Pecan Friendship Cookies

When friends invite us over for lunch in Spain, more often than not, I make cookies. While I still think my friends would like me if I showed up empty-handed, or with a bottle of wine (which I do on occasion), cookies express friendship like little else.

These pecan cookies have become an all-time favorite among my family and friends here. Baking enhances the natural sweetness of the pecans, which fuses irresistibly with the vanilla notes and the brown sugar that caramelizes against the baking sheet.

More than a treat for the senses, these cookies are also a way to savor and share a taste of home. Uniquely American (“America’s native nut,” as the American Pecan Council website proclaims), and relatively novel in Spain, pecans surprise more than other cookie additions like chocolate chips, walnuts or raisins. They invite stories of oak canopies, screened porches and languid summer days.

Although my Spanish friends do not share my nostalgia, they seem to know that these cookies are much more than a token hostess gift.

Pecan Friendship Cookies

Adapted from Deborah Madison’s versatile Little Nut Cookie in the first edition of Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.
Yield: About 3 dozen

Ingredients

  • ½ cup (113 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature and diced
  • ¾ cup (150 g) brown sugar (light, dark or muscovado), packed
  • 1 egg, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • cups (150 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (110 g) pecan halves, finely chopped

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350ºF/180ºC (see Notes) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Cream the butter and sugar together by hand or using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Beat in the egg, followed by the vanilla extract and salt.
  • Stir in the flour and pecans (on low speed if using a mixer) until just incorporated.
  • Drop small mounds of dough (about a teaspoonful) onto the prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 2 inches (5 cm) apart.
  • Bake for 8–10 minutes, until lightly browned on top and golden around the edges (see Notes).
  • Slide onto a rack with the parchment paper underneath to cool.

Notes

  1. Deborah Madison says to bake these cookies at 375ºF (190ºC), but they tend to burn too quickly on the bottom at this temperature in my oven, so I bake them at 350ºF (180ºC). Try both and see which works best in your oven.
  2. Sometimes the dough spreads out as it bakes, and sometimes it doesn’t. I’m sure there’s a scientific explanation for this, but it’s nothing to worry about as the cookies are delicious both ways.
  3. The dough freezes well and can be baked without defrosting. To freeze, scoop out teaspoonfuls of dough onto a parchment paper-lined tray and freeze until solid, then transfer to a freezer bag. Bake as indicated, adding a few minutes to the baking time.

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