I have this thing about… no wait, that’s not fair. I have a lot of “things” — like the one about not liking warm, oozy chocolate desserts, sugar rimmed drinks or those waxy cubes of cheese you always see at corporate catering events — but for today, let us just pretend that I have one, and that one is about passed hors d’œuvres and amuse bouches that are too cumbersome to be easily eaten, standing up at a party.
Party foods should come in one-bite servings. How many times have you been at a wedding’s cocktail hour and you were somehow supposed to be eating something from a plate (cue your tiny violins, please) that was way too messy to be eaten while wearing a nice dress, carrying a cocktail and mingling with distant cousins? Wouldn’t this all work a little better if things were the size they should be?
I think that is the genius — or one of the geniuses — behind these pecan sandies from Claudia Fleming’s Last Course, a cookbook I feel almost guilty about continually bringing up since I know it is out of print. She suggests that you cut them into one-inch squares so that they can be bite-sized and I can’t tell you how much better this made them. No crumbs! No fuss! Such dainty little gifts.
I made a batch of this dough in the beginning of the month, rolled them out, cut them into squares and froze them between sheets of waxed paper, wrapped in plastic, only baking them as I needed them. For a lunch with my old coworkers, I dipped them diagonally in melted bittersweet chocolate. To fill out a cookie box for a party, I sprinkled them with turbinado sugar. I imagine they’d also make great sandwich cookies, filled with a stiff chocolate ganache of your choice. Point is, you can make cookies like this well in advance and always have them on hand when life demands cookies. Which is, you know, often.
Adapted from Last Course
Now, I know that the Internet isn’t exactly facing a shortage of recipes for pecan sandies, but I happen to think that these are a step above, due to the tiniest of steps: Fleming has you toast them until they’re very dark, which, combined with sugar, brings out an almost maple-y flavor. Once ground up, they give the cookies a whole other dimension — the pecan flavor is louder and the cookie tastes more grownup than what we might be used to. In the best way.
Makes just shy of 12 dozen, one-inch square cookies
1 cup (about 110 grams) pecans
2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour
1 cup (225 grams or 2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup (80 grams) confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons (10 ml) vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons (25 grams) turbinado (raw) sugar
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the nuts out in one layer on a baking sheet and bake them, stirring occasionally, until they are well browned, 10 to 13 minutes (they will smell toasted and nutty). Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool.
In a food processor, grind the nuts with 1/4 cup of the flour. Set aside.
Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until creamy and smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the vanilla and beat well. Sift together the remaining 1 3/4 cups of flour, the salt, and the baking powder, and add it to the dough, mixing until just combined. Stir in the nut mixture. Form the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for at least 3 hours.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Roll the dough between two sheets of wax paper to 3/16 inch thick (a rectangle approximately 10 x 14 inches). Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into 1-inch squares, then cut the squares on a diagonal into triangles (I skipped the last cut into triangles). Sprinkle the cookies with the turbinado sugar. Place them 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets (do not reroll the scraps). Prick the cookies with a fork and bake until pale golden all over, about 10 to 12 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.