made something with chestnuts over the holidays, and had some left over – but I just don’t like the way they taste. I figured if I buried them in some cookie dough, it would be a win-win. But then – did you know chestnuts actually have a shelf life? I thought they were like raisins, which have a shelf life of Forever. But no. I opened the bag of chestnuts, took one look, and thought: The butter is already at room temperature. Then: Shit. Then: Ugh. So I moved to Plan B.
Plan B was…Well lord, just roll with it.
You know what makes me happy? When I finish the last tidbit of something that’s been opened and forgotten about. This recipe was just the thing for that. I was finally able to get through the last of a few dates, four dried apricots, golden raisins, two prunes, a handful of crystallized ginger, some pecans and pinenuts. The trick to the cookies was finding something that would blend the same way that roasted chestnuts would, and I think this was a good compromise. The final verdict: something pretty tasty.
1 cup of…dates, raisins, crystallized ginger, prunes, apricots
1 cup (2 sticks or 8 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup…whatever nuts you’ve got on hand. I used a mix of pinenuts and pecans
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract – Oops! Forgot this.
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups all purpose flour
1 ½ c powdered sugar
Line two cookies sheets with parchment paper.
- Dump your date mixture in the bowl of a food processor. Process it until it starts to form a thick paste, about 45 seconds. Add your butter and 1 cup of nuts. Process for 30 seconds, wipe down the sides of your bowl with a spatula, and process for another 30 seconds.
- Sift: ½ c of powdered sugar, vanilla extract, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and flour. Add to the date/butter mixture and pulse until an even dough is formed. I counted 45 quick pulses.
- Divide dough and wrap each half in plastic, chilling for one hour or until firm.
- Once chilled, heat the oven to 350°F.
- Whisk remaining 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar and a few pinches of cinnamon in a small bowl. Set aside.
- Working with one half of the chilled dough at a time, roll it into 2 teaspoon-sized balls (I used my scale and measured out 20g/.7 ounces) in the palm of your hand. Arrange on parchment-lined baking sheet but no need to leave more than 1/2 inch between the cookies; they won’t spread.
- Bake cookies until golden brown on bottom and just pale golden on top, 15 minutes. Cool cookies 10 minutes on baking sheet. Gently toss warm cookies in cinnamon-sugar mix to coat completely.
- Transfer coated cookies to rack and cool completely.
- Repeat procedure with remaining half of dough.
Dough can be chilled in the fridge for a day or two, longer in the freezer. Cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for a week.