We’re deep in winter here in the Chicago suburbs. Today the sky is grey and there were snow flurries as I was taking my walk. Back when I lived in Lincoln park, I’d take myself over to the conservatory on days like this, just so I could look at some flowers. Since that isn’t an option for me right now, I made a batch of Rose Pistachio Shortbread.
Inspired by a recipe for Lavender Shortbread from the upcoming book the book A Woman’s Garden by Tanya Anderson (to be released March 9th 2021, review coming soon), the rose pistachio shortbread cookie I’ve created is about the size, shape, and texture of one of those addictive walker shortbread bars. The cookie has very little sugar in it and plenty of salt, so it verges on savory. But the mixture of sugar, pistachios, and rose petals on top brings the recipe fully back into sweet territory. The recipe itself is pretty simple to assemble but there is some prep work that needs to happen first, so plan ahead.
Introduction and Recipe Notes
It should come as no surprise that I gravitated towards this recipe. Floral flavors and shortbread cookies are very much my sort of thing. I loved the idea of using scented sugar to impart a floral flavor and it felt like the perfect use for some dried rose petals I had sitting in my pantry. Fair warning, this step does mean that you do have to plan ahead. The rose sugar only takes a minute to make, but it needs to sit for at least a week before it can be used.
I tweaked the proportions slightly to fit the ingredients I had on hand. The biggest change was that I used unsalted butter. I compensated for this by adding ¼ tsp of finely ground salt. I like the way this turned out because the salty shortbread contrasted nicely with the sugary topping. However, if you’re sensitive to salt or just like a more solidly sweat cookie, you can reduce the salt. 1/8 tsp or even just a generous pinch should be enough.
I also switched out part of the flour for ground pistachios. Partly, this was because I just love pistachios. But I also think I may have been influenced a by all of the photos I’ve been seeing of that trendy Persian Love Cake. The combo of rose petals and chopped pistachios is just totally my vibe.
This was a bit of an experiment, which means there are defiantly things I’d try changing next time. I think I’d use a rougher chop on the tablespoon of pistachios used for the topping, to add in both texture and color. I’d also reduce the sugar in the topping to 1 teaspoon instead of 1 tablespoon. I found that the toping didn’t stick as well as I’d have liked it too, and I think there was just too much of it. But reducing the sugar in the topping should fix that. I also am very tempted to reduce the all-purpose flour by another ¼ cup and replace it with more ground pistachios for added flavor. I think the texture would still be good, but I can’t grantee it.
- Airtight container, at least 5 oz
- Fine sieve
- Small food processor (for chopping nuts)
- Either a stand mixer with a paddle attachment OR a large bowl and a wooden spoon.
- 1/4 sheet pan (if using a 1/8 sheet pan bake ½ of the cookies at a time)
- Parchment paper
- Large knife or bench scraper
I used a Kitchen aid stand mixer, but a bowl and a wooden spoon will work just as well. Just make sure your butter is very soft if you intend to mix it by hand.
The food processor you use needs to be able to handle only 1/3 cup of nuts, so a smaller one will work best. I used an old 3 cup version that came from my grandmother’s house, but grinder attachment on a ninja smoothie maker also works for this sort of thing. If using a food processor isn’t possible, you have two options: replace the 1/3 cup pistachios with all-purpose flour or almond flour. With all-purpose flour you’ll lose the pistachio flavor in the dough, but you can still put them on top for crunch and color. If you choose almond flour, you can go with either chopped almonds or chopped pistachios on top. Either will look beautiful and taste great.
- ¼ cup sugar
- 2 generous tsp dried food-safe rose petals
- 1/3 cup pistachios
- ½ Cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/8 – ¼ tsp fine salt
- Optional: Up to 1 tbs water
Steps for Making Rose Pistachio Shortbread
One week in advance: prep the rose sugar
At least a week before making the cookies, combine sugar and rose petals in an airtight container. Shake to combine and leave in a cool, dark place.
Step 1: Prep the butter and the pistachios, sift the rose sugar
Take the butter out of the fridge and leave until soft, but not melted. This will vary based on your location and the temperature of your house, but generally it takes about an hour at 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Put the 1/3 cup pistachios into a food processor and grind until most are a find powder. Stop grinding before the nuts begin to form a nut butter. Reserve 1 tbs.
Sift the rose petals from the rose sugar. Set the 3 tbs of sugar aside and mix remaining 1 tbs of sugar with the rose petals and the reserved tbs of pistachios.
Step 2: Mix the dough
Cream the butter in a large bowl by hand or using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Add in the 3 tbs of sifted rose sugar and mix until thoroughly combined.
Add the 1/3 cup finely ground pistachios and mix again. Scrape down the bowl using a spatula, then
Add the salt and flour. I usually add about ½ cup of the flour at a time to make mixing easier. Scrape down the bowl again as needed. Mix until it’s just starting to form small clumps. If the dough doesn’t seem to be coming together, add water ½ tsp at a time until the dough is smooth and workable, but not wet or sticky. It should form into a smooth ball when gently kneaded. If bits keep crumbling off, add a little bit more water.
Step 3: Assemble the rose pistachio shortbread cookies
Take the dough ball and put it on a lightly floured surface. Using your hands and a rolling pin, shape into a rectangle about three inches long, twelve inches wide and ½ inch deep. Sprinkle with the reserved pistachio-sugar-rose petal mixture. Press the petals and pistachios gently into the dough. Using a large knife or bench scraper, cut into 12 pieces, each about 1 inch wide and three inches long.
Move cookies onto an un-greased cookie sheet lined with parchment and chill for about 30 minutes.
A few minutes before you’re ready to bake, heat up your oven to 350 degrees.
Bake cookies in the pre-heated oven for 20 minutes, or until golden brown. They’ll be very soft when they come out of the oven, so leave in place for at least 10 minutes before moving. Cool completely on a wire rack.
Store cooled cookies in an airtight container for up to a month. Serve at room temperature with tea or coffee. I bet these would be especially good with a smoked tea like lapsang souchong or with a cardamom scented Arabic style coffee.
Let me know in the comments or on Instagram if you try this rose pistachio shortbread recipe, especially if you make any of these changes!