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The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook: Pecan Shortbread

Here's a very good shortbread recipe from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. I thought the instructions sounded strange, but my initial impression was wrong: the recipe works, and the cookies are delicious. The yield, however, is way off.

Ina Garten says to roll this dough out to a thickness of 1/2 inch and then cut it into shapes. That's a very thick cookie, and I thought perhaps it was a typo, but after making the cookies, I understand why they need to be that thickness. The presence of the small bits of pecans in the dough makes the dough want to crack and fall apart. Thinner cookies would not hold their shape. The thicker cookies retained their shape and were easier to eat, since they didn't immediately break into a million little bits when bitten into.

I have made one small change to the instructions: Garten's recipe says to form the dough into a disk and then chill for 30 minutes, but there's quite a lot of dough here, so I've suggested that you make 2 disks instead. That way you can roll out 1 at a time, without the dough getting too soft while you're working.

The yield was not even remotely close, so I have to wonder if this recipe was scaled down for home use from a larger recipe that was used to make large quantities for the Barefoot Contessa bakery, without any actual testing to see how many cookies resulted. The book says this recipe makes 20 to 24 cookies (2 1/2 squares). I made cookies of that size, and ended up with 45 -- almost twice as many as the book says. Depending on the size you decide to make, you may end up with between 3 and 4 dozen cookies.

Prep Time: 30 minutes, plus 30 minutes chilling time
Cook Time: 20 to 25 minutes
Yield: 3 to 4 dozen cookies

3/4 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups small-diced pecans

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the butter and sugar until they are just combined. Add the vanilla and almond extracts. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt, then add them to the butter-sugar mixture. Add the pecans and mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a work surface dusted with flour and shape into 2 flat disks. Wrap each disk in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.

On the flour-dusted work surface, roll the dough, one disk at a time, until it is 1/2-inch thick. The pecans may make it difficult to roll the dough out without it cracking; don't worry, just press the cracks together as best you can. Dough scraps may be re-rolled as often as necessary. Cut into 2 1/2 inch squares with a plain or fluted cutter (or cut into any shape you like). Place the cookies about 1/2 inch apart on an ungreased baking sheet.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the edges begin to brown. Cool on racks. Store at room temperature for up to 5 days.



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