Thursday, May 18, 2006

Pecan Sandies

I tried a new cut-out cookies recipe recently and was pleased with the results. Again, these are nut-based, but they're more delicate than my usual almond recipe. They probably wouldn't be as suitable for intricate shapes, as the confectioners' sugar makes them more fragile, I suppose. Yet they have a strong pecan flavor from the roasted nuts. Delicate yet flavorful, what more can I ask?

I'll make this recipe again. I found it on Cookie Madness, and was convinced to try them by this sentence: "These are unbelievable. After trying these, I stopped looking for a better pecan cookie."

Recipe: Pecan Sables
Original source: Epicurious

- 3/4 cup pecans (3 oz), toasted and cooled, plus about 32 pecan halves (3 oz)
Toast the nuts in a 180° oven (350°F) in a single layer on a cookie sheet, until they become fragrant, 6-8 min.
- 2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons confectioners sugar
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
This I found to be too much salt. I would vote for 1/8 of a teaspoon.
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
As usual, I used vanilla sugar instead.
- 1 large egg, separated
Special equipment: a 2-inch round cookie cutter
(I think mine was smaller).

1. Preheat oven to 325°F.

2. Pulse toasted pecans with 2 tablespoons confectioners sugar in a food processor until finely ground.

3. Whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder in a bowl.

4. Beat together butter, remaining 2/3 cup confectioners sugar, and vanilla in a bowl with an electric mixer at high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

5. Add egg yolk and beat well.

6. Add flour and ground-pecan mixture and mix at low speed until just combined, 30 seconds to 1 minute. (Dough will be crumbly but will hold together when squeezed.)

7. Halve dough and roll out 1 half between 2 sheets of wax paper (I think I used parchment paper) until 1/4 inch thick (about a 9-inch round).
Note: I roll the dough thinner, and chill it after rolling it out: half an hour to half a day. These tend to dry out quickly so you don't want to leave them in the fridge too long with only the parchment paper as protection.

8. Cut out as many rounds as possible with cookie cutter and arrange about 2 inches apart (Note: I put them much closer together, which doesn't seem to be a problem) on buttered large baking sheets, reserving scraps. Roll out and cut remaining dough in same manner. Gather scraps, then reroll and cut in same manner.

9. Beat egg white until frothy, then brush tops of rounds lightly with egg white.

10. Put a pecan half (or fragment) on top of each round, then brush pecan lightly with egg white.

11. Bake cookies in middle of oven until tops are pale golden, 15 to 20 minutes (a little less if cookies are super thin). Cool cookies on sheets on racks 2 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool completely.

Cookies keep in an airtight container 1 week.
Makes about 32 cookies.
Gourmet, November 2002

Note: Since I rolled the dough out quite thin again, I felt the entire pecan half recommended by the recipe in way of garnish would be too much. So instead I decorated most of these cookies with fragments of pecans. Perhaps a little less esthetically-pleasing, but I didn't want to overwhelm the cookie. Also, make sure you don't apply too much egg white wash or you may see white chalky streaks on the nuts, as evidenced here.

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