Pecan Sandies—An Unfussy Cookie Recipe

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.

PecanSandiesNaked_CredMel

Pecan Sandies (before the powdered sugar dusting) | Cred: Melanie Cohen

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.

PecanSandieCrescents

A rare batch of relatively same-sized crescent shaped pecan sandies. Then I broke one. Oh well, still tastes the same

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.

 Pecan Sandies

(Makes 6 dozen, can halve recipe)

Ingredients

  • 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)

 Instructions

  1. Cream butter and sugar. Add vanilla and water. Mix thoroughly.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.)
  4. 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.
  5. Let sandies cool completely. Then roll in powdered sugar.
PecanSandiesDressed

Pecan sandies are done. Let’s eat.

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Hawaiian Oatmeal Drop Cookies

The idea for this blog came to me on my way to the January 2013 presidential inauguration. The day was cold—not just D.C. anything less than 50 degrees requires a parka cold, but actual 20-degree weather winter cold. While shiver-walking to the Capitol, I found $20 on the sidewalk. Not knowing how to locate the owner, I made a deal with myself: The money would go toward something other than my bank account. A website to share all my baking tales and recipes? YUP.

I bought this domain, tested out the Hawaiian Oatmeal Drop cookie and proudly told everyone my blog was under construction. An “it’ll be ready in one month” blog turned into a 1 1/2-year construction project. (I’m an excellent procrastinator.)

Why this cookie? I wanted to connect it to the inauguration. President Barack Obama was born in Hawaii, so a cookie with tropical elements—coconut and pineapple—sounded appropriately delicious.

This oatmeal cookie is crisp on the outside with a chunky but soft inside, thanks to the pillows of melted chocolate. And I don’t use the world chunky lightly; look what’s jammed into these!

July9HawaiianOatmealDrop

ALL the things will fit into the batter and you’ll end up with this cookie. It’s perfect for picnics or for dunking in a cold glass of milk. Because let’s be honest, you are never too old to dunk.

Hawaiian Oatmeal Drop Cookie

Hawaiian Oatmeal Drops; Photo Credit: Melanie Cohen

(If you’re interested in baking, give a few friends the title of “taste tester.” You’ll benefit from having a variety of people providing recipe feedback. Shoutout to my test-tasting crew—your tastebuds help make this blog possible.)

Hawaiian Oatmeal Drop Cookies

Makes 60ish cookies. Recipe can be halved.

  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups oats, old fashioned (not quick cooking)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 8 tablespoons, one stick, unsalted butter; melted and cooled
  • 2 large egg
  • 4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips or chop three to four ounces of chocolate into chunks (I prefer chunks because, unlike chips, they melt in a way that gives cookies craters of gooey chocolate.)
  • 1 cup whole toasted pecans, chopped
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut
  • 1 cup diced unsweetened or low sugar dried pineapple, about 4 ounces

Directions:

1) Melt butter and set aside to cool.

2) Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or use a Silpat liner.

3) Whisk the flour, oats, baking soda, nutmeg and salt together in a medium bowl; set aside.

4) Mix the chocolate chips or chunks, pecans, unsweetened coconut and dried pineapple in a medium bowl; set aside. It will look like a lot, but this is okay. Trust me—it all fits into the batter.

5) In a large bowl, whisk the melted butter, egg and vanilla together for 30 seconds. If you’re using a stand mixer, mix for 15 seconds on medium.

6) Stir in the brown sugar until smooth, smearing any clumps against the side of the bowl. If you’re using a stand mixer, mix for 15 seconds on medium. Wait one minute, then stir or mix again for 30 seconds. Repeat this one more time. You’ll do the mix/rest combo a total of three times.

7) Add the flour, oat and nutmeg mixture in thirds. Make sure each third is fully incorporated into wet ingredients before adding more flour.

8) Add half of the chocolate and nut mixture into the dough. Stir until it’s well incorporated. Add the remaining half of the chocolate and nut mixture, and stir until it’s evenly distributed.

9) Using level tablespoon of dough each time, roll dough into balls and place on cookie sheets about 2 1/2 inches apart. You can also use a cookie scoop. Seriously, if you like to make cookies, buy one. I purchased the small scoop from Pampered Chef.

10) I like to freeze my cookie balls before baking them. If I make them at room temperature, they always spread too much during baking. (I also live an apartment that’s a minimum of 70 degrees with no heat on in the middle of January). So this step is optional. I suggest baking one batch at room temperature and baking another batch frozen to see which you prefer.

11) Bake one tray at a time until edges are golden and centers are just set, eight minutes or nine to 10 if using frozen dough. Do not overbake.

12) Cool the cookies on baking sheets for one to two minutes, then transfer to a wire rack or serve warm. If you eat them warm, your mouth will be greeted a crunchy outside and warm melted craters of chocolate on the inside.