At the open house last weekend, the runaway, most requested recipe was for the Pecan Puff Cookies. I wish that I could take credit for the recipe; it’s as old and traditional as cookies themselves. It seems that there are many variations, having made one of those variations from Williams-Sonoma myself. It was good, really good. But the gold standard is from ‘Joy of Cooking’ .
When we moved into our current home nearly 19 years ago, my next door neighbors were from Georgia. ‘Sissy’ suggested that the pecans be toasted in the oven prior to baking the cookies. Occasionally I take this extra step and usually I agree that toasted nuts are remarkably better than raw nuts, but these cookies will win the hearts of your friends and family either way.
I’ll print the recipe below, just like it appears in the book. Many friends will tell me that ‘my’ cookies are so much better than theirs. I doubt that really, but if there is any ‘special handling’ that helps my cookies excel, it is in the way that I portion them. Nearly all my cookie portioning is done with scoops. Authors of the ‘Joy’ will tell you to roll the cookies into balls, but I don’t do that. Just scoop them with a small portion scoop (let me know if you’d like to order one from Pampered Chef) and place them on the parchment lined cookies sheets.
Also, I never make a single batch. I wouldn’t bother making cookies with just 1 stick of butter. My minimum would be with a cup of butter, but usually I will use a full pound and quadruple the recipe. Cookies freeze well, baked or unbaked, and it just doesn’t make sense to dirty up all these tools for such a small batch of cookies. People tell me they don’t keep cookies around because they will eat them all. Blah, blah, blah! Share them with your friends and neighbors! Host a Cookie Party. Cookies make a great personalized gift. And they are relatively inexpensive to make. Share the wealth.
After the batter is fluffed up by the mixer, a lot of air is incorporated into the mix. Rolling the cookies presses out some of that air, making the cookies more dense. You want air between the flour and butter. When this air is a part of the mix, the cookies are more crumbly and tender. As the cookies bake, steam forms from the melting butter which pushes the flour particles apart. So don’t pack the dough, just scoop it and place it on the sheet. (This same idea applies when making meatballs! Pressing them together makes for dense, hard meatballs. Shape gently for forktender delights.)
One other technique that I employ when making all cookies is to rotate the sheet pans. I generally only bake two sheets at a time and half way through, I switch the pans from the top to the bottom rack, and left side to right side.
Here’s the recipe – good luck! Any changes that I employ will be included in the parentheses.
From Joy of Cooking Rombauer and Becker
1/2 cup butter (I always use unsalted)
2 Tbls sugar (granulated)
1 tsp vanilla (don’t you dare try imitation!)
1 cup finely chopped pecans
1 cup cake flour (I use all purpose, unbleached)
Beat the butter and sugar until creamy. Add the vanilla. Mix until fluffy. Add the flour and the pecans to the butter mixture (I add 1/2 tsp salt) and mix until combined.
Heat the oven to 300. (I bake at 325) Form the dough into small balls and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for about 30 minutes (I bake for about 20 minutes at the higher temperature, rotating the pans half way through the baking.)
Roll the cookies in the powdered sugar while still warm. Cool completely. Many times, I will roll them twice, ’cause I like LOTS of powdered sugar!