You know what makes 15 hunters really awkward and anxious? Standing around a fire circle with no fire in it. But you wanna know what helps that anxiety – pistachio shortbread. Or coconut shortbread, if that’s more your speed.
This weekend I made a mad dash back to Eastern Washington to the tiny town of Winthrop to spend a day and change with the family up at hunting camp. When hunting season comes around, the whole world – or at least that of my family – stops and focuses solely on the rites and rituals of the season. A week up at the same camp, on the same ridge, on the same people every. year. It’s so much of a ritual that my dad flew all the way from Australia this last week to make sure he got to take part this year… That’s dedication.
Hi dad! Well, as Washington has been in an epic “drought” for the last 87 days, there was a burn ban in effect which severely dampened the spirit of the whole hutning/camping experience. But naturally, we all congregated around the campire circle as if nothing was amiss. It was just second nature. And really awkward.
Eveyrone shared jokes, as per usual and waited for the rain to hit so we could carry on with our day. This year we had another mission in mind – besides the hunting.
Throwing Gram off a moutain.
*Wait there is an explanation here, I promise.*
My great-grandma passed away about 4 and a half years ago and we’d waited all this time to spread her in the hills of the place we all loved. This place was a part of her, and by proxy became a part of all of us. So it only seemed fitting to toss her off the ridge she used to hunt all those years ago.
Dealing with the stress of pouring your dead great grandmother over a ridge is taxing – so naturally the only way to handle it is to perhaps, not-so-appropriately, make jokes about throwing Gram over a mountain. On the plus side, anytime anyone went to hunt up on her ridge, we figure she’d always know where the deer have been walking through and could always point them out to us. We just can’t help it. And if we continued to be sad about her passing all these years later – we all concluded she would have ringed into our ears, “ohh you, Dummies!”
Typical Gram. And we miss her everyday.
But of course, as all great stories go, Murphy brought the hammer down on his law and decided now was a great time to mess with us all and promptly end the 87 days of rainless weather – by POURING rain on us the night before we were going to take Gram up the mountain and do our family service. (I’m from Seattle, I know rain – This was Pouring.)
Really, Murph? Really? – Fair weather hunters we all must be, because waking up at 4am to go trudge up a moutain with a gun in hand and the ashes of your great grandmother strapped to your back wasn’t on anyone’s to-do list that morning.
So Gram will be staying with us until next year when we make our pilgrimage to Winthrop once again.
And there we sat around a fake fire hooked up to a propane tank with ceramic logs, in a circle, laughing, and eating chocolate covered shortbread, and carrying on just like we always did. Just like Gram instilled in us all these years later. Miss you Gram, my counterpart and family soul mate. I know you’re jitterbuggin’ up there somewhere.
A butterly and flakey shortbread with pistachios and chocolate ganache
1/2 cup plain Oats
1 1/2 cup Flour
1/4 cup Cornstarch
2/3 cup Powdered Sugar
1/2 tsp Salt
14 Tbsp Butter, cut into pieces 1/4" wide
1 cup Pistachios
1 cup Semi Sweet chocolate Chips
4 Tbsp Butter
1/4 cup Heavy Cream
Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees. Place oats in food processor and pulse until they become a fine powder. About 5 pulses. Set aside.
Place 3/4 cup of pistachios into food processor and pulse until they become almost powdery as well. Set aside in a small bowl. Repeat with last remaining 1/4 cup, but only pulse until they are small pieces. These will be the used as the pistachio coating on top of the chocolate ganache.
In stand mixer, place all dry ingredients including 3/4 cup fine ground pistachios. Turn mixer on low to combine. Add in butter and mix on low until dough forms and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. About 5 minutes.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place a closed spring-form pan on top. Spread dough into spring-form pan, evenly. Unlock spring form pan but leave it in place on baking sheet. This will ensure the dough doesn't spread to far.
Using a round cookie cutter, remove a circle of the center of the shortbread dough. Set disk of dough outside the spring form pan and bake as directed.
Bake shortbread for 5 minutes at 450 degrees. Reduce temperature to 250 degrees and continue to bake for an additional 10-15 minutes until golden brown. Remove baking sheet from oven and remove spring-form pan from baking sheet. Using a sharp knife score the shortbread into 16 wedges. Place baking sheet with shortbread back into the oven. Turn OFF the oven, leaving shortbread in there to cool. Make sure the oven is propped slightly open to allow to cool. About 1 hour.
Place shortbread on cooling rack after one hour and allow to finish cooling to room temperature. Bread shortbread along the scored lines you created previously.
To make ganache, create a mock double-boiler with a small saucepan and heat resistent bowl. Place about 1 cup of water into the saucepan andcover with bowl. Heat water until it is just simmering. Add chocolate, heavy cream and butter to the bowl, and stir to combine as the chocolate and butter melt. Once the chocolate has just melted remove immediately from the heat. Dip each wedge of the shortbread into the chocolate and sprinkle remaining roughly chopped pistachios on top. Set on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper to cool and harden.
Repeat with remaining shortbread.
Adapted from Coconut Shortbread and America's Test Kitchen Shortbread.