Even though I grew up in a household where the family meal was always the main focal point of holidays and family gatherings, where eating out was once-a-year kind of occasion, my own passion in the kitchen, particularly for baking, didn’t really take hold until high school. Not really sure the exact moment it all clicked, but I do remember coming across what was then a nascent blogging world, being subsequently introduced to the likes of smittenkitchen, David Leibovitz, and Joy the Baker. All of a sudden, obsessing over my RSS feed—making sure I was up to date on all my 20+ blogs— was my new and favorite source of procrastination. This was also around the same time that my usual visits to the library also began to change in motive. I would go and emerge hours later carrying literal stacks of books—no longer of novels, but of cookbooks and the occasional food memoir.
My mom never understood why I would take out so many, but honestly I couldn’t help myself. They were like textbooks I was actually excited to read and collect, promising guidance and inspiration for my own self-schooling in the kitchen. I would devour them from beginning to end, studying the ingredient, kitchen supply, and “basics” sections; reading each recipe through slowly and carefully, and even more so relishing in the stories and histories behind them.
There were few cookbooks I actually owned, but thanks to the bargain treasure trove that is T.J.Maxx, I came into the possession of one in particular that I found myself turning to over and over again: Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours. Not only did I find her recipes fool-proof, crowd-winning, even personally ground-breaking (you could make your own marshmallows??) but the book itself was a wealth of knowledge, filled with tips and techniques that still inform my baking to this day. Even her suggestions for “playing around” with her recipes opened up a world of unfamiliar flavor combinations and a new way of approaching baking: be creative and have fun with it! My copy is now tattered and filled with oil-stained and chocolate-splattered pages, but still remains my most-used “textbook.”
So imagine my excitement when I found out that my beloved Dorie was working on another book! The sole focus, this time, being cookies. I pre-ordered “Cookies” back in May and conveniently forgot about it until one day in October, when it arrived in the mail. I immediately sat down and began to flip through it. Eventually, I surprisingly came across a recipe for Gozinaki—the traditional Georgian treat of walnuts candied in honey. I couldn’t believe that a beloved childhood treat just happened to be included in one of my favorite author’s new books. It was kismet. I knew I had to make it and feature it on Chesnok. So, without further ado, here it is and thank you Dorie for all you’ve inspired and taught me over the years!!
adapted from Cookies by Dorie Greenspan
At the New Year, honey for the Georgians hints at the sweetness of the year to come. These crunchy shards of honey and toasted walnuts are not only easy to make, but also keep well—convenient when you celebrate this holiday for days like the Georgians do. Not only do gozinaki make a great holiday sweet, but they also make for a tasty and (for the most part) healthy treat year round. I could even imagine them being a great energy source for hiking.
makes about two dozen cookies
2 ½ cups (300 grams) walnuts
½ cup (120 ml) honey
½ cup (100 grams) sugar
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Bake the walnuts on a baking sheet for 10 minutes, stirring once or twice until lightly toasted. Finely chop the nuts; they should be the size of lentils or gravel.
- Set a glass filled with cold water next to the stove top. Have a moistened wooden board or oiled baking sheet (if it’s rimmed, turn it over) at the ready, as well as a rolling pin.
- In a deep saucepan over medium heat, standing by and stirring frequently with a silicone spatula, bring the honey to a boil. Immediately add the sugar, stirring as it goes in.
- Bring the mixture to a boil, still stirring, and, as soon as it boils in the center start testing it. Drop a tiny bit of honey int the cold water. At first the honey will separate into strands, but very soon after, it will fall to the bottom of the glass and form a ball. This is your sign that the honey is at the right temperature.
- Turn off the heat, add the walnuts and stir them around in the honey until they are fully coasted with syrup.
- Scrape the mixture out onto your prepared surface. With a spatula, spread the mixture out just so that it isn’t in a lump or mound—don’t worry about precision. Moisten the rolling pin and roll the gozinaki into a rectangle until it is between ¼ and ½ inch thick. Set the gozinaki aside until it firms, about 20 minutes.
- Use a sharp knife to cut the gozinaki into diamond shapes about 2 inches long and 1 inch wide. Once cut, the cookies are ready to serve.