Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Italian Nut Chews (The 8th Sweet of Christmas)

Ah, Italian nut chews!  This is another family favorite that has been passed down from my great-grandmother. Turns out it wasn't one of her "original" recipes brought from Sicily, but rather one she clipped out of a newspaper before my grandmother was born.

Even though it looks daunting at first, it's really very easy and quick to make.  The longest part of the process is waiting for these cookies to cool.

Italian Nut Chews

  • 3/4 cup soft butter
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 and 2/3 cups sifted flour
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 pound light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup chopped nuts
  • 3/4 cup flaked coconut
  • 3 egg whites, beaten stiff
  • confectioner's sugar

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line a 9x13 baking pan with parchment paper.

In a mixing bowl, cream the softened butter, then add granulated sugar and beat until light.  Add the flour and mix well.  It will resemble course crumbs.

Pat the mixture into the baking pan, pressing down well with the back of a spoon and then with your fingers.  Bake for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, separate your eggs.  Beat the egg whites stiff and set aside.  In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks until they are a light yellow color.

Gradually beat in the brown sugar.  The mixture will be very course and lumpy, and your stand mixer, if that's what you're using, will probably thump around a bit.  Don't be alarmed.  You will probably have to scrape the sides of the bowl periodically.

Add the nuts and coconut, then mix for a minute or so.

Fold in the egg whites, then mix on low until a sticky "goo", for want of a better word, is formed.

By this time the cookie part of the nut chews should be out of the oven.  Spread the nut mixture on the baked cookie.

Bake for 20 minutes longer.  Allow to cool in the pan for a few minutes.  After about ten minutes, use the parchment to carefully lift the cookie out of the pan.  Let it cool.

Return the cookies, via the parchment to the pan, and cut into squares.  If you're ambitious and don't mind the mess, you can get up to 54 squares.  If you like a bigger bite, you will probably get half as many squares.  These can be harder to cut if they aren't well cooled.  The longer you let them sit, the more set they will be and will cut a lot neater.  Lift the nut chews back out of the pan with the parchment.

But what the tops of the cookies look  like is really a moot point.  After cutting, dust the top of the cookies generously with powdered sugar.  Store them in an airtight container, with wax paper between the layers, and freeze them.  They can also be stored in the refrigerator.  Allow to come to room temperature before serving.  They're very sticky - watch your fillings!

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