The inspiration for this recipe arose a few years ago, when my mother-in-law gave me a huge bag of freshly picked pecans. I was absolutely delighted of course, but wondered what I would end up making with all these pecans.
Since the holidays were around the corner, making cookies was the first thing that came to mind. I thought that dried cranberries would be a perfect complement to the pecans. Add to both a bit of orange zest, and mix it all in a buttery dough... I was ready to bake dozens!
Since then, these little square-shaped butter cookies have become a favorite holiday treat in our household. They keep well for a couple of weeks and make perfect stocking stuffers, but I must admit they're most enticing when just baked.
Butter Cookies with Dried Cranberries and Roasted Pecans
makes 2 dozen
active time: 30 min
8 tablespoons (4 oz) (115 g) unsalted butter - at room temperature
1/3 cup turbinado sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest to taste (use microplane grater)
1/2 cup pecans - roasted (see Cook's note)
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
pinch sea salt
unbleached all-purpose flour to roll the dough
1 large baking sheet - lightly buttered or lined with a Silpat
Step 1: Place the butter, sugar, vanilla and orange zest in the bowl of an electric mixer. Mix at medium speed until the mixture is fluffy and pale. Set aside.
Step 2: Place the roasted pecans in the bowl of a food processor. Process until very finely ground (be careful not to over-process the nuts or they'll turn into nut butter). Transfer to a bowl. Place the dried cranberries in the bowl of a food processor. Process until finely chopped.
Step 3: Place the pecans, cranberries, flour and salt in a medium bowl and stir until well blended. Add to the butter mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until wet crumbs form. Using your fingers, bring the crumbs together until it forms a dough. On a lightly floured surface, shape the dough into 2 cylinders about 8″ long. Flatten the cylinder on four sides to make a square log. Wrap each log in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350°F (180ºC).
Step 4: Cut each log in twelve, 5/8" thick slices. Place the slices on the prepared pan 1″ apart and bake for 12 to 13 minutes until the cookies are golden at the bottom. Transfer pan to a cooling rack and let the cookies cool in their pan. Once cooled to room temperature, store in an airtight container at room temperature for up 2 weeks.
Cook's note: To roast the nuts, preheat the oven to 350°F (180˚C). Place the nuts on a baking sheet and bake for 12 to 15 minutes until pale-golden. Cool to room temperature before using in the recipe.
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These Sienese almond cookies make another wonderful holiday treat!