While cooking, listen to this: Helpless by John Mayer (still on a JM kick and not sorry about it)
Anyone else an occasional victim of the Sunday Scaries? I've been realizing more and more that they're pretty common yet totally and completely irrational. It'd be safe to assume the Scaries come on solely to those who hate their job. But I love my job! I do! I get to learn about new ideas, work with people who are thought leaders in their industries and be surrounded by tons and tons of colorful books.
And still. This past Sunday was rough. A pathetic fallacy, if you will. The thick hot summer humidity finally descending its wrath on this little island we call home and I was feeling just as groggy and anxious as ever. But it turns out, so were a lot of people. Co-workers, friends, family members, even the dog that frequents my building's stoop looked blue. It took a minute, but I realized the I could hardly claim the Sunday Scaries as my own, as we all face days when we're anxious about what lies ahead.
Rina and I try to be as open and honest about mental health on this blog as possible, and I think it goes without saying that recent events have rattled many of us. But in a world where everything is seemingly perfect online, we try to use our corner of the internet to be completely honest and open (and mildly hilarious). Sure, our photos look semi-professional and our "counter tops" granite (two words: contact paper). One day, maybe, we'll have real fancy counters and studio lighting that means we don't have to rely on the light of the sun (or lack thereof) to create content. But honestly, if that day never comes, I think I'd be ok shooting on top of Rina's radiator in her tiny apartment trying not to get chocolate frosting on her curtains (again). Because when all is said and done, it's the moments laughing, singing and grumbling together that make this whole blog thing worth the time, effort and money. And you all, of course.
The Sunday we made these cookies, was one of those Sundays. Exhausting, sure (Rina and I both crash after a day of cooking), but full of the best things in life - humor, good company and tasty treats. When my friend Hannah was looking to make the move uptown a year and a half ago, I played real estate agent for a day and helped her find her new apartment in Rina's building - exactly one floor up from Rina's place. Knowing we had more cookies than we could ever consume, I texted Hannah to come down to officially taste test our loot. Rina and I knew the cookies were winners, but it's always reassuring when your friend who's sold her soul to chocolate can't get enough of your shortbread. Plus, her tiny manicured hands were perfect for the job, so we booked her to do some hand modeling and paid her in cookies. Pretty solid gig for both parties, I must admit.
These cookies are incredibly simple and are adapted from the genius brain of Alison Roman (can I just say how OBSESSED I've been with her new cookbook, Dining In?) so you know they've got to be 10/10. If you're having an anxiety-ridden Sunday and the weather is making you wish you lived in Alaska, do yourself a favor and invite some friends over to bake these cookies. Sure, sure, turning on your oven is a sure-fire way to sweat your balls off in the summer, but honestly, sweating your balls off is a fair trade for some good laughs and good food. It'll be a good change of pace, and your mind will thank you for the distraction. Promise.
WHITE CHOCOLATE PISTACHIO SHORTBREAD WITH RHUBARB GLAZE
Yield: about 24 cookies
Total Cook Time: 2h 30m (includes dough chilling)
Category: Sweet, Cookies
Special Equipment: box grater, stand mixer, parchment paper, wax paper (optional) mesh strainer
1 cup + 2 Tablespoons (2 ¼ sticks) unsalted butter, cold*
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
3-4 ounces roasted salted pistachios, roughly chopped**
3-4 ounces white chocolate, roughly chopped
Maldon or other flaky sea salt, for sprinkling
2 pounds rhubarb (around 5-6 large stalks)***
4 cups water
1 ¾ cups granulated sugar
½ cup powdered sugar, sifted
*you can stick your butter in the freezer to really firm it up, but just out of the fridge works too.
**and unshelled, duh.
***stalk should be undamaged, without any weird slime or marks.
Make the dough: grate the cold butter on a box grater into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla and beat on high until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes (really let it go). Add the flour and mix on medium until combined. Add the pistachios and white chocolate and mix until just combined.
Divide and chill: divide the dough in half and place each half on a sheet of wax/parchment paper. Roll each half into a log shape, about 2 to 2 ¼ inches in diameter. Chill until completely solid, about 2 hours.
Make the rhubarb syrup: while the dough is chilling, rinse the rhubarb and chop off the ends. Cut into small pieces and place in a large pot with 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Skim any white foam off the top that appears. Pour through a fine-mesh strainer placed over a large bowl, pressing down on the rhubarb to get all of the good stuff out. Pour the rhubarb liquid back into the pot, add the sugar and simmer for 5 minutes, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Let cool completely before using.
Bake the cookies: preheat the oven to 350F and line a cookie sheet or two with parchment paper. Cut the dough logs into ½-inch logs using a sharp serrated knife. When you encounter a chunk, saw slowly and gently squeeze back together if it breaks. Place the cookies on the cookie sheet(s) about 1-inch apart (they don't really spread) and sprinkle with a bit of salt. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies get light brown and golden. Let cool for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.
Make the rhubarb glaze: in a small bowl add the sifted powdered sugar. Add the rhubarb syrup 1 teaspoon at a time, stirring after each addition, until the glaze runs down from a lifted spoon back into the bowl, but has some body to it. Drizzle onto the cookies once they're completely cooled.
To keep: the dough can be made up to 1 week ahead and stored in the fridge, or up to 1 month stored in the freezer. Baked cookies will keep for about 5 days in a tightly sealed zippered bag or plastic container.