Just like our trip to Bali which involved 3 flights, almost 20 hours on planes and stop-overs in Dubai and Singapore, this recipe has been on a bit of a journey.
It all started with various articles, blog posts and photos on my instagram feed about the Californian chain of coffee shops named Blue Bottle Coffee. Our initial plan for last year’s summer was a roadtrip around California which sadly had to be postponed, but after reading more and more about Blue Bottle Coffee and their commitment to coffee made from high quality beans as freshly roasted as possible, their San Francisco locations went straight on my wishlist of places to see whenever I finally make it to San Francisco. But to be honest, it is not just their coffee I am excited about – what I also cannot wait to try at Blue Bottle Coffee are the creations of pastry chef Caitlin Freeman so many seem to be raving about.
The first of her recipes I bookmarked was for her Absinthe and Sesame Cigars – a new flavour combination for me but one I immediately liked the sound of. Alas, the recipe calls for white sesame seeds and while I am still working my way through a glut of black sesame seeds thanks to my mum before they go rancid, I have set aside this recipe to make at a later stage (and I know I could use the black sesame seeds as well but I do like the pale look of the pale cookies with the white sesame seed). Saffron and Vanilla Snickerdoodles was the next recipe I bookmarked, especially after seeing Heidi Swanson’s stunning pictures of said cookies. While my appreciation for saffron as a flavour in sweet preparations is certainly new I have quickly become a fan of it. Although I had set out on making the snickerdoodle cookies as something sweet to munch on during our long trip to Bali, in the end my obsession with experimenting with different flavours and techniques won out again and this is how this recipe came about.
The other day we had black olive gnocchi for lunch, made by pulverizing little dry black olives with flour before mixing the flour with cooked potatoes to make the gnocchi – giving the dumplings a dark brown speckled hue and a subtle black olive flavour. The idea for this black olive flour came from a recipe I saw on Masterchef a while back where the black olive flour was used to coat a tuna steak and, having tried this at home, it is absolutely delicious.
The idea of flavouring flour this way got me thinking of trying a sweet version, pulverizing dried fruit together with flour. While the colder autumn days are still a long way away, I am itching to try pulverizing prunes with flour (maybe buckwheat?) and using this flour, maybe with some star anise as well, to make financiers or even a fruity tart shell, the options seem endless. While I wait for the temperatures to cool down my first sweet experiment with this type of flavoured flour involved some dried apricots, slightly more summery thanks to their acidity. This sweet and slightly sharp-tasting apricot flour was the basis for these cookies. Like for the Saffron and Vanilla Snickerdoodles, I added some saffron-infused milk and for a bit of bite, I folded some chopped pistachios, white chocolate and additional dried apricots into the dough. What you end up with are these incredibly mooreish soft cookies, with an intense saffron flavour, the apricot bringing out its honey-like flavour.
Saffron-flavoured Apricot, Pistachio and White Chocolate Cookies
Inspired by the Blue Bottle Coffee Vanilla Snickerdoodles
280g white spelt flour
200g dried apricots
1 pinch of salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 tbsp milk
0,1g ground saffron
115g butter, at room temperature
50g pistachios, chopped roughly
50g white chocolate, chopped roughly
1. Start by processing the flour and 90g of the apricots in a food processor until the apricots are pulverized. Whisk in the salt and baking soda.
2. Dissolve the saffron in the milk and whisk in the egg.
3. Cream the butter and the sugar using an electric whisk until combined. Increase the speed on high for 5-10 minutes until the mixture is light and fluffy. Whisk in the egg mixture until just combined.
4. Chop the remaining apricots and add to the butter mixture together with the white chocolate, pistachios and flour. Mix on low until just combined,
5. Place tablespoon sized pieces of dough on a couple of baking trays lined with parchment paper. Place in the fridge for at least 1 hour (and up to one week) before baking.
6. Pre-heat the oven to 175 degrees Celsius and bake cookies for ca. 10 minutes or until they are puffed up and light golden around the edges but still soft in the centre. Remove from the oven and, after a couple of minutes, place on a drying rack to cool. Once at room temperature, store in an airtight container.
If you like the idea of baking with saffron, why not try this saffron polenta shortbread.