RECIPE: OLD-FASHIONED HAZELNUT COOKIES
Take a branch and stick it in the sand. Walk around and let it form a line that follows you around.
When I was about 12, I started a personal ritual whereby I would think about the present as a sort of end-line to everything that preceded it. The moment didn’t have to be remarkable or have any reason to be remembered, it was usually a random point in time that I exercised this awareness: the first one was in a parking lot of a strip mall in L.A. Looking down at my feet as I rattled a shopping cart toward the entrance of Target to buy school supplies, following my mother’s lead and thinking about the steps. Where they had been. And where they would go.
This habit led to developing a kind of muscle in my brain that from time to time would ask me to check-in. Here I am. “This is the latest”. A line appeared behind me showing my path to this exact point, the infinitesimal “now” of my personal cartography. I was standing at the edge that kept moving forth, never stagnant.
My grandfather‘s name was Sigmund. Like Freud. But he was known to his friends as Zigu. And he didn’t smoke pipes nor write about the oceanic sentiment. He read the Estado de São Paulo newspaper and taught me how to count to 100 while I sat on his lap on the beach in Guarujá. I know little about his youth in Romania, except that he was born in Bucarest in 1923 and lived in a close-knit Jewish community until the end of World War II.
His dream was to move to Paris, where one of his friends was living. After the war, he managed to leave the country with false papers, but before arriving in France, he received a telegram from this same friend saying that post-war Paris was awful and many were starving. Changing course, he made his way south to Marseille, where he knew he could get on a ship that would take him to Israel. American soldiers were leaving the area after France was liberated, so refugees came and lived in the former military barracks near the calanques, the stunning rocky bays along the Mediterranean coast. Zigu was there, waiting for a ship that would take him to the land he had heard so much about. But the ship wouldn’t come.
It was hard to get precise information about this kind of thing, most of it was word of mouth. A telegram here and there could help, the radio and newspapers also gave often reliable information. After many tense days in waiting, he could not take it anymore. He told himself that if the ship didn’t come that night, he would just go to Paris, even if life there may be very difficult. The ship came.
I can picture him waking up in the middle of the night to the sounds of the ship’s arrival. Men hollering near the port, people packing their things up, alerting others of the news. That line of the present “here I am” about to take a drastic turn.
Old-fashioned hazelnut cookies | Makes app. 40 pieces
- 300g ground toasted hazelnuts (you could also use pecans or pistachios)
- 60g ground almonds
- 180g sugar (white or brown, to taste)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- The zest of 1-2 lemons or any other citrus fruit
- Spices to taste (cardamom, cinnamon…) — 1-2 tsp
- 4 egg whites (app. 120g)
- 2 tsp liquid honey
- Powdered sugar for rolling
- In a bowl, sift & combine all the dry ingredients (nut powders, sugar, salt, lemon zests and cardamom or cinnamon if you’d like an extra flavor) and mix well until blended.
- In a stand mixer’s mixing bowl, start beating the egg whites until light and fluffy. Add the liquid honey and beat on high speed until peaks form and the consistency turns smooth & glossy.
- Delicately fold the egg whites into the powders, using a spatula and lifting it in circles from bottom to top, being careful not to over-blend.
- Prepare a bowl with sifted powdered sugar. Form little balls of the egg white/nut powder mixture of app. 20g each (it can feel quite sticky but coat your hands with powdered sugar) and roll them in the powdered sugar before laying them on a baking sheet, lined with parchment paper. Gently press down each ball with the back of a spoon.
- Bake in a preheated oven at 180°C for app. 10 minutes or until just golden. Leave to cool before removing from the parchment paper.
- You can dust with some more powdered sugar before eating / storing. The cookies will be soft and chewy and will keep for several days!