I may or may not have opened one of my Christmas presents early… With permission of course!
I’ve got a whole stack of cookbooks waiting to be unwrapped in a few short days, so I randomly chose one from the pile and was utterly delighted when I tore through the paper to find David Lebovitz’s Ready for Dessert.
It’s a beautiful cookbook, with introductions to each recipe written in the same humorous tone he uses on his blog; not only is Mr Lebovitz a brilliant chef, he is also a marvellous storyteller.
Since the holiday season is upon us, I decided to make the Brown Sugar-Pecan Shortbread; as the ingredients for making shortbread were quite pricey once upon a time, these cookies were only ever made for special occasions, such as Christmas, Hogmanay (Scottish New Year’s Eve) and weddings.
In his intro to this recipe, David writes: ‘The Scottish have shortbread and the French have their sables, but both cultures and cookies are so hidebound in tradition that you’ll rarely find variations. To them I say kick off those highlanders, get your heads out of the sable, and think again’.
All I can say is that these nonconformist shortbread cookies are beautifully crisp in texture and have a delightful caramel flavour. Oh, and that my apartment smells absolutely heavenly at the moment. They will definitely make great little homemade gifts to the hosts of all the upcoming holiday events.
Brown Sugar-Pecan Shortbread
Recipe from David Lebovitz, as found in Ready for Dessert. Makes about 40 cookies.
- 280g plain flour
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 225g unsalted butter (at room temperature)
- 140g packed light brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 100g pecans (toasted and coarsely chopped)
- In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and salt.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a bowl by hand), beat together the butter and brown sugar on medium speed just until completely smooth and no streaks of better remain.
- Mix in the vanilla. Add the flour mixture and beat until completely incorporated. Stir in the pecans.
- Turn out the dough onto a sheet of cling film and form it into a 11 by 15-cm rectangle about 3 cm thick. Wrap the dough tightly and refrigerate until chilled and firm, at least 1 hour.
- Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven; preheat the oven to 180°C. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper.
- When ready, cut the rectangle dough lengthways into 2 equal pieces. Cut each half crossways into rectangles 5mm wide*. Place the cookies 3cm apart on the prepared baking trays.
- Bake, rotating the baking trays midway through baking, until the cookies are a deep golden brown, about 15 minutes.
- Leave the cookies to cool on the baking trays until firm enough to handle, then use a spatula to transfer them to a wire rack.
* Note: For a neater cookie, trim the log before slicing. I chose not to do this as I thought they looked quite cute and rustic. Also, if you are so inclined, you could shape the dough into a log before chilling to create round shortbread cookies.