I heard about Pinoli a while ago, and since all the pine nuts that I used to get in NZ just didn't seem to taste right, I decided to try the new NZ home grown variety. My Italian readers will notice the name (pinoli means pine nuts in Italian) and yes, it is quite typical here to give a product a 'brand' name like this. Do we ever do it with English names in Italy? I can't think of any at the moment, but let me know if you do!
But back to Pinoli (the brand). The nuts are fresh and quite big and long, and once toasted they smell and taste good, so I was very happy to buy them (yes I bought them, this is not an ad.). The price is reasonable, they may look expensive to those who are not used to buy pine nuts, but so they should be: they are not cheaper in Italy either and you need a lot of pine cones to get a few nuts out!
I mostly use them for pesto and savory dishes, but they are great for sweet stuff too (btw, did you see this Japanese dish with pine nuts??) and since I am a cupcake fanatic I though of sprinkling a few over one of my favorite recipes, the Vanilla cupcakes basic recipe from Party Food for Girls (but this time I used lemon zest instead of vanilla)
120 g butter
130 g sugar
1/2 tsp lemon zest
200 g self-rising flour
60 ml milk
A few Pinoli pine nuts to sprinkle on top
Makes 12 cupcakes
Preheat the oven to 175°C. Line a 12-muffin tray with cupcakes paper cups.
Melt the butter in a jug, either in the microwave or in the oven (while the oven is warming up for the cupcakes). Place the eggs and sugar in a mixing bowl and whisk, using an electric beater, until the mixture looks light and pale yellow in colour. Slowly add the melted butter and the lemon zest. Keep beating at a low speed now; add half of the flour followed by half of the milk. Add the rest of the flour and milk and keep beating making sure that there are no lumps. Divide the mixture between the 12-cupcake cases and sprinkle a few pinoli pine nuts on top.
Bake for about 18-20 minutes, until golden brown at the top. You can also check by inserting a toothpick into the cupcakes: if it comes out clean the cupcakes are ready. Remove the cupcakes from the tin and let them cool down. The Pinoli don't need to be toasted before baking: they will toast while baking, and the cupcakes will smell delicious!
Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©