Homemade versions of pecan sandies can run the gamut from greasy and bland to dry and crumbly. Here’s what they should be: buttery shortbread cookies with a tender but crisp texture, a sandy melt-in-the-mouth character, and loads of nutty pecan flavor. Because it’s in the name, nailing the sandy texture was key. Some recipes try to achieve that sandiness by substituting vegetable oil for butter; while oil did help limit the amount of air that formed in the cookie dough, the flavor was abysmal and the cookies were greasy, so we decided to stick with butter. For nice praline flavor another hallmark of this cookie we started by using all light brown sugar in our dough (dark brown sugar overpowered the buttery pecans), but the cookies were a bit tough. Swapping out a portion of the brown sugar for confectioners’ sugar solved this problem, resulting in a more tender crumb. Toasting the pecans and then grinding them into a flour ensured rich nutty flavor in every bite. As a finishing touch, we placed a single pecan half in the center of each cookie to provide a visual hint of the flavor within.
- Yield: 32 Cookies
- 2 cups pecans, toasted
- ½ cup packed (3½ ounces) light brown sugar
- ¼ cup (1 ounce) confectioners’ sugar
- 1½ cups (7½ ounces) all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces and chilled
- 1 large egg yolk
- Reserve 32 unbroken pecan halves for garnish. Process brown sugar, confectioners’ sugar, and remaining pecans in food processor until pecans are finely ground, about 20 seconds. Add flour and salt and process until combined, about 10 seconds.
- Scatter butter over top and process until mixture resembles damp sand and rides up sides of bowl, about 20 seconds. With processor running, add egg yolk and process until dough forms rough ball, about 20 seconds.
- Transfer dough to counter, knead briefly, and divide in half. Roll each piece of dough into 6-inch log. Wrap logs tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours or up to 3 days.
- Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Working with 1 dough log at a time, slice chilled dough into ⅜-inch-thick rounds and space them 1 inch apart on prepared sheets. Gently press pecan half in center of each cookie.
- Bake cookies until edges are golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes, switching and rotating sheets halfway through baking. Let cookies cool on sheets for 3 minutes, then transfer to wire rack. Let cookies cool completely before serving.