My dad and sons added a new cookie to their repertoire this year, one I grew up with thanks to the nut-gathering efforts of my dad: hickory puffs. Now, most Californians don’t know about hickory nuts; the trees grow in New England and Wisconsin, and the nut shells are so hard and the nutmeat so small that they aren’t cultivated. Further, as my dad writes,
“Hickory trees are individualists. Some produce nuts every year, some only when they feel like it. Some produce nuts the size of a small baseball, some produce nuts more the size of a large marble, some are round in shape, some are oblong, some come down from the tree with a thick green husk, some come down after shedding the husk. If you don’t happen to have a hickory tree on your property, keep an eye out as you drive. Often the edge of the road will be littered with husks and nuts and you can stop and scoop them up, keeping a careful eye out for traffic. This is best done on a dirt road or one with a low volume of traffic. You will not find hickory nuts in your local market so you will need strong hunter-gatherer instincts for this step in the process.”
Sometime I’ll get the boys back east in the fall to involve them in the nut gathering, but for now, they are very good at the nut cookie-baking, and I can’t complain about that. If you aren’t lucky enough to have someone gather and shell hundreds of hickory nuts for you, you can use pecans.
Preheat oven to 300º
Beat until soft:
½ cup butter
Add & blend until creamy
2 Tbs sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Measure, then grind in a nut grinder (or pulse in a food processor)
1 cup hickory meats (be sure to sort for stray shells!)
Sift before measuring
1 cup cake flour
Stir the hickory nuts and the flour into the butter mixture. Roll the dough into small balls. Place balls on parchment paper-lined baking sheet and bake for about 30 minutes.
Roll while hot in
To glaze, put the sheet back into the oven for a minute. Cool and serve, or store in a tightly covered tin.