For me, the best way to celebrate—whether it’s for a birthday, job promotion, graduation or simply a good friend who always has your back—is to make someone one of their favorite food things.
Today, I’m celebrating with pecan sandies. What’s the occasion? My mom’s birthday. It’s one of her (and my) favorite cookies.
Pecan sandies are a simple, unfussy shortbread cookie; a crumbly and slightly sweetened mixture of butter, pecans and vanilla. Once baked and cooled, the cookies are rolled in powdered sugar and have the appeared of rounded snowy mountain peaks–likely why they often appear in holiday cookie trays. But being a favorite cookie in my family, they are made year-round.
Because these contain only a few ingredients, you want to use the best quality. Store-brand butter is fine, but use high-quality vanilla and pecans. For the nuts, purchase them from store’s bulk bin versus buying a package. Bulk bins usually have a higher turnover rate, so you won’t find rancid nuts mixed in the bunch.
And if you can find Georgia pecans, this is the recipe to use them in.
You can also make the cookies into crescent or finger shapes. (Remember back when you made snakes out of Play Doh? Channel those skills. And it’s okay to eat this dough.) I am rarely able to roll each one the same width or length and often end up with a good chunk of underdone and overdone cookies in each batch. I’ll stick with the ball shaped version.
P.S. Your family may know these by one of their alternate names, which include Mexican wedding cookies and Russian tea cakes. The Los Angeles Times delved into why there are so many names for this one cookie.
(Makes 6 dozen, can halve recipe)
- 2 cups butter
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 4 tsp water
- 4 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 cups fine chopped pecans
- Powdered sugar (for dusting)
- Cream butter and sugar. Add vanilla and water. Mix thoroughly.
- Add half of flour, mix until combined; repeat with second half of flour. Add two cups (all) of the pecans and mix until evenly distributed. Dough will be stiff. Refrigerate dough for one to two hours.
- Roll dough into one-inch balls (about a tablespoon) or roll into finger or crescent shapes. (Shaping the dough, no matter which option, is a great way to involve younger bakers.)
- Bake on parchment lined ungreased cookie sheet for 17-22 minutes at 325 F. Cookies will be done with the bottom is a light golden brown. The tops may still appear off-white. The bottom color is the key to knowing when this cookie is done.
- Let sandies cool completely. Then roll in powdered sugar.