Now is the time of year to get your hands on fresh, locally grown walnuts in the shell. If you think you hate walnuts, you can’t have eaten these babies. Anti-walnut sentiments are more likely the result of the fat most of what you buy in the shops, shelled and in bulk or packaged up, is imported and long gone rancid by the time it touches your lips. Fresh walnuts, on the other hand, are an utter delight. I picked some up the other day and found this recipe for Walnut Shortbread in the excellent Popina Book of Baking. I’ve simply adapted the method a bit – I used a small mortar and pestle to break up the nuts (hate dragging out the processor unless I absolutely have to), plus I found the dough was just too dry to roll into a log as her method suggests, so rather than risk adding extra butter at that late stage, I just skipped the log step and formed the dough into balls before baking. Made for less perfectly shaped biscuits, but they were pretty nonetheless and tasted amazing! There’s not much butter in this, as shortbread goes, but the oil in the walnuts must make up the difference, and give these biscuits a wonderful nutty, earthy flavour with a silky texture.
Adapted from Popina Book of Baking, Isidora Popovic, Ryland Peters & Small, 2010.
100g shelled, roasted fresh walnuts – half finely crushed and half in larger chunks
90g unsalted butter, softened
60g golden caster sugar
A few drops vanilla extract (I use Heilala)
125g plain flour
Icing sugar, to dust
Preheat oven to 130 degrees Celcius.
Cream butter, sugar and vanilla in mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Stir in walnuts, then gently fold in flour until well mixed.
Roll dough into ping-pong sized balls and arrange on a baking tray.
Bake for about 30 minutes – they should still be slightly soft in the middle. Remove from the oven and dust with icing sugar. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.