Since losing half of October to Covid I have struggled to get a grip on time, space, concepts, activities, et cetera, it’s like I’m trying to run underwater, (or, honestly, given my running abilities, trying to run on land) or get to the airport on time in a dream, everything feels liminal and indistinct. And it’s nearly November! And, let’s face it, pre-Covid I was not exactly a paragon of organization and grip-getting. However, these cookies appeared to me in a piercing moment of lucidity and the rush of coming up with a recipe again reminded me that just because my brain is still a bit out of reach, it does want to come back to me.
The cookies themselves are delicious enough, but when you add the bumpy, glassy toffee-coated pistachios like molten gold and emeralds poured over each cookie, it suddenly feels like an artisanal bakery has sprung up in your kitchen. I can’t even begin to impress upon you how excellent the texture is: crunchy, splintering toffee, firm and buttery pistachios, and dense cookie, all yielding to each other in every mouthful.
Pistachios aren’t cheap, I know, but I guess the upside of everything being stupidly expensive right now is that the price of pistachios isn’t so shocking, comparatively (and by “upside” I do not at all mean “I accept this current state of things”, to be clear), and this recipe makes a modest quantity go quite some distance. The cardamom and coffee flavours in the cookie dough below are subtle yet entirely essential, together they give a kind of mysterious, almost gingery flavour profile (and as I note in the recipe, if you don’t like cardamom you could use ginger instead) and lend a sophisticated note to balance all the rambunctious sweetness coating the cookies.
And go big or go home, right? If anything, I’m touched that my brain thought I was capable of monitoring the caramelisation of sugar and then rapidly transferring spoonfuls of the aforementioned boiling sugar from a saucepan to a tray of cookies, and I, in turn, believe you can do it too. Yeah, it’s a bit of work, and mildly treacherous, but the result is undeniably charming.
Pistachio Toffee Cookies
To make it easier you could just fold the chopped pistachios through the dough, but truly, it’s all about that crunch of pistachio-studded toffee giving way to spiced cookie below: worth the effort. Recipe by myself.
- 1/2 cup rice bran oil, or similar neutral oil
- 1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
- 2 tablespoons golden syrup
- 2 cups plain flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
- a pinch of salt
- 2 tablespoons coffee liqueur (see notes)
- 3 tablespoons oat milk, or similar
- 3/4 cup caster sugar
- 3 tablespoons water
- 1/2 cup shelled pistachios
- a pinch of salt
1: Set your oven to 180C/350F and line a cookie sheet/tray with baking paper.
2: Stir together the 1/2 cup oil, the cup of brown sugar, and the two tablespoons of golden syrup. Add the remaining cookie dough ingredients (and I tend to sieve in the baking soda because I live in fear of lumps of soda in my baked goods) and stir together to form a stiff dough. Add an extra splash of milk if it’s too floury still, but this should be just enough liquid to make it all come together.
3: Roll heaped tablespoons of cookie dough into balls and place about 2 inches apart on the paper-lined tray. Bake for 13 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack, carefully as they’ll be a little fragile while they’re still hot, and then repeat this step with any remaining dough.
4: Once all the cookies are cooling on the rack (and not a moment before), you can start on the toffee. First, briefly chop the pistachios, so that some are left whole and some are in pieces. Rest the rack of cookies back on top of the paper-lined tray — as per the picture above — so it can catch any toffee drips.
5: Slowly dissolve the 3/4 cup caster sugar and 3 tablespoons of water together in a saucepan over a low heat, stirring occasionally. Once the sugar is dissolved — and you can check by dipping your spoon into the syrup and seeing if there are visible gritty sugar crystals on it — turn up the heat and bring it to a boil. Let it bubble away without stirring at all, until it turns from clear, to light gold, to a deeper amber-honey colour. As soon as it hits that point, remove the pan from the heat and tip in the chopped pistachios. Don’t be tempted to move away from the stove at any point, as it can quickly go from underdone to burnt, and will carry on cooking even when the heat is turned off.
6: Using a dessert spoon, and working quickly but not frantically, spoon the toffeed pistachios over each cookie. Don’t worry too much about uniformity or whether each cookie has an equal number of nuts, the haphazard, dripping vibe is part of their charm. Once you’ve done this, sprinkle juuust a little salt over the cookies.
7: Let the toffee coating cool completely, then remove the cookies from the rack (happily eating any crunchy toffee-droplets that fell through the rack to the baking paper below) and store them in an airtight container.
Makes about 18 cookies.
- If you don’t have coffee liqueur or don’t wish to use it, dissolve 1 teaspoon of instant coffee in two tablespoons of water, and add a splash of vanilla extract.
- Just in case it’s not clear, by “shelled pistachios” I mean pistachios with their shells removed. If you can only find pistachios with the shell still on you’ll probably need twice the amount to make up 1/2 a cup of shelled nuts.
- If you hate cardamom or just can’t find it, replace it with the same quantity of ground ginger or cinnamon.
- Though the saucepan of toffee might look scary to clean, just fill it with boiling water from the kettle and let it sit for a bit. Once it’s cooled down, cold running water should dissolve any remaining stubborn toffee.
I Never Know When by Elaine Stritch, from the 1958 Broadway musical Goldilocks. Not, as the name might suggest, a depiction of the fairy tale, but a musical comedy about the silent film era, also starring Don Ameche and Margaret Hamilton, aka the Wicked Witch of the West. I tend to associate Stritch with more brassy, acerbic numbers rather than torchy, wistful songs like this, but even when wistful she radiates weary steeliness instead of mere sentimentality, and it’s really quite beautiful.
Dig It, by The Coup, while rewinding repeatedly to the “how now brown cow” verse because it’s so satisfying is probably not the listening experience the group intended, I can’t help it! It’s so satisfying! The rest of the song obviously rules, too.
Up on the Sun by Meat Puppets. We all have those songs, where you look them up on youtube and scroll through the sincere, superlative, breathless comments below, and instead of sneering you’re like “yeah, I would absolutely say that unprompted about this song to a stranger on the street”. Cannot overstate the effect that the long moan leading into the discordant and downbeat yet oddly uplifting chorus has on me.
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