Pistachio Panache

After stuffing yourself silly this Thanksgiving, your palate probably will be wanting something lighter the next day.

How about a cookie?

Don’t laugh. I know you’re thinking a cookie is not diet fare. OK, maybe technically it isn’t. But this cookie is not loaded down with chocolate, peanut butter or icing. So as cookies go, it is lighter. Sort of. What can I say? This is the way my mind works.

Sicilian Pistachio Bars are made with both ground and chopped pistachios. Sure, there’s butter and eggs, too. But just to strengthen my case, you should know that pistachios are now considered a super food. They are high in protein, fiber, Vitamin B6, and healthy monosaturated fat. Some research has shown that pistachios also may reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

The recipe is from “Dolce Italiano” (W.W. Norton & Company) by Gina DePalma. Like most bar cookies, they are a cinch to make. They bake in a thin layer for a long time — 35 to 45 minutes. The result is a very crispy cookie akin to shortbread with intense pistachio flavor.

It’s the perfect little indulgence that won’t weigh you down. After tonight, that’s the last thing you want. So go ahead, enjoy a cookie tomorrow. I know I will.

Sicilian Pistachio Bars

(makes 24 to 36 bars)

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup shelled, whole, unsalted pistachios, Sicilian if possible

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1 1/4 cups plus 2 teaspoons granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon amaretto or 1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract

Freshly grated zest of 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease a 13-by-18-inch jelly-roll pan and line it with parchment; then lightly grease the paper, using nonstick cooking spray or butter.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour and salt, and set aside. Place 1/2 cup pistachios in the bowl of a food processor and process for 20 to 30 seconds, until nuts are finely ground. Stir ground pistachios into flour mixture.

Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter with 1 1/4 cups sugar until very light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, followed by the vanilla extract, amaretto, and lemon zest, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition.

On low speed, mix in the dry ingredients to make a soft dough. Use an offset spatula to spread the dough evenly in the pan, smoothing the surface as much as possible. Coarsely chop remaining 1/2 cup pistachios in food processor and sprinkle them evenly over surface of the dough. Sprinkle remaining 2 teaspoons sugar evenly over nuts.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until dough is firm and just turning golden brown at the edges, rotating pan 180 degrees halfway through the baking time to ensure even browning. Allow pan to cool on a wire rack for 30 to 45 minutes before cutting the cookies into rectangular bars, about 1 1/2 inches long and 1/2 inch wide. The cookies can be stored in an airtight container, layered between sheets of parchment paper, and kept in a cool, dry place for up to 3 days.

From “Dolce Italiano”

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