It’s Hickory Season Again!

If you’ve been hanging out with me for a while, then you may remember that I wrote about foraging for wild hickory nuts way back in 2018. If you’re a more recent follower, odds are that the hickory nut post is what brought you here! It’s the most popular post on the site, and I get it. They’re delicious!

A word on hickory nuts, though – if you shell more than you’re going to use right then and there, keep the shelled nuts in the freezer. They keep basically forever when frozen, but they’ll go moldy pretty quickly at room temp or in the fridge because they have a high moisture content (ask me how I know). In the shell, they’re good for quite a while, so if you’re short on freezer space then don’t crack them open until you want to use them. You could also dry or roast them, but hickory nuts have a much higher moisture content than most other nuts, and I find that it’s easier to just freeze them.

So if you’re like me and you think found food is the best food, then I’ve got a recipe for you to try. While hickory nuts (a buttery-tasting relative of the pecan) are delicious in a variety of applications ranging from cakes to muffins to ice cream, my very favorite way to use them is in a shortbread cookie. It’s kind of like a pecan sandie, but better (in my opinion). Give them a try!

Tasty!

Hickory Nut Shortbread Cookies

Serving Size:
30-36 cookies
Time:
30 min active, chilled overnight
Difficulty:
easy

Ingredients

  • 1 c butter, softened
  • 1/4 tsp fresh orange zest (optional, but delightful)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 c flour
  • ¾ c powdered sugar
  • ½ c hickory nuts

Directions

  1. Cream together butter, zest, salt, and vanilla. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour and powdered sugar. Add the flour/sugar mixture to the butter mixture, and mix until just combined. It’s going to look very crumbly. Finally, stir in the hickory nuts.
  2. Dump out the cookie dough (it’ll probably seem too dry) onto a large piece of plastic wrap, and use the plastic to form into a log approximately 2 inches thick (you can also use parchment paper if you’re opposed to plastic). Make sure it’s nice and compact, with no air bubbles. Refrigerate overnight, or 2 hours minimum if you’re in a hurry.
  3. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350o and cut cookies into 1/4 – 1/2″ slices. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat, leaving about 1″ between cookies (they don’t spread much). Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until done to your liking. I like to cook mine until the edges start to turn golden brown but the main part of the cookie is still white.

That’s it! How easy is that?! I like to keep my uncooked “roll” of cookie dough in the fridge, and slice off a few cookies at a time to bake here and there when I’m feeling snacky. If I made them all at once, then I’d have to eat them all at once (well, I guess I wouldn’t have to eat them all, but I probably would anyway).

Happy baking!

Cinnamon Rolls

Remember that sandwich bread recipe I posted way back? If not, then definitely check it out, because it’s super easy and oh so worth it. Because my recipe makes enough for 2 batches of dough, I mentioned at the end of that post that I usually freeze the second batch of dough after the first rise to use later. While you certainly CAN use it to make another loaf of bread, I’ve found that it’s more fun to use it for something else. Cinnamon rolls!

Fresh, homemade cinnamon rolls are one of the best breakfasts out there in my opinion. But who wants to get up early to spend 3 hours making breakfast? Yes, most of it is hands off “rising” time, but still. I’m hungry. Instead, try this!

This seems like a lot of directions, but that’s only because I want it to be fool proof. Here’s the cliff notes:

  • thaw dough overnight
  • roll into rectangle
  • spread with cinnamon sugar butter
  • roll and cut
  • rise
  • bake

The night before you want your cinnamon rolls, pull the dough out of the freezer and set it on the counter to thaw overnight. I keep mine in a ziploc bag, but if you keep yours more tightly wrapped then you’ll need to move it to a bag so that it has room to expand as it thaws.

In the morning, flour your counter or large cutting board, take the dough out of the bag (I find it’s easiest to cut the bag open – it can be a little sticky), and dust the top of the dough with flour. Using a rolling pin or your hands, roll the dough into a large rectangle. You may need to use your hands to pull the corners to make it rectangular rather than an oval. The exact size isn’t super important. The larger you make it, the more swirly your rolls will be.

Do what you can to make it an even thickness, but it really doesn’t matter too much. There’s a lot of wiggle room in this “recipe,” so don’t worry about getting it perfect.

Next, make a paste with butter, sugar and cinnamon. Most recipes I’ve seen have you melt the butter, brush it on the dough, and sprinkle on your cinnamon sugar mixture. While you certainly CAN do this, I’ve found that it makes a bit of a mess. If you use too much butter, it all spills out when you roll up the dough. If you don’t use quite enough, then it doesn’t moisten all the sugar and the layers of each roll don’t stick together. My personal preference is to use room temp butter (or only slightly melted), and to mix it with the sugar and cinnamon to form a thick paste. You want something that will really stick to the dough but won’t move around and get all drippy. I’ve found that a 2:1 ratio of sugar to butter works well. I don’t usually measure anything for this, but on my latest batch I used 4 tbsp butter, 7 tbsp sugar, and 1.5 tsp cinnamon. Feel free to adjust any of those to suit your own taste. Smear this sugar paste on your dough in an even layer (it doesn’t have to be perfect – you won’t notice a few bare spots here and there). Leave 1/2-1 inch of bare dough on all sides.

Next, roll it up! You can roll in any direction, but I like to roll starting at the short end. This gives me fewer rolls, but they have lots of layers. If you prefer to have fewer layers but more rolls, go ahead and start at the long end. When it’s all rolled up, pinch the roll closed to seal it all in. Now you can slice the dough! There’s 2 easy ways to do this. I use a sharp knife and just saw it back and forth without putting much pressure on the knife (you don’t want to squish your rolls). You can also use dental floss – wrap it around the dough and make like you’re going to tie a knot. As you pull the floss, it’ll cut through the dough on all sides at once, so you won’t squish it flat. The size of your rolls will depend on the size of the rectangle you rolled. I got 9 rolls out of mine, and each roll was cut a little over an inch wide. Feel free to discard the ends like I did. Unless you got a perfect rectangle, they’re going to be a little wonky.

Put your rolls in a greased pan. A cookie sheet works too, but rolls always rise higher if they’re touching something. If you can, put some parchment paper in the bottom of your pan (you’ll find out why when they’re done baking). Put the whole thing in a plastic bag (put it on upside down and tuck the ends under your pan) and go do something else for 30-60 minutes. Take a shower. Make some coffee while you catch up on the news. Complain to someone about how it’s way to freaking cold outside right now.

Preheat the oven to 375 when you’re getting toward the end of your rising time. You’re looking for rolls that are puffy, but they don’t have to be doubled. They should look like this when they’re ready to bake.

Pop those bad boys in the oven for 30-35 minutes until they’re golden brown. While they’re baking, feel free to make some frosting if you’re into that. Cream cheese frosting is a classic (just whip up some room temp cream cheese with powdered sugar and a splash of vanilla), or you can make an easy glaze of powdered sugar and a tiny bit of milk. Though, if I’m being honest, you don’t even need frosting with these. Because… drum roll please… they’re caramel cinnamon rolls! If you put parchment on the bottom of your pan, you should be able to flip the whole thing upside down and peel off the parchment. If you didn’t, make sure that you get those rolls out of the pan before they’re completely cool or they’ll be hard to remove. These rolls form a delicious layer of caramel on the bottom as they cook, and it’ll harden as they cool down.

Enjoy! This can be customized in any number of ways. Add raisins or nuts, increase the cinnamon, use a different kind of sugar, or add additional spices (ginger or nutmeg would be interesting). Have fun with it!