Cultural Exchange And The Well-Made Cookie, Pignoli Shortbread For Today


Tonight I got to see, to share, and to partake of, a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. Simple, beautiful, nuanced. The silk cloth to purify the utensils. The tiny pot of sugar crystals formed just so. The fluorescent mound of tea powder. The puffy bamboo brush-whisk and the froth of foam in the bowl, whirled just so.

The tea was bitter without being harsh, smooth on my tongue and soothing. I found myself a guest of my own guests, being served in the salon of the Lama House by visiting teachers for whom I have been cooking. They offered the tea as a thank-you for the meals we’ve been making, and even made special mention of the desserts, which I’ve been handling this weekend.


It seems surreal to me that the simple fact of a chocolate tart or a pumpkin pie, a drizzle of caramel or a mouthful of almond praline, can make any difference in the vastness of this world. And yet, when you find your American self sharing tea with a roomful of Japanese artists in the countryside in France, bonding through some blessed meeting of modern baked goods, ancient art forms, and timeless philosophy, you can’t help but consider that a well-made cookie might be worth more than you thought it was.

Pignoli Shortbread

Adapted from Martha’s classic

Makes as many as you want depending on the size or 16 2″ x 2″ squares.

1 cup (60 grams) pine nuts

2 sticks (226 grams) unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup (95 grams) confectioner’s sugar

2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour

a pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 325˚ F (170˚ C).

In a skillet on medium-low heat, toast pine nuts, stirring gently. Toast about five to seven minutes, or until golden and the kitchen smells like nutty, buttery goodness. Set aside to cool.

In a stand mixer or a study bowl with a wooden spoon, beat butter until fluffy, about two minutes. Sift in confectioner’s sugar and beat gently to combine. Sift in flour and sprinkle salt on top. Beat gently to combine (you don’t have to be that gentle; the point is just not to spray the flour everywhere). Beat in cooled pine nuts.

Press into an 8″ x 8″ pan. Bake twenty minutes, or until golden. Allow to cool. Cut into squares of desired size. Devour.

5 thoughts on “Cultural Exchange And The Well-Made Cookie, Pignoli Shortbread For Today

    • Ooh, what an offer! Do you ever work in plain porcelain with sgraffito? Pretty much all of the dishes at the Lama House are white. I know that painterliness is a big part of your work and the color lends a great vivacity, but I can also imagine that your style would be stunning in pure white. Thoughts?

    • You are too kind! Unfortunately, I’ve made the choice not to accept blogger-to-blogger awards. I think it’s a beautiful way to express appreciation for another’s work, and I’m incredibly grateful that you thought of me. However, for me it can become a bit of a headspin with the pressure that can go along with the tradition. I do like the opportunity to discover other blogs, and I’m glad to know about you and your blog. Your perspectives are very interesting and it’s enriching to experience a different culture through the eyes of some one who belongs to it. Thanks for sharing, and thanks again for thinking of me! Happy blogging, and all the best!


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