1 cup (100 grams) pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
2 cups (260 grams) all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (226 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup (145 grams) firmly packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon (5 grams) pure vanilla extract
For Chocolate Dipped Pecan Shortbreads:
6 ounces (180 grams) semi sweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
To Toast Pecans: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Bake the pecans for about 8-10 minutes or until browned and fragrant. Cool and then coarsely chop.
In a medium sized bowl, whisk the flour with the salt.
In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the butter and sugar until creamy and smooth (about 2-3 minutes). Beat in the vanilla extract. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the flour mixture, mixing only until incorporated. Stir in the chopped pecans.
Divide the dough in half and then roll each half between two sheets of parchment or wax paper until it is about 1/4 inch (.5 cm) thick. (If your dough is soft, cover and refrigerate for about 30 minutes, or until firm, before you roll it out.) As you roll, periodically check the top and bottom sheets of parchment and smooth out any wrinkles. Then place dough on a baking sheet (along with the parchment paper) and chill in the refrigerator until cold and very firm (about 45-60 minutes). (For faster chilling, place in the freezer for about 15-20 minutes).
Once chilled, remove from refrigerator and peel off the top piece of parchment paper. Using a 2 1/2 - 3 inch (5-7 cm) cookie cutter, cut out the cookies. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet, spacing the cookies about 2 inches (5 cm) apart. Put the baking sheet, with the cut out cookies, in the refrigerator while you preheat your oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).
Meanwhile, gather up any scraps of leftover dough and re-roll. (You may need to refrigerate the dough again before cutting out the cookies.)
Bake the cookies for approximately 13 - 15 minutes or until the shortbreads are a deep golden brown color. This ensures a crunchy and crumbly cookie. (Note: If you only bake the shortbread until they are light brown the shortbread will be softer in texture.) Remove cookies from oven and cool completely on a wire rack.
For Chocolate Dipped Pecan Shortbreads: Place 3 ounces (90 grams) of the finely chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl and place it over a saucepan of simmering water. Once the chocolate has melted, remove it from the heat. Add the remaining chocolate and stir with a wooden spoon until it has completely melted and is smooth and glossy. Taking one cookie at a time, dip one end of each cookie in the melted chocolate and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Once all the cookies have been dipped in the chocolate, place the baking sheets in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes, or until the chocolate has hardened.
The shortbreads can be stored at room temperature for about one week or else frozen.
Makes about 40 - 2 1/2 inch (6 cm) cookies.
One of my favorite cookies is these Pecan Shortbreads. I love their buttery sweet caramel flavor and their crisp and crumbly texture. They are delicious plain, but try dipping them in melted chocolate as the combination of dark chocolate and shortbread is very hard to resist.
I think the secret to making a good tasting shortbread is to use a high quality butter and pure vanilla extract. Butter in the States is graded according to flavor, color, texture, aroma and body and one easy way to tell the quality of the butter is by the letter code or numerical number listed on the butter's package. The highest grade is AA (93 score), then A (92 score), followed by B (90 score). Buying vanilla extract can also be a challenge as there are so many choices. The first thing to do is to make sure that it is labeled "pure". I don't recommend using the ones labeled "imitation" as they are made with synthetic vanilla and tend to leave a bitter aftertaste.
Pecans are a native American nut that descends from the hickory tree which belongs to the same family as the walnut. This buttery, soft-textured, slightly bittersweet nut is cultivated mainly in the Southern United States. It's smooth, reddish-brown, one-inch (2.5 cm) long oval shell encloses two golden-brown crinkled lobes with ivory-colored meat. There are regional differences in how 'pecan' is pronounced, ranging from pih-KAHN, pih-KAN to PEE-kan.