Pecan Shortbread Cookies

1 2/3 cups pecan halves (6 ounces)
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Toast pecans in oven, then cool. Leave oven on.

Pick out about 36 of the best-looking pecan halves for topping cookies and finely chop remainder.

Blend together butter, sugars, vanilla, and salt in a bowl with a fork until combined well. Stir in flour and chopped pecans until a soft dough forms (dough will be sticky).

Form 1-inch balls of dough and arrange 2 inches apart on 2 ungreased baking sheets. Flatten balls to 1/3 inch thick using bottom of a glass (flour it if necessary), then push a pecan half onto center of each cookie.

Bake, 1 sheet at a time, until edges are golden, about 20 minutes. Cool cookies on sheet 5 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool.

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