Forest Pine Nut Cookies

Walking through a forest in search of piñon trees was another great ‘family meets food’ adventure. The delicious piñon nut was the major source of winter protein for generations of the Ute and Paiute Indian Tribes of the Great Basin region of the Southwest. The nut was such an important staple in the diet of these peoples, that a bad piñon year could mean near-starvation. Even today, some tribes of western Indians still depend heavily on the piñon for their livelihood. When we finally found our patch of piñon trees, the kids could barely contain their excitement. Thankfully it was a good year and the trees produced lots of cones, making the hunt extra fun for the kids. I remember how grateful we all felt as we extracted nuts, cracked them and ate them, right at their source.

pinenuts

At home I experimented with our bounty and was thrilled at how nicely the flavors came together in these pine nut cookies. The taste of these cookies made from wild-harvested pine nuts was amazing and accentuated the rich and creamy flavor of the nuts. However, harvesting pine nuts is a lot of work and they are difficult to find so I oftentimes use store bought pine nuts. Although that distinct wild harvested flavor is missing, they are still delicious.

pine-nuts1

pine nut cookies

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups pine nuts (ideally wild harvested http://www.pinenut.com/index.shtml)
7 ounces almond paste (see recipe below)
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 egg whites
1 1/4 cup unbleached pastry flour or home milled soft white wheat (http://ilonaoppenheim.com/flour-mill/)
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Directions:

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2.  Combine 3/4 cup pine nuts, sugar, almond paste, and vanilla extract in a food processor until fine crumbs form. Add egg whites and honey; pulse to combine. Add flour, baking powder, and salt; process just until the dough comes together. The dough will be very sticky.
3.  Roll dough into 3/4 inch balls. Roll balls in remaining pine nuts, gently pressing each one until they are flat.
4.  Space the balls two inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake until cookies begin to turn golden brown, about 18 to 20 minutes. Let cool completely.

almond-paste

Almond paste

Ingredients:
1 cup blanched almonds
1/2 cup agave
1 tsp almond extract

Directions:

1. Place almonds in a food processor and grind into a powder. Add agave and almond extract and process into a paste.

pine-nut-cookies

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