Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Pine Nut and Rosemary Shortbread Biscuits

Rosemary is one of my favourite herbs and I really enjoy eating foods that have been gently flavoured with it. This quite robust tasting perennial shrub originally hails from around the Mediterranean and established plants may flower during late spring early summer, producing beautiful blue flowers. In order for flowering to occur, conditions must be quite humid.

Even though rosemary is most suited to the Mediterranean climate, it can be gown quite successfully in Ireland, provided you have a sunny, sheltered and well drained location. I have always had great success with growing rosemary and was therefore devastated when my well established bushes died in hard winter frosts a few years ago. However, I planted replacement bushes and these soon thrived. Folklore has it that rosemary flourishes in a home where the woman is boss… I’ll say no more!

As I have mentioned a number of times in previous blog posts, I have quite an extensive cookery book collection. My husband definitely despairs at the fact that they are to be found in each room of the house and that every bookshelf is crammed full of them. I also have piles of cookbooks beside the couch in the living room because as I explain to the poor hubby, “these are books I’m using at the moment”. There is a similar pile (i.e. tower) of books beside the bed. He recently inquired whether I actually cook any of the recipes from them.

The truth is that as I have grown in confidence with my cooking, I less slavishly follow recipes, but I do still like to get ideas from the library of cookbooks that I own. The recipe that follows was inspired by one that I found in a lovely little book called A Table in the Tarn written by Orlando Murrin, one time editor of BBC Good Food Magazine.

This book documents the setting up of his little boutique guest-house and foodie getaway in the south-west of France. When I first read this recipe, I was intrigued as it uses rosemary as a flavouring in a sweet shortbread biscuit. I found it hard to imagine what it would taste like. I was convinced that although sweet, the biscuits would inevitably have a savoury edge. Well, these biscuits are hard to describe… there is definitely something very grown up and sophisticated about them but they are incredibly delicious. I adapted the recipe slightly and baked a couple of batches which I then taste tested on my family and friends. They were a resounding success and given the fact that I absolutely loved them, I feel that they will become a regular feature of my baking…

Ingredients:

25g pine nuts
2tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
85g butter, softened
125g caster sugar
2tblsp double cream
1 egg yolk
160g plain flour
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp ground ginger
To finish:
1tblsp caster sugar
A handful of pine nuts for topping the biscuits
 

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 160C/Fan Oven 140C/Gas Mark 2 ½. Line two large baking trays with non-stick baking parchment and set aside.
2. Toast 25g pine nuts in a small dry frying pan over a moderate heat, shaking the pan regularly so that they don’t burn. Keep a close eye on them as they can burn very easily. As soon as they are a deep golden colour, remove from the heat. Place the roasted pine nuts and the rosemary in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely ground (but it doesn’t matter if a few lumps remain.
3. Place the butter and caster sugar in a mixing bowl and using a hand-held electric mixer, cream together until light and fluffy. Add the double cream and egg yolk and mix again until fully incorporated.
4. Add the roasted pine nuts and rosemary mixture and then the flour, bicarbonate of soda and ground ginger. Using a wooden spoon, mix everything together to form a soft dough.
5. Using your hands roll, small balls of the mixture about the size of a walnut (I weigh them out so that they are all the same size – 10g – but this is not necessary). Place the balls that you have made on the prepared baking sheets spacing them well apart as the mixture spreads a little when baked.
To finish:
6. Sprinkle with the extra caster sugar and lightly press a single pine nut on the top of each biscuit. Bake in the preheated oven for 13 minutes or until a light golden colour. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the baking trays for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling completely.

Makes approximately 40 biscuits.