High Country Baking: Pecan shortbread valentines
High Country Baking
Can you describe love with a cookie? These pecan shortbreads come close. Sweet, delicate, tender, always pleasing and just nutty enough to be interesting, they’ll make a delightful valentine. Serve them alone or as an accompaniment to raspberry sorbet or chocolate mousse, and you’re sure to please the ones you hold dear.
Shortbread purists will prefer the cookies unembellished, but a coating or drizzle of chocolate is a nice addition. I like to make the cookies with heart-shaped cutters of varying sizes and offer them with and without the chocolate topping. The different sizes and adornments create a pretty contrast.
The cookie is a classic, so don’t limit your use of the recipe to Valentine’s Day. Use any cookie cutter you choose and make them all year-round.
The shortbread can be stored, airtight, for up to a week at cool room temperature and frozen for a month.
Pecan shortbread valentines
Works at any elevation. Yields about four dozen 2-inch cookies. Make on two shiny metal cookie sheets.
- 1 1/2 cups bleached all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup superfine granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling on cookies
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), cold
- 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup pecans, preferably roasted
Chocolate glaze (optional)
- 2 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon canola or other mild vegetable oil.
1.Heat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the center position. Line your cookie sheets with parchment paper; don’t grease the pans (this reduces the chance of the cookies spreading while baking, a problem at higher elevations).
2. Place the flour, cornstarch, salt and granulated sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse to combine. Cut the cold butter into half-inch pieces and add it, along with the vanilla. Pulse until there are no visible pieces of butter and the mixture takes on a mealy texture. Add the pecans and process until they are finely chopped and the dough forms large, moist curds. Stop before the dough is smooth or forms a ball.
3. Dump the dough onto a sheet of waxed paper and gently knead it into a disk about 6 inches in diameter. Refrigerate it for at least half an hour, until it is firm enough to roll easily. Working with half of the dough at a time, roll it out until it’s 1/4-inch thick. Place it between two sheets of waxed paper to make rolling it easier. Using heart shaped cookie cutters, cut out the cookies and transfer them to the prepared cookie sheets, placing them about 3/4 of an inch apart. Sprinkle the top of each cookie with granulated sugar. Gather the dough scraps into a disc, refrigerate it until it is firm enough to roll, and repeat the process.
4. Place the cookies, on the baking sheet in the freezer for about five minutes, until they are quite firm (this will help prevent spreading while they bake). Bake until they are set and just start to color. This takes about 20 minutes, though check earlier for smaller-sized cookies. Remove the cookies from the oven, let them sit on the baking sheet for several minutes, then transfer them to a rack to cool completely.
5. Glaze the cookies (optional): Place the chocolate in a microwave-safe container and melt it in a microwave oven at a low temperature for one minute bursts, stirring after each one, until the chocolate is almost entirely melted. Remove it and stir until it is smooth and all lumps are gone. Add the teaspoon of oil, stir to combine thoroughly, and let the mixture cool and thicken slightly. To drizzle cookies with chocolate: Dip the prongs of a fork in the melted chocolate mixture and move it back and forth quickly above the cooled cookies. To cover a cookie in chocolate: Support the cooled cookie on a fork, top side down, dip it into the chocolate only until the top of the cookie is fully submerged (the bottom of the cookie should remain free of chocolate). Lift the cookie, still on the fork, out of the chocolate, tap the fork on the side of the bowl to remove excess chocolate, and then flip the cookie onto a sheet of waxed paper so the chocolate side is up. Let the cookies rest until the chocolate is set. Place them in the refrigerator to speed up the process.
Author’s note: This recipe is inspired by one published by Williams-Sonoma.
Vera Dawson’s column “High Country Baking” publishes biweekly on Thursdays in the Summit Daily News. Dawson is a high-elevation baking instructor and author of three high-altitude cookbooks. Her recipes have been tested in her kitchen in Frisco, where she’s lived since 1991, and altered until they work at elevation. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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