Saturday, December 18, 2010

Maple Pecan Shortbread

It's rare that I bake something multiple times, if only because I'm always so excited to move on to the next big thing! So many of the things I've baked are worth revisiting, though, so I thought I would share with you a cookie recipe that I actually do revisit, every Christmas season. Much to my surprise, these Maple Pecan Shortbread Cookies are among my five year-old son's very favorites. He requests them every Christmas, and I even get a few gentle suggestions throughout the rest of the year that I make them again. I agree with him, course; these cookies are a fresh, original take on the same old shortbread.

The rich, buttery dough is embellished with chopped pecans, as well as a healthy dose of pure maple syrup and maple extract. After chilling the dough, you shape your cookies and then top with an egg wash, then a pecan half, and then some turbinado sugar (otherwise known as raw sugar). The egg wash/sugar combo really give the finished cookies a great shine, as well as lending a slight crunch that works so well texturally. The cookie itself is nice and crumbly and buttery, like any self-respecting shortbread cookie should be. That pecan on top is the perfect counterpoint to all the sweetness from the maple flavor. In short, these cookies are pretty genius; they just work on every level. Plus, they seem sophisticated, and I just love being able to tell people that my kindergartner has a sophisticated palate! He can definitely tell a good cookie from a leaden, storebought one, as well he should!

Maple Pecan Shortbread
from Martha Stewart's Cookies
makes 24 cookies

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
1/2 cup cake flour (not self-rising)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup pecan halves (about 2 1/4 oz.), finely chopped, plus 24 whole pecan halves, for decorating
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup, preferably Grade B
1 large egg yolk
1/4 tsp. pure maple extract
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Turbinado sugar, for sprinkling

1. Sift flours and salt into a bowl. Whisk in chopped pecans. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and granulated sugar on medium-high speed until smooth and light, about 1 minute. Add maple syrup, egg yolk, and extract; beat on medium speed until well combined. On low speed, gradually add flour mixture, beating until just combined. Dough should be smooth and pliable. Flatten into a disk (I opt to roll the dough into a log, because I use a different method of portioning out my dough; see Step 2). Wrap in plastic; refrigerate until firm, 1 1/2 hours or overnight.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough to 1/4 inch thick. Cut out rounds using a 2-inch cookie cutter; place 1 inch apart on prepared baking sheet (At this point, I just sliced 24 rounds from my dough log, which I thought was so much easier than rolling it out!).

3. Brush tops of cookies with beaten egg; place a pecan half in the center of each cookie. Sprinkle the entire surface with turbinado sugar.

4. Bake cookies, rotating sheet halfway through, until golden around the edges, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Cookies can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature up to 4 days.

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