Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Recipe Remake: thumbprint cookies with Hawaiian ingredients

I'm currently collecting recipes that can be made with only island-grown ingredients. Grains pose a particular challenge, since they are the staple of so many people's diets but aren't grown here. Breadfruit (called 'ulu in Hawai'ian) is a potential grain-substitute in many recipes. In addition to being a plentiful, local food, it is healthier than grains, too!

In the following recipe, I've adapted one of my favorite cookies to use 'ulu instead of flour, macadamia nuts instead of pecans, and coconut instead of oatmeal. It uses no additional sugar or oil. I used cardamom instead of more traditional spices, because I love the way the delicate complexity of the spice interacts with the sweet 'ulu flavor. Cinnamon, nutmeg, and other cookie spices could be used instead or in addition.

The resulting recipe is easy, healthy (for a dessert), and can be sourced completely locally! Plus, these cookies are gluten free and vegan, and still: delicious! The proof? They won Best of Show in the Puna 'Ulu Festival recipe contest a few weekends ago. It was my first cooking contest entry - I was so delighted!

*award winning* P┼źnana Cookies

for about 2 dozen cookies:
1&1/2 cups ripe 'ulu, steamed - use breadfruit that is sweet and mushy
1 cup finely chopped raw, unsalted macadamia nuts
1/2 cup shredded, dried, unsweetened coconut
Pinch sea salt
1 teaspoon cardamom
tart jelly/jam - liliko'i ginger jelly is especially ono
Macadamia nut oil for pan, optional
Preheat oven to 350°F. 
Mash steamed breadfruit using a crank processor, a potato masher or a brief pulse in a blender.  The resulting paste should be sticky and clumpy, like buttermilk frosting.
Put the macadamia nuts, coconut, salt and cardamom in a mixing bowl and fold in the breadfruit paste, much like mixing butter into a batter until all the ingredients are well incorporated.
Either wipe a cookie sheet with macadamia oil or use a non-stick cookie sheet.  Take about one tablespoons of breadfruit batter and roll into a ball.  Form the dough into a nest with an impression on top for the jelly.  Wet hands can help form the well-structured nest.  Fill the sheet with the nests about 1 to 2 inches from each other.  Then add about 1/2 a teaspoon of jelly to each nest.  Liliko’i jelly is ono because of its bright, tart flavor, but any firm jam or jelly will work.
Put the cookie sheet into the oven and bake at 350 degrees F for about 20 minutes, or until the cookies are lightly browned on the bottom and/or top.  Remove and cool on a rack.  Enjoy!

Now the pictorial tutorial:

Choose breadfruit that is soft (from ripeness not from bruising!) - it will usually be a golden color, but sometimes still green. A 2 lb breadfruit should be enough for a single batch. Steam for about an hour, then cut off skins and cut into chunks.

We use a simple hand-crank food processor.

Not much processing is needed for ripe breadfruit. It's consistency should be somewhere between mash potatoes and frosting. If the breadfruit does not stick together, try adding a little splash of water.

Processed ingredients (breadfruit, coconut, nuts, cardamom, salt) before mixing.

I've found that folding the breadfruit into the dry ingredients, much like you would fold butter into flour, works well. Mix with a spoon or spatula until ingredients are evenly distributed.

Use a nonstick cookie sheet or grease a regular sheet. I put a light coat of macadamia nut oil on my non-stick sheets. The oil isn't necessary, but increases browning. Take about a tablespoon of batter an shape a nest. Make sure the sides and bottom are solid, so the jelly can't leak during baking.

Add about 1/2 teaspoon of jelly to each nest. I use my homemade liliko'i-ginger jelly. I think any tart, bright flavored jelly or jam would be delicious.

In my oven set to 350 deg F, these cook for 25-30 minutes. I take them out when they start to brown. Then, they cool on a cookie rack.
Using the same batter and adding dark chocolate chips instead of jelly makes pretty darn good chocolate chip cookies. These are made with Scharffenberger chocolate chunks my mom sent. Thanks, Mom!

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