Baking

Clara’s Cashew Cookies

The recipe card reads Cashew Cookies but I always add the extra nomenclature in honor of the gracious hostess and great baker who, years ago, sent me on the road with a fresh batch of these sweet treats.  I don’t usually make them.  My cookie baking tends towards the quick, crunchy kind without the extra step of frosting.  Plus, this frosting calls for browned butter requiring extra vigilance since butter can go from nutty caramel to burnt in just those few seconds when you look away from the stove.

And, of course, there is a story with this recipe — In 1978, I had been invited to teach a summer storytelling class at the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse.  At the time, I was working as a school librarian and going to Library School at UW-Madison.  The chance to teach at the academic level, even if only for a week, would have been a great additional to my resume.  However, I was seriously considering declining the offer simply due to the math.  Even though I would be totally responsible for developing the curriculum, teaching unsupervised and managing all the required paperwork I would only receive an un-degreed TA (teaching assistant) stipend.  By the time I covered a week’s expenses – motel, meals, gas and maybe a glass of wine or two – I would be paying the university for the experience.  Then a friend connected me with a retired parish housekeeper who loved to host short term guests.  It was like a private B&B as Clara baked fresh pastries each morning and when I left at the end of the week she gave me a “care package” for the long (90 mile) journey from LaCrosse to Eau Claire.

And yes, those with a discerning eye will note it is a pistachio and not a cashew atop each cookie as I claim a baker’s prerogative to modify the recipe so these are made with chopped pistachios.

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