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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Pecan Crescent Cookies

Refrigerated dough part 1:
Yields 36 cookies

Monday, my day off, I reluctantly drug myself to the public library. Going to the local bookstore is out of the question this month. But, a safari into the musty crammed stacks seemed affordable. Up to my eyeballs in cookbooks I haphazardly scoped out titles, flipped through pages and digested average recipe prices and difficulty at a glance. After the better part of an hour I found just what I didn't know I was looking for: "Bon Appetit Keep It Simple" (2002). The book itself is cheery and minimalist with the beautifully styled photographs and friendly tips that we expect from Bon Appetit.

So it is under the dutiful guidance of that prestigious kitchen institution that we take our first look at cookie dough, not all of which comes from a tube and is best eaten post-haste at 1 am. (Although my senior year roommate heated the stuff up in the microwave and ate it with a little extra chocolate syrup and raved). This recipe for Pecan Crescents is one of the simplest doughs to make. Consisting largely of butter and flour there are no leavening agents to contend with and there is nary an egg in sight either! It also halves beautifully making a little over a dozen cookies (the full recipe yields 3 dozen). And while we all have a little flour, a stick or two of butter and some sugar lying around you need to plan ahead to make these little darlings. A buttery dough creates dense, smooth melt in your mouth cookies but it can be a pain to work with if not allowed to chill properly. Letting the dough to refrigerate overnight makes it entirely more cooperative. It also helps the cookie set up better when baked. I will not bore you gentle, innocent cooks with why. (That would involve a discussion regarding chemistry which I am really, truly rotten at). But, as with pie crusts just remember temperature is everything!

With graduation ceremonies comes the myriad of celebratory luncheons, picnics, cook-outs and dinners parents far and wide look forward to. Dusted with powdered sugar these scrumptious little cookies would be a welcome addition (or suitable hostess gift) at any function. Did I mention they were easy to make and inexpensive? They can even be kept for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container!

2 cups all purpose flour, sifted
1 cup pecans, toasted
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

additional powdered sugar for dusting post-baking

1. In a dry pan heat the whole pecans over low heat. Toss periodically to keep from burning. When the nuts are toasted (ie. warm and fragrant about 4-5 minutes) remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

2. Sift the flour and salt in a separate bowl. Using a food processor pulse half the flour and the pecans together until combined. Alternatively, if you don't have food processor crush the pecans in a freezer bag wrapped in a dish towel using a rolling pin and then stir into the flour.

3. Beat the room temperature butter in a separate bowl with a spoon or cream with a fork. The original recipe calls for a hand mixer but the fork worked just as well. Add the powdered sugar and beat or cream until the two are combined.

4. Add the vanilla.

5. Gently fold in the flour and nut mixture. When all ingredients are combined divide the dough in half (molding it into a log like shape here helps) and double wrap in plastic. Refrigerate the cookies at least over night.

6. Preheat your oven to 325. Remove the dough from the fridge and allow to sit on the counter 10-12 minutes or until it just begins to soften. Pinch off a tablespoon of dough and using your fingers pinch and mold the dough into a crescent shape, keeping the edges smooth. Don't worry if it isn't perfect a perfect crescent, you will be dusting the cookies with powdered sugar later.

7. Bake for 18 minutes. Cool the cookies for at least 10 minutes on the cookie sheet then roll in powdered sugar, or, for a more delicate finish dust them lightly using powdered sugar and a fine sieve. Eat immediately with a glass of milk or store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

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