On the tenth day of Christmas… my true love gave to me … Toasted Pecan Gems.
Have you ever been in a kitchenware store and upon spying a new piece of equipment, baking pan, or whatever, think, “Ohhh, I really NEED that?” But then if the person with you asks what you need it FOR, you mumble something incomprehensible under your breath. Because the truth is you have no idea what you need it for, but you need it nonetheless.
Well, that’s what happened to me a while back at Crate & Barrel, where I happened upon the Chicago Metallic Mini Whoopie Pie Pan with 20, two-inch shallow cups. It was LOVE at first site, and I bought two on the spot. Then they joined the stacks of bakeware in the pantry and were forgotten.
As it turned out, they were simply waiting for the perfect moment to make a triumphant debut. After I rolled the first disk of this pecan-loaded cookie dough and cut it with snowflake cookie cutters, I remembered the pans. What a difference a pan can make! While the rolled version of this cookie is delicate and lovely, the gems produced by the pan are in a league of their own. Perhaps it’s because they are a little thicker and toasty brown around the edges. I’m not sure. I only know that I’ll never roll out this cookie again.
Another key advantage to using this pan is that it controls the spread of the cookie. You get perfectly shaped cookies every time. And there is something extra special about petite cookies. Maybe it’s the lack of quilt you feel after eating six of them. Fine, I ate a dozen, but it’s Christmas and who’s counting?
Toasted Pecan Gems
My mission with these crisp, crunchy, melt-in-your-mouth, shortbread-style cookies was to pack as much toasted pecan flavor into each one as possible. Adding a whole pecan half to the top of each diminutive cookie was pure inspiration. It adds immeasurably to the flavor and texture experience.
Baking Note For best results, cookies should be COLD when they go into the oven. Otherwise, they may spread too much. Always give cookies plenty of space to spread regardless, at least an inch between cookies. (Not a factor if you use the suggested pan.) Baking times are APPROXIMATE. Correct baking times are critical to the success of your cookies. Test your oven and pan setup with a few cookies to start with and watch the timing closely. Dark pans bake faster than light pans or air-sandwiched pans. Silicon mat-lined pans bake faster than parchment-lined pans. Cookies that are rolled to 1/8-inch thick bake faster than cookies rolled to ¼-inch thick. And your oven may be running hot or cold. There are so many variables. Do test a couple of cookies first. It may save an entire batch later.
2 cups King Arthur unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 cup pecans (4 ounces)
1½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, cool room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1-2 cups pecan halves
- In a processor fitted with the steel knife, process 1 cup of flour with pecans to a powder. Then add the remaining 1 cup of flour and pulse to combine. Reserve.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the vanilla, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg. Incorporate.
- Add the flour mixture and mix very briefly on very slow speed, just until a dough forms.
- Using a #70 scoop (1 tablespoon) with a release mechanism, scoop balls of dough, leveling each ball with the edges of the scoop. (Thus each ball will have one flat surface.)
- Arrange the dough balls closely together on a baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and chill for at least an hour or as long as a couple of days. (The texture and flavor of the cookies improves with extended chilling—12 or more hours.)
- Coat a baking sheet lightly with vegetable spray or cover with a sheet of parchment paper. Arrange 12 cookie balls, flat sides down, 2 inches apart, on the baking sheet. Or better yet, put one cookie into each of the 20 indents in the Chicago Metallic Mini Whoopie Pan.
- Flatten each cookie slightly by firmly pressing a pecan half into the center.
- Bake each sheet of cookies at 350° for 8-10 minutes, rotating the pan at the halfway point to ensure even browning. (If you have a convection oven or setting on your regular oven, by all means use it. Your cookies will be more evenly browned.)
- When the cookies are lightly browned on the edges, remove from the oven, loosen each cookie with a thin spatula and let cool for 3-4 minutes on the pan. Remove cookies from the cookie sheet, and place on a wire rack. Cool completely.
- Store airtight in layers separated by wax paper rounds in a cookie tin in a cool, dry place. These cookies improve with age. They keep for 3-4 weeks.
Makes about 5 dozen, 2-inch diameter cookies.
Follow along as we bake this year’s cookie collection, and check out our past two collections:
- Season 3: Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Silver Bells
- Season 2: Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Starry Night
- Season 1: Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Deck the Halls
Copyright 2010 Susan S. Bradley. All Rights Reserved.