Sunday, December 2, 2018

Pecan Praline Cookies

December is the month of cookie swaps and holiday cookie contests, so my holiday cookie posts this month will fall into place. We all have our favorites, but this month I will steer away from the traditional cookies. I hope the recipes will inspire you to start a new tradition by adding one or more types of these special cookies to the holiday dessert table.

The first are a creation with a favorite candy from the French Quarter in New Orleans-pecan pralines. The praline mixture is created first and then added to the dough just prior to baking. However, unlike regular pralines, there is very little sugar base. There is only enough sugar to hold the pecan pieces together. The end result is an extra nutty cookie, which is a plus. This recipe makes about thirty 2 3/4 inch cookies.

Pecan Praline Cookies
adapted from International Cookie Cookbook

1 cup pecans (chopped)
1/3 cup granulated sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup butter (room temp)
1 egg
1 cup light brown sugar (packed)
2 tbs granulated sugar
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups flour

The praline is the first step to these cookies. Start by preheating the oven to 325 degrees and greasing a heatproof platter (I used a pizza pan). Place the chopped pecans in a pan, spreading evenly. Toast in oven for about 8 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes. Remove pan and set aside.

Fill a saucepan with 2 tbs of water and the sugar. Stir and set over medium high heat. Let come to a boil and stir until sugar is dissolved. Place a cover over the saucepan and let it continue to boil for another few minutes. Uncover and continue to cook for 2 more minutes. The mixture will start to develop a golden color. Watch closely for the ideal amber color (you do not want burnt sugar) and remember that it still continues to cook a little even after removed from the stove. Once syrup is ready, pour in pecans and quickly toss to coat. Transfer to buttered pan and flatten with a heavy saucepan.

After 10 minutes, praline should be cooled. Crack praline and place in a plastic bag. Using a mallet or heavy saucepan, break up the mixture into tiny pieces. Separate out 1/3 of a cup. Set both aside.

Change the oven temperature to 375 degrees. Prepare 2 sheet pans by lining with parchment paper. Fill the bowl of a stand mixer with the butter. Beat until silky, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Then add both sugars and blend until a fluffy texture is reached. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again and beat in egg and vanilla extract.

Then place a sieve over a large bowl. Fill with flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Sift through the sieve.

Add half of the sifted ingredients to the sugar/butter blend. Fold the ingredients together until no dry streaks remain. Then add the rest of the dry ingredients and mix together until completely blended. Pour the larger portion of the pecan praline into the batter. Stir until all praline is evenly distributed throughout the batter.

Form cookies by rolling dough pieces into a 1 inch ball. Take each ball and dip the top into the remaining 1/3 cup of pecan praline. Place each ball about 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets.

Bake for about 5 minutes. Rotate pans and bake for another 5-6 minutes or until barely golden on the edges. Be careful not to over bake. Over baking will change the texture from slightly chewy to hard and crunchy. Once the cookies are done, place pan on cooling rack. Let cookies cool on pan for about 2 minutes and then transfer to rack to finish cooling.
                                        **LAST YEAR:Samoa Bundt Cake**