Sunday, December 23, 2012

Cream Cheese Shortbread with Toasted Kenari Nuts

I don't have a bake-a-thon this Christmas but I managed to bake two extra cookies today.  The first one is this Cream Cheese Shortbread with Toasted Kenari Nuts.  The inspiration was from a book I borrowed from the library, One Girl Cookies by Dawn Casale and David Crofton.  Their book has good reviews everywhere and I wanted to try out some of the recipes.

Kenari nuts is indigenous nuts from Southeast Asian islands, particularly Eastern Malaysia and Indonesia.  I grew up eating kenari nuts, or also known as pili nuts, in a variety of baked goods.  The shape of the nuts is similar to almonds but the taste is actually closer to macadamia nuts.  Whenever I have a chance to go back to Indonesia, I make sure I bring some home because it's hard to find here or else, the price will be exorbitant.

This cookies has great texture; short of crumbly but holds together well when baked.  The amount of sweetness is right on and I can taste the tanginess of cream cheese as well.  Toasting the nuts enhance the flavor altogether, it isn't overpowering at all.  I think this sort of cookies are perfect nibbles for before Christmas day; in fact, I can't guarantee they're gonna be here at all in 2 days!

Cream Cheese Shortbread with Toasted Kenari Nuts

Makes about 36 cookies

1 cup kenari nuts (substitute with walnuts)

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon table salt

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°.  Place kenari nuts (or walnuts) on a baking sheet and toast them in the oven for 8-10 minutes.  Let the nuts cool (leave the oven on).  When the nuts are cool enough to handle, put them in a food processor and pulse 2 or 3 times, until all of the large pieces have been chooped.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Add the chopped kenari nuts, and stir to combine.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the the paddle attachment, beat together the butter, cream cheese, and sugar on medium speed until the mixture is light yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.  Add the vanilla and mix on medium speed for 1 minute.  Reduce the mixer speed to low, add the flour mixture, and mix for 20 seconds.  Take the mixing bowl off the mixer and finish mixing the dough with a rubber spatula.

Scoop out a small round of dough, about 1 1/2 tablespoons in size.  Roll the scoop into a ball, place it on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, and gently pres the ball.  Repeat, leaving 1 inch between cookies

Bake the cookie for 14 to 16 minutes, until they are light brown around the edges.  Transfer the cookies to a wire rack and let them cool.

Source:  adapted from One Girl Cookies by Dawn Casale and David Crofton

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