When I was young my favorite cookies were Keebler’s Pecan Sandies. What I loved about them was the thickness of the cookie, and how rich and crunchy they were. That was my after school snack with a glass of milk. I don’t know if they even exist anymore. I no longer look for them because I don’t buy packaged cookies at the grocery store when I bake so frequently at home.
This recipe came to my attention one year around the holidays when I was lining up the cookies I planned to bake for Christmas. It has since become a favorite, and if I don’t make it for the holidays, I usually make it at some other time during the year. The dough is easy to make and although initially a little sticky, after chilling a while it firms up and becomes a very forgiving and manageable dough for cut-out cookies. Since there are all sorts of cookie cutters available for just about any occasion, this dough is a good one to have in your recipe box as a dependable go-to when you want to make a cookie that will always come out good. If you bake for someone who is nut-sensitive, just leave out the nuts, they will still be a delicious butter cookie.
On a side note: I used to wonder what it was about pecans that makes them so expensive, when they are widely grown in the South, and used lavishly in southern cuisine. During my vacation in North Carolina last fall, I think I learned the answer. The folks we visited have a large pecan tree on their property–see photo below–and it was laden with pecans that hung in clusters. I thought the tree was beautifully shaped and so I took a picture of it. I did not realize that a pecan tree can grow to such a large size.
When the nuts are ripe the pods which hold them crack open and the pecan in its shell falls to the ground where they are picked up. The quantity of nuts a tree will produce in any one year varies, some years are “good’ and other years “not so good”. Weather and rainfall play a big part. The pecan is one really protected little nut. It resides inside the tan-brown shell that we recognize, but that shell is covered by another outer green shell or pod. If you have ever shelled pecans you know how difficult that can be especially if you want perfect halves. I don’t know how they are harvested commercially, but for folks who have a pecan tree, harvesting and cracking pecans is a lot of work. Knowing this helps me to understand and appreciate their price.
Here is the recipe for the pecan sandies. I made these as part of my cookie packages for Valentines Day this year. I like to give gifts of home-baked treats to close friends and family for V-Day, a day for love, hearts and all things frilly!
PECAN AND SOUR CREAM SANDIES
YIELD: Makes about 5 dozen cookies, depending on size of cutter used.
- 1/2 cup pecans
- 2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 cup butter
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 egg
- 1/3 cup sour cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 recipe Royal Icing (recipe below)
1. Grind the 1/2 cup pecans in a nut grinder or food processor. Stir together the nuts, flour and baking powder in a bowl.
2. In large mixer bowl beat butter about 30 seconds. Add sugar; beat till fluffy. Add egg, sour cream, and vanilla; beat well.
3. Add dry ingredients, beating till well combined. Divide dough in half, cover and chill at least 3 hours, or overnight.
4. Working with half the dough at a time, on a lightly floured surface, roll to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut with desired cookie cutters. (Or dough may be shaped into 1-inch balls). Place on silpat or parchment-lined baking sheets. Chill each pan of cookies while you cut the next batch. Bake cutout cookies in 375*F oven for 7 – 8 minutes, shaped cookies for about 10 minutes. Remove to a wire rack to cool.
5. Spread with Royal Icing, sprinkle with nuts, decorative sugars, or other kinds of trims.
Royal Icing is a smooth fluid icing that holds its shape well and sets hard. Once it is set you can carefully write on it with gel-food pens.
In a mixer bowl, beat 1 egg white till frothy. Add 1 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar, 1 Tablespoon lemon juice, and a dash of salt. Beat well. Add a drop or two of food coloring (optional) to all or part of the glaze. Decorate as desired.
I cut my cookies with several sizes of square cutters, divided the icing and tinted half of it pink, then stacked some of them, sprinkled some of them, and wrote on others with food-gel pens. Simply done, but pretty. Oh, the large cookie with the heart on it (a one of a kind) I will put into Mr. D’s lunch as a surprise!
SOURCE: Better Homes and Gardens Special Edition, Baking for the Holidays