I love to cook. I don't love to bake. Baking is precise and subject to things like weather, humidity, and what color shirt you're wearing, or not wearing, that day. Baking is messy. Flour is finicky. Baking also results in dessert, which is my favorite thing to eat and I have zero willpower so, lots of reasons baking isn't my thing.
However, I've spent a good majority of my week off looking at all my Barefoot Contessa cookbooks and there were SO MANY baking/dessert recipes that I want to try! I have to confess that I've been bit by the baking bug. I also have to admit that I thought I was only missing one or two Barefoot Contessa cookbooks in my collections, but upon closer review it was actually more like five! I must rectify this immediately because I need ALL of her cookbooks in my collection. I am obsessed with Ina Garten at the moment.
I was lucky enough to score two bags of fresh Georgia pecans, direct from the pecan farm and I was either making Ina's Maple Pecan Pie or these Pecan Sandies. I would've preferred the pie, but every once in awhile I consider my husband so I let him choose. To say he loves shortbread is an understatement and he also loves pecans so, the Pecan Sandies were his choice. I went with it because then maybe it'll be his pants not fitting instead of mine.
So Pecan Sandies it is and they go perfectly with any holiday table. Not everyone can commit to a slice of pie or cake, but everyone can commit to a cookie. These are delicious, come together with a few ingredients, and are easy to make. A couple things make them stand out from the rest: Ina has you toast the pecans before they are blitzed into the flour and eventually the dough which results in a toastier, more rounded flavor profile. She also uses turbinado sugar in place of white sugar - a delicious twist. And lastly, that beautiful pecan perched on top so that you know what you're eating.
Now, Ina would tell you that quality matters and she is right. We do always want to use the best ingredients. I am more than happy to be using the freshest most delicious pecans directly from Georgia in this recipe, but if you can't then don't stress. I'm sure this recipe is equally delicious with pecans from the grocery store. We can't all be as fussy as Ina.
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa Foolproof
by Ina Garten
1 cup pecan halves (4 ounces)
2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
3/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter, at room temp
1/2 cup demerara or turbinado sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
24 whole pecan halves
Preheat the oven to 350F. Place the 1 cup of pecan halves on a sheet pan and bake for 5 to 10 minutes, until toasted. Set aside to cool.
Place the cooled pecans plus 1/4 cup of the flour in a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process until the nuts are finely ground. Place the mixture in a medium bowl and add the remaining 1-3/4 cups of flour, salt, and baking powder. Stir to combine.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed for 2 minutes, until light and fluffy. With the mixer on low, add the vanilla and the flour mixture, mixing just until the dough comes together.
Using a small ice cream scoop or your hands, form the batter into balls about 1 inch in diameter (1 ounce on a scale). Place the balls 1 inch apart on sheet pans lined with parchment paper. Press a pecan half into the center of each ball, pressing the pecan halfway down into the cookie. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the cookies turn golden brown around the edges. Cool for 5 minutes. Place on a wire rack and cool completely.