An elegant shortbread long on nutty, buttery flavor.
This recipe for pecan shortbread cookies is one of my favorites of all the cookies I like to bake. The combination of buttery shortbread dough (with just the barest hint of salt) coupled with toasted pecans — did I mention the outer rim of sparkling turbinado sugar? — will wow everyone.
You will love this recipe. Best of all? The dough can be made several days in advance.
You will also enjoy: Snowballs (Mexican Wedding Cookies) and Soft Italian Sprinkle Cookies
One of my all-time favorite pastry cookbooks is The Craft of Baking by award-winning New York City pastry chef Karen DeMasco. Karen DeMasco is a restaurant pastry chef’s pastry chef, having worked at some of New York City’s most sophisticated restaurants (Craft, Locanda Verde, Gramercy Tavern, ABC). But her cookbook accomplishes a tricky task: She fills its pages with recipes tailored to home bakers — but the recipes are sophisticated and a little special. Never dumbed down.
This recipe for pecan shortbread cookies is a perfect example. Sweet but not cloying, hearty and nutty but still delicate, I promise that these cookies stand out amid a sea of holiday baked goods.
I made a couple of tweaks to her recipe. Vanilla extract subs in for vanilla bean because vanilla beans are very pricey. The salt has been slightly upped slightly because that is how I like shortbread, especially when paired against the sweetness of the sugar on the outside.
Because this recipe for pecan shortbread cookies, like all shortbreads, has so few ingredients, good-quality ingredients make all the difference. I prefer a higher fat, European butter (such as Plugra) for the most tender and rich cookie crumble. Toasting the pecans makes a real difference in flavor, and takes all of five minutes. Do it!
A few other recipe notes:
- After rolling the dough into a log, wrap it and chill it well. Once fully chilled, the dough logs will be easy to roll in sugar, slice, and bake.
- The pecan sugar shortbread cookie dough can be made a day ahead. The finished cookies will keep for at least a week in an airtight container.
What are your favorite nutty cookies? Share in the comments, below.
Pecan Sugar Shortbread Cookies
- 3/4 cup chopped pecans
- 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 1 egg yolk, beaten
- 1/8 cup demerara sugar (Note: You'll use less than this, but you need extra to roll the dough in.)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the pecans on a baking sheet and toast for around five minutes, until fragrant. Cool on the baking sheet. (This can be done in advance. Store at room temperature.)
For the Cookie Dough
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, use the paddle attachment to cream the butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, and salt until smooth and lightened a bit, around two to three minutes. Scrape the bowl with a spatula.
- Add the flour and mix on low just until fully combined. Add the pecans and mix until combined. Scrape the bowl and make sure everything is evenly distributed and no visible flour remains.
- Turn the dough onto a clean countertop lightly dusted with flour. Shape and roll into a squared log around 1 1/2 to 2 inches wide. Dust the dough with a little flour as necessary. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap or parchment and chill at least one hour or overnight, until the dough has fully hardened.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Lightly beat an egg yolk in a small bowl and set aside. Pour the demerara sugar into a small, rimmed baking sheet or shallow casserole pan. (The key is to have a flat bottom with sides.)
- Divide the chilled log into two halves. Working with one log at a time, brush all sides of the log with egg yolk, then roll in the sugar, pressing as necessary, until fully coated.
- Use a serrated knife to slice each log into about 12 individual cookies, each about 1/2" thick. Place the cookie slices onto lined baking sheets, leaving a little space between each.
- Bake, rotating halfway, until lightly golden, around 20 minutes. Cool fully. (These freeze well and will keep at room temperature for at least a week.)