The alder wood belongs in the birch family and is a deciduous tree that grows quite well here in the Pacific Northwest. We actually have several in our yard among the evergreens.
On Wikipedia it lists a number of uses for alder that I found fascinating:
1. Most of the pilings that formed the foundation of Venice, Italy were made from alder trees.
2. Alder bark contains the anti-inflammatory, salicin, which metabolizes into salicyclic acid in the body.
3. Native Americans used red alder bark to treat poison oak, insect bites, and other skin irritations.
4. The Blackfeet Indians used an infusion made from the bark of the red alder to treat lymphatic disorders and tuberculosis.
5. Also, clinical studies have verified that red alder contains betulin and lupeol, compounds that are known to be effective against a variety of tumors.
On restaurant menus it appears often when it comes to cooking salmon, but today I thought I'd try it with my baking. If you're wondering how I managed this, I decided to smoke the flour, which is an easy process that adds such a rich flavor to this cookie. In addition, I toasted, coarsely chopped walnuts halves, vanilla bean paste and cardamon to measure up to the smokiness the flour brought. Lastly, the chip I chose was a bittersweet chocolate--call it lack of sleep or just feeling a little moody, it was the perfect choice to finish the recipe;-D
Smoked Alder wood Chocolate Chip~Walnut Cookies
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp Vanilla Paste (or 2 tsp. vanilla extract + 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped)
1/2 tsp. ground cardamon
3 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour, smoked with alder wood chips
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 1/4 cups toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.
To smoke the flour:
1. Line a 9-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil. Measure about 3 Tablespoons of alder wood chips in the center.
2. Place a wire or silicone rack over the chips and then, a square of parchment to hold the flour.
3. Measure about 3 cups of flour to smoke. Bend the corners of the parchment under so the "smoke" reaches the flour. Seal the entire pan with aluminum foil to capture the smoke.
4. Heat in the over for about 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from oven and remove foil. Allow to cool slightly then, because the flour may be "clumpy" you will have to put it through a sifter before adding to the dough.
You will notice that a light golden yellow to the flour once it has been smoked.
During the last 5 to 6 minutes of smoking, place a pan with the walnut halves on it to toast.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. Scrape the sides of the bowl.
Add the vanilla paste and cardamon and mix again.
Sift flour and other dry ingredients, then, add to the dough and mix on med/low speed to combine. Add the coarsely chopped walnuts and bittersweet chips and beat once more to incorporate everything.
Scoop dough out onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake in the preheated oven for 12 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool slightly then, transfer to a rack to cool completely.
The cookies are wonderful and I thought, what a great idea to try with other woods and recipes. Enjoy!