Why It Works
- Toasting gives the pecans and the powdered sugar more depth of flavor.
- A food processor does the work of chopping the pecans and mixing the dough all at once.
- Smaller portions of dough have a better ratio of cookie to powdered sugar, so portion these out with a scoop or scale.
These simple pecan shortbreads couldn't be any easier: Just toast the pecans and powdered sugar together, cool, and blitz with the remaining ingredients in a food processor. The dough is only lightly sweetened, which helps the cookies retain their round, snowball-like shape, but a dusting of powdered sugar brings them back into balance. I like these best with a mug of hot cocoa, but they're great with milk or tea as well.
- For the Dough:
- 2 ounces raw pecan halves (1/2 cup; 55g)
- 1 1/2 ounces powdered sugar (1/3 cup; 40g) (see note)
- 4 ounces all-purpose flour (3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon; 110g)
- 4 ounces cold unsalted butter (1 stick; 110g), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1 teaspoon (5g) vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon (1g) Diamond Crystal kosher salt; for table salt, use half as much by volume or use the same weight
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- To Finish:
- 2 ounces powdered sugar (1/2 cup; 55g), divided (see note)
For the Dough: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Combine pecans and powdered sugar in a 10-inch stainless steel skillet and toast in oven until fragrant but not deeply browned, 12 to 15 minutes. When pecans and sugar have cooled to room temperature, combine with flour, cold butter, vanilla, salt, and cinnamon in the bowl of a food processor. (Save the skillet for step 2.) Pulse until pecan pieces disappear, then continue pulsing to form a stiff dough.
To Finish: Sprinkle about half of powdered sugar into skillet, then divide dough into 20 half-ounce portions (I use a #60 scoop). Tumble each piece in powdered sugar until fully coated and roll into a ball. When all pieces have been rounded up, shake skillet so the cookie dough rolls around, collecting more sugar. Arrange on a parchment-lined half sheet pan and bake until puffed and firm, about 18 minutes. Cool to room temperature directly on sheet pan and sift remaining powdered sugar on top.
Food processor with metal blade, 10-inch stainless steel skillet, half sheet pan
If you don't normally enjoy the taste of powdered sugar, try making these cookies with organic powdered sugar, which has a more nuanced flavor thanks to the natural molasses content in raw cane sugar (more on that here).