Friday, March 27, 2009

Learning the Keeblers' Secrets

My mother tells me that at a very young age, my diet was quite healthy. I ate wheat germ, "organic" produce, and did not touch a grain of sugar. Even my baby food was made by hand! Then I began spending summers with my grandmother who introduced me to cane sugar. She baked my birthday cakes (as did my mom) and cookies. I spent summers eating pints of Bluebell Pecan Pralines & Cream ice cream while watching Sanford and Son late nights. I'd return home at the end of those summers a little chubbier and asking for those things my grandmother supplied me I'm sure.

Somewhere along the way I met the Keebler Elves and fell in love with their Pecan Sandies. I can still remember how they felt on my tongue; dry to the touch, they crumbled between my teeth, crunchy and crumbly. Making sure I trapped each crumb between my lips (and those that escaped, into the palm of my hand where they were quickly transported to my mouth), I tasted the butter and nuts as I inhaled. Years later, I've eaten so many different cookies and cakes I can't remember (except for the German Chocolate Cake which is still a favorite of mine), but I'll always remember those sandies.

Last year, we had a group come in to our hotel wanting Pecan Sandies for one of their breaks. My chef asked what they were (his background is French pastries) and I tried to explain them to him. For the recipe, I turned to someone who hasn't let me down in the cookie department: Martha Stewart. My mom and I have baked cookies from her holiday cookie edition magazines for many Christmases, mailing and delivering them to friends and family. Pulling out my well worn copy, I wrote the recipe in my notebook, took it to work and made a sample for Chef. He liked them enough and I was reunited with an old favorite.

Now I keep a container of these cookies in my freezer, pre-scooped and ready to be popped into the oven for a quick trip down memory lane. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Pecan Sandies (adapted from Martha Stewart Holiday Cookies)

1/2 pound butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 ounces pecans, finely ground
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
pinch salt
confectioner's sugar

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Cream butter and sugar on medium speed until light and creamy, about 3 minutes. Beat in vanilla.

Mix the ground pecans with the flour and salt, and add to the butter mixture. Beat on low to mix, then increase to medium for about 1 minute.

Using a scoop, portion cookies with bottoms. Freeze on sheet pan, remove, place in freezer safe container, or bake 8 minutes, flatten slightly, turn, and continue baking, 8-10 minutes depending on the size, until lightly browned around the edges.

Remove from oven and dust with confectioner's sugar. Let cool (if you can!) and serve.

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