Your honor, I can’t say I’ve sampled every pecan shortbread cookie in the world. But this one sure does pose a strong case for being the best, as it so claims.
Let me call my first witness — the cookie, itself.
Here you have the melt-in-your-mouth, crumbly evidence. It’s chock-full of pecans, then crowned gloriously with one perfect pecan half.
What makes this cookie even more decadent is that you coat the chopped pecans that get stirred into the dough in two stick of butter that you slowly and ever so carefully melt on the stovetop until the butter turns deeply golden and fragrantly toasty.
Then, add all the other ingredients straight into that pot to finish making the dough — all without a mixer. How easy is that, your honor?
“Best-Ever Browned Butter-Pecan Shortbread Domes” is from the new cookbook, “Simply Sensational Cookies” (John Wiley & Sons), of which I received a review copy. Veteran cookbook author, Nancy Baggett, has put together a collection of more than 200 cookie recipes, ranging from the super easy to the more challenging. You’ll want to fill up your cookie jar with everything from “Almost No-Bake S’Mores Bars” to “Raspberry-Apple Streusel Bars” to Chocolate, Grapefruit and Tarragon Wafers.”
The recipe says it makes about 36 cookies. But I found it was more like 20 or so.
That’s my only objection. With that, I rest my case — ever so sweetly, of course.
Best-Ever Browned Butter-Pecan Shortbread Domes
(Makes about 20 or so 2 1/2-inch cookies)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 cup chopped pecans, plus 20 or so perfect halves for garnish
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
3 to 4 tablespoons light cream or half-and-half, plus more if needed
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups unbleached all-purpose white flour
Position a rack in the upper third of the oven; preheat to 350 degrees. Grease several baking sheets or line with baking parchment.
In a medium heavy saucepan over medium heat, bring the butter to a boil; it will be foamy. Adjust the heat so it bubbles gently. Cook, stirring the bottom frequently, until the butter turns fragrant and golden, 3 to 4 minutes; watch carefully to avoid burning. Stir in chopped pecans; it’s normal for the mixture to foam up. Let return to a boil. Cook, watching carefully, for up to 2 minutes; if pecans begin to darken, immediately remove pan from the heat. Let cool till warm, about 15 minutes. (Or speed cooling by placing the pan in a bowl of ice water.)
Stir in the powdered and brown sugars, 3 tablespoons cream, vanilla, and salt into the cooled butter-pecan mixture until smoothly incorporated. Stir in the flour until fully incorporated. If the mixture is crumbly, work in more cream until it holds together nicely but is not wet.
Divide the dough into thirds. Divide each third into 12 or fewer balls, spacing about 2 1/2 inches apart on the baking sheets. Press a pecan half firmly into each ball; if the edges of the rounds crack, just push them back together again.
Bake (upper rack) one pan at a time for 13 to 17 minutes or until the cookies are just light golden all over and slightly darker at the edges. Turn the pan from front to back about halfway through baking to ensure even browning. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack. Let the cookies firm up, 5 minutes; they are too tender to move while hot. Using a wide spatula, transfer them to wire racks. Let cool completely.
Storage: Store these, airtight, for up to 10 days. They can be frozen, airtight, for up to 2 months.
Adapted from “Simply Sensational Cookies” by Nancy Baggett
More Buttery Goodness: Brown Butter Apple Tart
Plus Another Pecan Favorite: Nibby Pecan Cookies by Alice Medrich