Sometimes I have a dynamite recipe that I want to share, but nothing earth-shattering to say about it. No nostalgic recounting of an event in the kitchen of my youth; no profound connection between the recipe and recent goings-on in my life. No convenient seasonal connection or association with far-flung lands. Just a delicious recipe.
This is one of those times. What I have today is just a recipe. A simple recipe for cookies. Cookies that are crumbly and velvety and melty, but that have nothing groundbreaking to say and harbor no clever metaphor or life lesson. What they lack in inspiring gravitas, however, they make up for in butter and toasty, crispy, teased-with-a-pleasing-hint-of-bitterness walnuts.
These cookies are technically called cream cheese-walnut cookies, but I prefer to call them walnut shortbread. They are shortbready in that awesome shattering-with-butter way that brings a tear of joy to my eye as only shortbread can. The toasted walnuts emerge from the buttery crumb, wedged perfectly in the cookie, asserting their own nutty selves. It is a match made in heaven: butter fat with walnut oil. I'm kind of drooling a little right now as I write this.
Thankfully this recipe makes two logs of dough -- one you can bake right away and share with family and friends. You can even take some of them to your dog's vet's office, as I did, because vets deserve treats for safeguarding our best friends. You can then freeze the second dough log and save it for a rainy day: tuck it under your arm and take it over to a friend's house for fresh-baked cookies when they're least expected; or wait until you have to write about them, start to drool, then realize you still have the second log in the freezer, just waiting to be sliced and baked.
Some for now, some for later. Not necessarily profound, but always delicious.
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living
4 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/4 t. kosher salt
1 lb. (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/4 c. sugar
2 T. plus 1/2 t. pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 c. walnut halves (1 1/2 c. toasted and chopped, 1 c. finely chopped)
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a Silpat; set aside.
Place 1 1/2 c. of chopped walnuts on a third baking sheet and toast until brown and aromatic, 6-8 minutes. Remove the walnuts from the oven and set aside.
Whisk together the flour and salt in a large bowl; set aside.
Place butter and cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Mix in the sugar and vanilla. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture. Mix until just combined; do not over-mix. Add the toasted walnuts and mix until just combined.
Transfer dough to a clean work surface and divide in half. Shape each piece into a 8 1/2-inch-long log, about 2 inches in diameter. Wrap each log in parchment paper and freeze until firm, about 30 minutes. (If you are going to freeze one of the logs for baking at a later date, wrap it in the parchment followed by two layers of plastic wrap.)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove one log from the freezer and roll in the remaining 1 c. finely chopped walnuts, coating completely. Cut the log into 1/4-inch rounds. Transfer the rounds to the prepared parchment-lined baking sheets.
Bake, rotating halfway through, until the cookies are just golden around the edges, 18-20 minutes. Do not over-bake! Transfer to wire racks and let cool completely. Repeat the process with the remaining dough on cooled baking sheets (or freeze the remaining dough until later).
Consume, preferably all in one sitting. Forget what I said earlier about sharing them with your dog's vet.
Makes about 4 dozen cookies.
Previously, on A Stove With A House Around It:
One year ago: French bread
Two years ago: sibling rivalry chicken noodle soup