Getting a Little Nuts With Martha!- Hazelnut-Orange Shortbread- 69 eggs, 55 1/4 cups of sugar, 50 3/4 sticks of Butter, and 53 1/4 cups of flour used so far- 137 recipes to go!

June 29, 2010

Martha's Hazelnut-Orange Shortbread

André's Hazelnut-Orange Shortbread

Once again Martha’s book leads to another shortbread. Hazelnut-Orange Shortbread is a recipe that is a far cry from any common shortbread, although it bears a fair resemblance to what shortbreads may have originally been. Not all of our ancestors had access to wheat flour and so the use of ground nuts was common when baking treats.

Hazelnuts are one of my favorites. Something extraordinary happens when these nuts are toasted, a step one does not ignore when baking with Martha, lest you evoke her wrath.

Raw hazelnuts are rather bland, but once toasted their oils are released and they fill your kitchen with a distinct and pleasant aroma. Hazelnuts have a thin skin surrounding each nut which makes toasting them even more essential. The skins are quite bitter and need to be removed for proper baking. To release them from the nut you must toast the hazelnuts until the skin begins to split. Place the warm nuts in a clean dishtowel and cover, letting them steam in their own heat just a bit. Once the hazelnuts begin to cool, roll them in the dishcloth until most of the skin has fallen off. It’s a fairly time-consuming step but necessary.

How do they taste?

Well, they aren’t very sweet but they are quite nutty. Almost two cups of ground hazelnuts make up most of the dry ingredients. Since this is a shortbread recipe, I needed to present them to my shortbread critic, The Baroness Von Shortbread. Here’s what she had to say:

“Far from any standard shortbread…an understatement. I must be a purist…this is not a shortbread! I LOVE shortbread, this, on the other hand…not my favorite…definitely not. It’s too nutty and not buttery enough.”

Sorry, Martha. The Baroness has spoken.

In certain geographic locations, hazelnuts are known by another name…filberts. Filberts are said to be named after Saint Philbert, whose feast day is August 22nd and marked by harvesting nuts. I imagine there are a lot of Catholic squirrels that pray regularly to Saint Philbert. In fact,  I’m thinking of naming the squirrel who has seized control of one of eaves, Filbert.

Patron saints and their feast days have always amused me. I remember the strange ceremonial blessings I received as a child on the different feast days. One in particular was the Feast of Saint Blase on February 2nd. My mom would march us out in the cold to the nearest church so the priest could place two candles over our throats and mumble a few words of  Latin incantations- then Poof!- no throat problems… allegedly.

Priests were cheaper than doctors or flu shots so every February we’d spend time with Saint Blase and the wacky throat candles.

Catholics  have a patron saint for just about every profession, ailment, geographic location, or situation. Honestly, a good Catholic can choose a patron saint from a seemingly endless list. It’s a bit like shoe-shopping for your eternal soul.

Of course, there’s still a lot of politics among the ranks of  patron saints.

Having problems with sexual temptation? You have eight saints to choose from… all women! Apparently Catholic men don’t experience sexual temptation and if they do, hey, blame it on Eve and that stupid apple.

Having bowel troubles? Call on Saint Bonaventure of Bagnoregio. Boy, did he get the short end of the stick when they were doling out saintly patronages. I wonder if the other saints in heaven give him grief about this at the country club.

A lot of people pray to Saint Bibiana on January 1st. She’s the patron saint of hangovers. If you find yourself praying to her frequently, perhaps you should send a prayer or two to Saint Boniface of Ferentino. He and five others are the patron saints of alcoholics.

Having problems with rodents? Don’t call an exterminator, not when you have three- count ’em- Three saints to choose from! Perhaps I should be evoking one of them to get Filbert the hell out of my eaves.

Canonization, the process through which a person posthumously becomes a Saint, is a convoluted system. It’s administered by the Holy See (y’know- the Pope). He sorts through the evidence that a particular person, Catholic preferably, lived an exemplary and holy life. A miracle or two wouldn’t hurt either. If you pass, then Ta Da! you’re a Saint and can be venerated and invoked during any Catholic mass around the world. If you don’t pass, but are still considered a nice person, you can be beatified and celebrated on a local level.

Sainthood vs. Beatification is a bit like Miss Universe vs. Queen of the Kielbasa Festival.

I find irony in the stories our martyred saints. A vast majority of our martyrs were put to death by, you guessed it, the Catholic church.  I imagine canonization for them is a bit of a consolation prize.

“Sorry we boiled you in oil, but since you were such a good sport, we built a cathedral in your honor. Thank you for playing!”

I think by virtue of this short essay, I can pretty much assume I will never be canonized. Shot out of a cannon, maybe, but canonization is probably not in the picture.

Beatification would nice, I’d settle for that, but in order for that to happen  I’d have to die and the church would have to be a hundred percent sure I am in heaven. I don’t like the prerequisites and honestly, after I’m gone I don’t see many Catholics buying that one.

Perhaps I am setting the bar too high. I just think it’d be really cool to have a saintly patronage when I finally shuffle off this Earth.

Is there a patron saint for cookies?

Damn- I bet Martha already has dibs on that one.

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