I’m not through with cookies this week, but I can already say, with confidence, that if you bake nothing else this week, you must bake these. I’ve earmarked all the cookies from this grand experiment as holiday gifts, and I’ve already had to hide the containers of pecan pie cookies to keep my family out of them.
Heck, my mom said if Dad hadn’t gotten to her first, she would marry these cookies.
I will warn you, though, like all sandwich cookies, they are a bit of a project. Neither the dough or the filling is particularly difficult to make, but you have to make sure you cut out an even number of cookies (which means counting things out – not my strong suit) and you have to make sure you’re working relatively quickly to fill them or the pecan caramel will set up on you.
It also uses two appliances, the stove, and the oven, so plan accordingly. I’m sure there is a way to streamline the cookie process – maybe using pecan meal in place of grinding the pecans in the food processor – but I’m not sure the extra expense and effort of finding a specialty ingredient outweighs the inconvenience of a few extra dishes.
Either way, these cookies are showstoppers, and I’m hard-pressed to think of anything that would improve them.
Pecan pie cookies
Yield: 20-24 cookies Time: about 1.5 hours, excluding chilling Source: Bon Appetit
I made this exactly as written – a rarity for me – and can think of very little I would do to improve it next time. I might add a tiny sprinkle of Maldon or another flaky salt on top of the caramel before topping with the other cookie.
For the cookies:
- 150 grams pecan halves or pieces, toasted
- 255 grams all-purpose flour, divided
- 225 grams (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 40 grams powdered sugar
- 75 grams dark brown sugar
- 4 grams (1/2 teaspoon) iodized table salt or fine sea salt
- 1 ea egg yolk
- 4 grams (1 teaspoon) vanilla extract
For the filling:
- 115 grams (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 220 grams light brown sugar
- 80 grams dark corn syrup
- 4 grams (1/2 teaspoon) iodized table salt or fine sea salt
- 1 tablespoon bourbon
- 175 grams pecan halves or pieces, toasted and finely chopped
Preheat your oven to 350°F (176°C).
Combine the pecans and 65 grams of the all-purpose flour in the work bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the pecans are coarsely ground. Your mixture should have about the same texture as coarse builder’s sand – some bits of fine powder with larger chunks up to about the size of a plastic pinhead (1-2 mm in diameter). Set this aside.
Now, put the butter, both sugars, and salt on low speed in the stand mixer until everything nice and smooth (note, once the powdered sugar is mostly worked into the butter, you can bump up the speed). Scrape down the bowl. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and beat that on medium-low speed until the egg yolk is completely incorporated and the mixture is smooth. Scrape the bowl again, then add the pecan mixture from earlier plus the rest of the flour. Let that go on low speed until almost no streaks of flour remain. You should finish mixing with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula.
Divide the dough into quarters and squish each quarter into a 1/2 inch thick square. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate until firm. The recipe says this should take three hours – it was much less than that in my fridge. If you’re really impatient, you can pop them in the freezer for 20 minutes or so.
When you’re ready to roll, generously flour your counter and turn out your first dough square. Flour the top. You can start rolling straight from the fridge, but I find that it is much easier (and more cathartic) to beat it with a rolling pin until it is about 2/3 of it’s original thickness, making sure to work both vertically and horizontally across the dough. This softens it up and makes it easier to roll.
However you choose to go about it, roll the dough until it is slightly less than 1/4 inch thick, turning the dough often and adding more flour as needed to prevent sticking.
Cut out your cookies! I used a 2 1/2 inch round cutter and a tiny star for the windows, but you can do whatever shapes make you happy (just know if your cutter is much larger or smaller, your yield may be different). Re-roll the scraps and keep going until no dough remains. If at any point the dough becomes too soft to handle, just pop it in the freezer for a few minutes until it firms back up.
Space the cookies 1/4-1/2 inch apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. If you want to cut windows, I would recommend doing it on the cookie sheet because it makes it much easier to count pairs that way.
Bake the cookies until they are golden brown all over, making sure to rotate them halfway through baking. The original recipe says this will take about 15 minutes, but mine were done in 8-10. It will depend on how thick your cookies ended up – so keep a close eye on them. Let the cookies cool completely.
Once the cookies are cool, make the filling. It is important that you wait until the cookies cool, because you need to be able to fill the cookies the second the pecan caramel is finished, or it will set up on you.
To make the caramel, combine the butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt in a small saucepan with high sides. Bring it to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until the butter is melted. Once it comes to a boil, continue stirring occasionally until the mixture is dark brown, reaches the consistency of caramel sauce, and registers 230°F (110°C) on a candy or instant read thermometer.
Remove the pot from the heat and carefully add the bourbon. It will bubble up. Stir until things settle down, then mix in the pecans.
Now, fill the cookies. Flip over one cookie so the bottom faces up. Scoop out one level tablespoon full of the filling (it is important that it is a level tablespoon or you will run short of caramel) and gently scrape it onto the cookie with a small spatula or spoon. Gently nudge the filling into an even layer and top with another cookie. Immediately flip the sandwich over so the filling sticks to both sides. Keep going until you run out of caramel or you have filled all your cookies.
Try not to devour while you wait for them to cool completely.
These cookies allegedly keep for five days at room temperature in an airtight container, but I doubt they’ll survive that long.