07 November 2010

Awww NUTS.... here we go again!

delicately sweet Cashew Butter Cookies

It's kinda funny.  As a kid, I would not have classified myself as a nut lover.  Sure, I enjoyed my fair share of peanut butter on toast or in PB and banana sandwiches, but nuts in their non-butter form, not so much.  Even then, nuts of the non-peanut form were pretty much a rarity (ya ya, I know - peanuts are not "technically" nuts, whatever).  I remember sitting with my Grandpa, while everyone gathered in the living room to watch a football game, and eating roasted peanuts.  By now you've probably caught on to the fact that I have my quirks - and I was even quirkier as a kid.  You know how when you take a peanut and split in half, one of the halves has this teeny tiny extra bit on the tip of it?  C'mon, you know... this part:

my peanut has a thingy
...ok, well, being a very lovable and quirky kid, I refused to eat that part.  I would carefully crack apart each little peanut, gently remove that little thingamabob and my dear Gpa would chuckle at me and eat the thingamabob so I didn't have to.  Have I mentioned how my Gpa was the best?

(by the way, turns out the thingamabob is the "embryo"... good thing I didn't know that as a kid, or I'd have been scarred for life! I don't recall exactly how old I was when I discovered what eggs actually were.)

As years passed, I would be introduced to many other nuts, and today my pantry always has a nutty assortment of nuts to bake with or snack on.  I almost always buy them raw, and toast them myself - think of it as quality control.  With so many nuts in my pantry, it stands to reason that they'll end up in some baked goods, right?

My last nut-themed experiment produced some lovely Almond Butter Cookies that were pretty darn good.  This got me thinking about the various types of nut butters that are readily available at my local grocery store and figured that if Almond Butter Cookies turned out so well, surely Cashew Butter Cookies would be just as lovely.  Well, I was wrong - they are simply delightful and put Almond Butter Cookies to shame.  They have a delicate sweetness to them, a distinct nuttiness, and just the right amount of chewiness.  I took a batch over to a friend's last night and came home with an empty plate.  Yup, the test batch were a hit.

The recipe is the same one I used for the Almond Butter Cookies, but with cashews and cashew butter subbed in where the recipe calls for "Almond".  However, since I have yet to even hear of a Cashew Extract for flavouring,  I just used a generous dose of vanilla.  When I gave the cookie batter an initial taste, it seemed a bit "flat", kind of one-dimensional, so I grabbed a bottle of my favourite honey and added a generous squirt.  Bingo - it was exactly what the cookies were lacking!  Scooped out onto a cookies sheet and topped with a whole cashew, they bake up in just 12 minutes.  That said, they are very delicate when they first come out of the oven, so they need at least another five minutes (as much as 10 minutes if you can wait that long) on the cookie sheet to cool, before you can transfer them onto a cooling rack or plate.

big beige cookie...

Though they tasted great, they looked awfully beige, so before popping the second cookie sheet into the oven, I sprinkled some chocolate flakes overtop - not a lot, just enough to break up the beige.   Even though each cookie had less that 1/4 tsp of chocolate on it, it was just enough to add another dimension of flavour to these already scrumptious cookies.  Now they were really fabulous.  Problem is, those little chocolate flakes are hard to find, so they're not going to be in every gal's pantry.  I obsessed over finding these unusual decorations after devouring them on my first Sprinkles Cupcake while visiting my sis a couple of years ago .  I searched for several weeks before I managed to locate some though King Arthur Flour, but I can't find them on their site anymore.  They're not your average chocolate sprinkle or "jimmy", they're little squares, they're from Italy, and they contain only three ingredients: sugar, chocolate liquor and cocoa butter.

Dark Chocolate Flakes

So, what should you use instead?  I'd recommend that you grab a bar of your favourite dark chocolate, a microplane grater and sprinkle a few shavings over each ball of cookie dough... that should get you pretty close to the same result.

beige before....
what better than chocolate to add some personality

So, I hope you'll give this recipe a try and let me know what you think!

Happy Baking!

Julia's Cashew Butter Cookies
Makes 48 cookies

355g (2 1/2 Cups) flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
3 tsp kosher salt (half this amount if using table salt)
226 g (1 Cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
220g (1 Cup) light brown sugar
201g (1 Cup) granulated sugar
320 g (1 Cup) unsalted Cashew butter, at room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 Tbsp good quality liquid honey
140g (1 Cup) whole cashews - unsalted, plus extra whole nuts for garnish
50g good quality dark chocolate *optional, but recommended

Preheat oven to 300˚F and place rack in centre of oven.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
In a skillet, gently toast the whole cashews, being careful not to burn or scorch them.  
As soon as they are toasted, remove them from the pan and allow them to cool on a plate or wooden cutting board.  
the best way to chop nuts
Coarsely chop the cashews, either with a sharp knife (recommended), or with a food processor, using short 1-second pulses - just make sure to leave them quite coarse).  Set aside.
In a medium bow, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the unsalted butter and both sugars until well combined.   
Beat in the cashew butter until fully incorporated.  
Add the eggs, one at a time, along with vanilla and vanilla extract and honey.  Mix the batter well, scraping down the bowl as necessary to make sure everything is fully incorporated.
Gently mix in the dry ingredients until just a few streaks of flour remain.  
Finally, add the chopped cashews and mix until the nuts are well dispersed.
Using a small scoop (a #70 or 35mm disher is my stand-by for cookies), scoop heaping tablespoonfuls if dough onto prepared cookie sheet, allowing about 1 1/2 inches of space between.  
Gently press a whole cashew into the top of each cookie, flattening the cookies a bit as you go.
Sprinkle some finely grated chocolate shavings over each cookie if you please.
Bake until cookies are puffy and golden around the edges, about 12 minutes.
Cool cookies on cookie sheet until they set up, at least 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely (about 10 minutes), as these cookies are really soft until the are fully cooled.

I have no idea how long these will "keep" for - they keep getting eaten before I can find out. 


Kerrin @ MyKugelhopf.ch said...

you're simply awesome. i love picturing a mini you and your grandpa... and those weird peanut thingies. too adorable.

and these cookies ? let's just say, i see them coming out of my oven in the (very) near future. you know my obsession with cookies ! and i'm thinking a little dash of maldon salt on the top wouldn't hurt - taste, texture and appearance. addictive as roasted salted cashews are, can you imagine these cookies with the chocolate and salt too ? ooh boy ! awesome post, love it !! =)

Leave-Room-for-Dessert said...

Kerrin - I was totally thinking of you as I was sprinkling little bits of chocolate over the raw cookies! I won't lie - I did ponder the salty-sweet possibilities of dipping into my own jar of Maldon salt, but decided not to use it this time. Partly because I already have a significant amount of salt right in the batter. Perhaps I should give the recipe another go - a titch less salt in the batter, and some nice, flaky salt on top??? Hmmmm. You up for the challenge? :)

oneordinaryday said...

Oh, that's a cute story. I remember feeling really lucky everytime I cracked open a peanut and found that little thingy. LOL
The cookies look delicious~

Jamie said...

Well, honey, it's your quirkiness that I love. You are so funny! And these cookies are yowzer! Love em with or without the chocolate bits - flakes, whatever which btw are fabulous! - although if given the choice yeah I'd take a handful with chocolate on top. Really top recipe! And I love nuts. Nuts about nuts, yeah?

Aparna said...

Love cashews as much as peanuts and these cookies look lovely. Do try adding cardamom to these next time instead of vanilla; its a great combination.