18 March 2008

Book Review: The Sweet Melissa Baking Book

For this review, I picked a cookie that turned out to be far more delicious than I expected. The Pistachio Linzer Thumbprints didn't remind me of linzer tarts, but they were crisp on the outside, thanks to the pistachios, and buttery, lemony, and pistachio-y on the inside. The plum topping is just the right foil for the richness of the cookie. In fact, next time I make these (and you can bet big money I'll be making these again soon), I plan to flatten the cookies a bit more to add more of the plum spread.

My alterations produced fewer cookies, but not by much. If you watch how you scoop your cookie dough (unlike me and my occasional uneven sizing), you'll get your 4 dozen. The coconut flour was surprisingly evident, yet very pleasing in these cookies. You could hide it by adding a bit more vanilla and a little nut extract, but be selective because the flavor of the pistachios is important (and highly addictive) here. Although the recipe calls for dusting the cookies with confectioners' sugar, I can't even imagine adding a thing to these delicious cookies.

They were a huge hit with my friends yesterday, even a day after baking. If you're going to make these, you should definitely serve them the same day, just an hour or two out of the oven. They're just that good.

The kind folks at Viking Studio / Penguin Group (USA) have given me permission to reprint the recipe here with my alterations, which are in bold. The foregoing is excerpted from The Sweet Melissa Baking Book by Melissa Murphy. All rights reserved. Copyright © Melissa Murphy, 2008.

Pistachio Linzer Thumbprints

Makes about 4 dozen cookies


1 cup shelled, unsalted pistachios, plus 2/3 cup shelled, unsalted pistachios, finely chopped for rolling (mine were raw)
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (here I used 2 cups of ap flour and 1/4 cup coconut flour)
2/3 cup sugar (I used agave nectar)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (I used 1/8 teaspoon regular salt because I used salted butter)
1/2 pound (2 sticks) very cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (again, salted butter right from the freezer)
1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest (I used the zest from an entire lemon, closer to 1 1/2 tablespoons)
2 large eggs, separated (in both cases, I lightly whisked the eggs prior to using them)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (I used vanilla paste)
1/2 cup seedless raspberry or apricot preserves (I used a really nice no-sugar added plum spread)
Confectioners' sugar (I omitted this for obvious reasons)


1. In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, pulse the 1 cup of pistachios with 1/2 cup of the flour until fine but not powdery. Add the remaining 1 3/4 cups flour, the sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Pulse to continue. (Here I left out the agave, adding it after the butter, later.)

2. Carefully add the butter cubes and zest and toss with your fingers to coat with flour. (I let the food processor do it for me, pulsing just enough to get the crumbly appearance.) Pulse until the mixture looks like cornmeal. Add the egg yolks and vanilla and pulse until the dough just holds together. (I added the agave nectar right before the yolks and vanilla.)

3. Refrigerate the dough until firm, about 1 hour. (At this point, the dough can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil and frozen for up to 3 weeks.)

4. Position a rack in the center of your oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. (I used 325 degrees F.) Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or aluminum foil. (I used parchment paper.)

5. Using a 1-ounce cookie scoop or a tablespoon, scoop the dough into 1-inch balls. Roll each ball in the egg whites and then in the chopped pistachios. Place the cookies 1 1/2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheets, and press down lightly with your fingers so that they stay put. (This is a messy, sticky procedure, so make sure that you don't have to do anything else for about 15 minutes while you're rolling. Also, the nuts didn't go as far as I would have liked, so I had to process another 1/2 cup of pistachios for rolling.) Using a floured thumb (or the finger of your choice), press an indentation into the center of each cookie. (I used the second knuckle of my index finger to make the indentations without any flour. This worked very well, giving me a true circular indentation. You also could probably achieve this with the end of a wooden spoon.)

6. Keep the cookies chilled while you fill a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4-inch round pastry tip (I use an Ateco #801) with the preserves. (Alternately, put the preserves in a resealable plastic bag, squeeze it down to the bottom, and snip off a little bit of one corner -- instant piping bag!) (I elected to use a snack-sized ziplock bag for this part. Worked like a charm.) Fill each cookie (indentation) with about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon preserves. (Here I also had to add a bit more of the plum spread to the bag.)

7. Bake for 20 minutes, or until lightly browned. (I baked mine for 9 minutes, then turned the cookie sheet and baked them for another 9 minutes.) Remove to a wire rack to cool.

8. When cool, generously dust with confectioner's sugar. Using your finger dipped in water, tap on the centers of each cookie so that the jam shines through the sugar. (I skipped this step and went straight to the sampling!)

The cookies keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. For longer storage, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 5 days, or freeze well wrapped in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil for up to 3 weeks. Do not unwrap before defrosting. Dust with confectioner's sugar before serving. (Or don't.)

I'm really looking forward to trying out more of Melissa's great recipes from her new book. The only thing I'd want from a future book from her would be more photos. It would have been nice to see how her Pistachio Linzer Thumbprints look.


Anonymous said...

I've been reading so much about this in other blogs, that of course now I want to buy it! These look terrific. I already love pistachios, and the combo with the sugar-free jam sounds irresistible.

Deb Schiff said...

Thanks, Ricki. These were really great cookies. I used the plum spread in a recipe on my other blog as well:

eatme_delicious said...

Mmm yum. Another example of why I should get this baking book!