RECIPE: Prickly Pear and White Chocolate Muffin Cookies
I adore my very Italian family. They show their love with hugs, kisses, yelling loudly and food. If you tell an Italian from the old country you like something you have tried while they had you over, be prepared to get a lot of it in your future. I once told my mother I liked Eggplant Parmesan, and she pretty much made it for me at every family get together until I begged her to stop. That goes the same for my husband and bags of figs, or the gifted bags of freselle rings in the pantry I can't possibly eat in one lifetime, or boxes of gifted clementines for my daughter who was eating them with gusto at my parent's house. I tried a dishwasher cleanser that my father gave me and I told him it worked miracles. Now every time I visit, he has two set aside for me in a bag. My husband keeps finding them under the sink. He is less impressed.
Italians are the most generous people I know. They will feed you until you can't move, even if it means they will eat nothing but rice the rest of the month because of budget constraints. Food and giving to others is the way you enjoy life in their eyes. It is the way you show love and kinship, and if they can provide that for you it gives them great joy. So recently, my husband enjoyed some prickly pears with my Godparents at Easter. He raved about how good they were. Well, guess what arrived a few weeks ago via my father? A giant bag of prickly pears!
Many were green, so we waited for them to ripen. You will know they are ready when they have a brown-red color versus a green color. There were so many, I wondered if I could bake with them. The following recipe is what I came up with. After making them, I added nuts. Prickly pears have small nut-seeds. They are soft and usually are eaten. If you aren't used to it, the added nuts mixed in the cookies meld with the texture and you won't notice them. You can also just skip the diced prickly pear and make double the syrup using all 4 pears. You may need to cut back on your liquids, like the sour cream. My husband loves prickly pears, so I went for more fruit bits in the cookies. I call them muffin cookies because they are very cake-like. I think you could try adapting the recipe for muffins and they would be great! Just lengthen the cooking time and maybe adjust the leavening a little to make them true muffins.
Prickly Pear and White Chocolate Muffin Cookies
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup or so prickly pear syrup from 2 prickly pears (see below)
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup sweetened, dried cranberries
1/2-3/4 cup prickly pear fruit, peeled and diced into small bits
1/4 cup chopped pecans (macadamia or pine nuts can work, too)
1/4 cup white chocolate chips
Cut both ends of your prickly pears and discard. Peel the skin and discard. Dice two pears and reserve for later. Roughly chop the other two and place in a small food processor. Puree until smooth. Pour in a small saucepan and cook at a low simmer for 10 minutes, or until reduced down and thickened. Push puree through a fine sieve so you have about 1/4 cup smooth syrup. Discard the pulp. Set aside the syrup to cool down.
Preheat oven to 375˚, and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
Mix the flour with the salt and baking soda. Set aside.
Cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy with a mixer. Add the egg and mix until fluffy. Add the sour cream, syrup and vanilla. Mix until combined. The batter will be a lovely, creamy garnet-pink color. With a spatula, fold in the nuts, cranberries, diced prickly pears and white chocolate until well combined. Feel free to not put in all the prickly pear if you have a lot as to not overwhelm things.
Drop batter by the Tablespoon about 2 inches apart.
Bake for 10-15 min. or until golden on the top. Cook longer if making muffins. Cool cookies on wire rack. Sprinkle them with powdered sugar for garnish.
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