18 January 2009

Ancient Orange

The December 2008 Gourmet had a holiday cookie spread almost too gorgeous to eat. Even though those days are blissfully behind us, I've slowly been working my way through them, somehow ignoring the little voice that came up with the brilliant idea of going a whole week without eating sugar. I'll get to that. Next week.

These rich crescent cookies are the magazine's take on ghotab, an almond-filled, deep-fried classic Persian pastry. I've never had one of those, but after tasting this, I don't think I need to: the flaky, buttery dough is faintly sweet, and somehow tender yet firm enough to cradle the fragrant, chewy, citrus-nutty filling (just like I like my Persians).

The powdered sugar that gets all over your fingers as you eat them might be the best part. And when you think that they're not deep-fried, it's like you're having something healthy in comparison. Whatever. Just serve the cookies with steaming little cups of mint tea and no one will be complaining. They're practically designed to go together.

I know the recipe looks long, but I actually streamlined it a bit, and you can do much of it in advance. Plus, making the candied orange peel will make the entire house smell like the citrus grove empire you've always dreamed of owning. Oh wait, maybe that's just me.

Orange Pistachio Crescents
Makes: about 2 1/2 dozen.

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 large egg yolks
3 to 4 tablespoons ice water
1 large navel orange
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pistachios (2 1/4 ounces)
About 1 cup confectioners' sugar, for coating

1.Dough: Whisk together flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl (or pulse in a food processor). Blend in butter with your fingertips or a pastry blender (or pulse) until mixture resembles coarse meal with some roughly pea-size butter lumps. Beat together yolks and 3 tablespoon water with a fork and stir into flour (or pulse) until incorporated.

2. Gently squeeze a small handful of dough: If it doesn’t hold together, stir (or pulse) in 1 tablespoon more water. Do not overwork dough or pastry will be tough.

3. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and gently gather together. Divide in half, forming each into a 4-inch square. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill until firm, at least 1 hour or up to two days.

4. Filling: Cut off peel, including white pith, from orange with a sharp knife and finely chop. (Reserve fruit for another use.) Put peel in a 2-quart heavy saucepan, then fill with water. Add salt and bring to a boil; boil, uncovered, 10 minutes. Drain.

5. Bring granulated sugar and 3/4 cup water to a boil in saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar has dissolved; cover for one minute to wash down any sugar crystals from side of pan. Add peel to syrup and gently simmer, uncovered, until peel begins to turn translucent and syrup is reduced to about 2/3 cup, 20 to 30 minutes.

6. Drain peel in sieve set over a bowl, reserving 3 tablespoon syrup. Stir together peel, reserved syrup and pistachios. Let cool (can be refrigerated for two days).

7. To make cookies, heat oven to 375°F. Roll out 1 piece of dough on a floured surface with a floured rolling pin into a 15 x 12-inch rectangle. Cut out 16 to 20 rounds with a 3-inch round cookie cutter. Put a scant teaspoon filling on each round, then brush edge lightly with water and fold pastry over filling to form a half-moon. Press edges to seal. Shape each into a crescent by pushing a finger against middle of flat side.

8. Bake 1 inch apart on an ungreased baking sheet until golden, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool 2 minutes on the sheet, then gently toss warm cookies in confectioners' sugar to coat generously. Transfer cookies to a rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough, rerolling scraps once.

Why do all the things that are such a pain to make have to taste so, so delicious?


hmstrjam said...

guap guap!

christine said...

If only you knew how hard Ancient Orange made me laugh. It was only after that I noticed Pecan Do It, despite the fact that I'd read Pecan Do It's accompanying post.

Why you are not a bazillionaire is beyond me. Headline writing skill is a lost art.

Camille said...

I think it is all the effort that makes them taste better! These look really delicious and I'm a big fan of anything that will leave powdered sugar on my fingers!

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