I originally developed this cookie recipe for a garden party chapter in my first book Cookie Swap, but I’m convinced it’s perfect for Valentine’s Day as well. Call me sentimental, but there’s something about the rosy flavor and surprise red filling that conjures up love and romance! Plus, the crunch of pistachios next to the soft meringue on top . . . mmmm, well, what can I say: that combo is just sexy! P.S. Add the rosewater gradually. For the uninitiated, it can sometimes be an acquired taste.
Yield: About 4 dozen (1 1/2-inch) cookies
Prep Talk: Allow 1 to 2 hours for the cookie dough to chill for easiest rolling. These cookies can also be made and assembled in stages, if you’re short on time on any one day. If stored in airtight containers, the pistachio cookie bases should stay fresh up to a week.
Pistachio Cookie Dough:
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
- 1/4 cup shelled pistachios (preferably salted), skins rubbed off (I’m a big fan of gourmet ARO brand nuts!)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 large egg yolks, beaten
- 1 1/2 tablespoons warm water
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
- 1/4 teaspoon pure rosewater, or to taste
- About 5 tablespoons seedless red raspberry jam, for filling
- 3 large egg whites, room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon strained freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Pinch salt
- 2 1/2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon pure rosewater, or to taste
- 1 to 2 drops liqua-gel food coloring of your choice (but only pink for Valentine’s Day!)
1 | Make the pistachio cookie bases. These cookies are similar to my Pistachio-Rosewater Shortbread, though the addition of the egg yolks makes them more tender – just the right texture with the soft meringue on top. Combine 1/2 cup flour and the pistachios in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Process until the nuts are finely ground, but not pasty. Add the remaining flour and salt, and process until well combined. Set aside for use in Step 4.
2 | Measure out 1 1/2 tablespoons beaten egg yolk and combine with the water in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whip attachment. (Discard the remaining yolk, or save for another use.) Beat 2 to 3 minutes on high speed, or until fluffy and lemon-colored.
3 | Gradually add the sugar while still beating. Add the butter a few tablespoons at a time and beat until well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, as needed, to ensure even mixing.
4 | Turn the mixer to low speed and add the rosewater. Gradually add the flour-nut mixture, blending just until evenly incorporated.
5 | Divide the dough into two equal portions and flatten each portion into a disk. Wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate 1 to 2 hours, or until firm enough to roll without sticking.
6 | Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 375ºF. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper (or silicone baking mats). Work with one disk of dough at a time. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough to a 1/4-inch thickness. Cut out small disks using a 1 1/2-inch round cookie cutter and transfer the disks to the prepared cookie sheets, spacing them about 1 inch apart. Re-roll any dough scraps. Repeat with the remaining dough.
7 | Bake 11 to 13 minutes, or until the cookies are lightly browned around the edges. Immediately transfer to wire racks, and cool completely before filling and topping.
8 | Top the cookies with jam. Place a rounded 1/4 teaspoon jam on the top-center of each cookie. Spread the jam into a 3/4- to 1-inch circle, taking care to keep it off the cookie edges.
9 | Make the meringue and top the cookies. Turn the oven down to 325ºF and re-line the two cookie sheets with parchment paper (or silicone baking mats).
10 | Place the egg whites, lemon juice, and salt in the clean bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whip attachment. (Note: The bowl, whip attachment, and all mixing utensils should be completely free of fat, or the egg whites will not reach full volume.) Beat on medium speed to soft peaks. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as often as needed. Turn the mixer to medium-high speed and continue to beat until the mixture is glossy and thick, about 7 to 10 more minutes. The meringue will not hold stiff peaks, but it should hold the tracks made by the beater. Add the rosewater in the last few minutes of beating – and the food coloring, as desired. (Note: 1 to 2 drops food coloring will make a very pale shade. Add more coloring for a deeper hue, but avoid adding too much or the meringue will not hold a tight shape when piped.)
11 | Work quickly before the meringue deflates. Fit a pastry bag with a small (1/4-inch) round tip, or a fancier star tip as I used in the photos above, and fill the bag with meringue. Pipe the meringue in concentric circles, or in one big flourish, on top of each cookie. The meringue should completely cover the jam and come all the way to the cookie edge. Place the finished cookies about 1 inch apart on the prepared cookie sheets. Pipe any leftover meringue onto another cookie sheet and bake as well if you’d like the extra snack!
12 | Bake 6 to 7 minutes, or until the meringue is firm and dry, but minimally discolored. Do not over-bake, or the meringue may crack and separate from the cookie. Transfer the cookies to wire racks and cool completely before serving or storing.