Friday, November 20, 2009

Pecan Pillows

It’s hard to resist the rich buttery goodness of toasted pecans, especially during the holidays. These cookies are my idea of a cozy pillow of pure pecan luxury nestled inside a light and crumbly cookie. I stick with a few simple natural ingredients so the cookie isn’t too rich or gooey. I think they have just the right measure of sweetness and satisfaction for a deliciously simple but unforgettable little pastry.

This is a very forgiving dough. It comes together quickly in a food processor and after a bit of a rest in the refrigerator, it is very easy to handle even as it warms up at room temperature. The pecan filling doesn’t contain any extra fat and can be prepared in a food processor with just a few pulses.

It's time to bake! This is a dreamy formula for the winter season that will remind you just how much pleasure a cookie platter can bring.

Bench notes:
- To toast pecans, spread them out in a single layer on a cookie sheet and place in a 350 degree oven for about ten minutes, stirring them a couple of times to prevent burning.
- I use a small ice cream scoop #40 (the #40 refers to 40 scoops per quart) to portion the dough. This makes the job very quick and easy.
- For a wonderful and very intriguing walnut version, try Ma'amoul.

Pecan Pillows
Makes 18

Cookie Dough

1 3/4 C flour
3 T sugar
1/4 t salt
6 oz (12 T) cold butter, cut into small cubes
2 T milk
1 t vanilla

Pecan Filling

3/4 C toasted pecans
pinch of salt
3 T brown sugar
2 T + 2 t honey
scant 1/4 t cinnamon
zest of 1 orange
1/4 t vanilla

To prepare the dough, place the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a processor and mix. Add the butter and pulse until the butter is in pieces the size of small grain rice. Combine milk and vanilla and add to the flour butter mixture. Pulse just until the mixture starts to clump. Remove and place the dough on a piece of plastic wrap. Pull it together to finish blending and smoothing out. Pat it into a circle about 1” think, wrap and refrigerate to rest for a couple of hours or overnight.

Place the pecans, salt, brown sugar, honey, cinnamon and orange zest in the bowl of a processor and pulse just a few times to chop the pecans into smallish pieces and blend the ingredients. Don’t over process. You want small pieces but not paste. Pour into a bowl and add vanilla. Stir to combine.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it sit for a bit just until it's malleable.

To shape the cookie dough, portion into 18 pieces and shape each into a ball that is about 1 1/2” in diameter. Take each portion and push your thumb in to form a cup for the filling. Continue to press it out with your thumbs to form a somewhat flattened open pocket about 2 3/4” in diameter. Place about a good half-teaspoon of filling in the center. Gather the ends and press them together to seal the cookie. Roll gently in your palms to even out the shape and place seam side down on a small parchment lined tray. Press the top of the cookie gently to flatten slightly and shape. Wrap the formed cookies with plastic and refrigerate until completely chilled.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Bake on a cookie sheet lined with parchment or silpat for about 20 to 25 minutes. The cookies should not take on any color but the bottoms will brown a bit. When they are done, they will move easily without any resistance when nudged with your fingertip. Cool on a wire rack. Dust lightly with powdered sugar.


Dawn said...

these are fabulous. I love working w/ pecans in my baking. I made a spicy pecan pie last year for the holidays--so good.
it would be gross how many of these cookies I could eat in one sitting.

Heather said...

Those look fantastic and I bet they taste awesome. I am going to have to add these to my holiday baking list.

Barbara said...

I'd like to take a bite out of that! Pillows are fun to make and the pecan filling is full of seasonal flavors- cinnamon and orange! Yum.

Gigi said...

oh wow they looks absolutely divine!

Charles said...

The most interesting recipe I've seen on the net in days. I'm nutty from growing with pecans everywhere. Thanks

Bellini Valli said...

Christmas cookie baking season has begun!!!!!Perhaps I need just one more...

Elsa said...


tracieMoo said...

These pillows are so cute. The nut filling looks really good with those pillows. I would love to make this! thanks for the recipe ;)

dining set said...

I love pecans and I love doing things with it. So yummy!

tasteofbeirut said...

Yum! These are so pretty and remind me a bit of the ma'amoul cookies we make in Lebanon

Diana H said...

I've never thought of stuffing cookies, this looks fun.

Anonymous said...

These cookies look fantastic. Is there no egg required?

pastry studio said...

Anonymous, the filling is not very loose so no egg is required to bind it. Hope you get a chance to try them!

Teachers said...

Pecan and peanuts such is one good combination in baking! And I like the idea that no eggs are needed!

saturday mike said...

I just made the dough for these cookies and had a HORRIBLE time with it. The amount of liquid wasn't nearly enough, and the dough really wouldn't come together at all. I put it back in the processor and added another tablespoon of milk, and even then, the dough kept breaking apart as I tried to pull it together.
I didn't know if I should add more liquid, or if that would somehow affect the dough. I finally just pushed it into a giant ball - any attempts to flatten it to a 1" thickness meant dough breaking off and spilling onto the counter. I'm hoping once it's chilled it'll be a bit more firm.
It's strange, too, because I made the Ma'amoul cookies last year with the same dough recipe and had no problems at all!

pastry studio said...

saturday mike, I'm sorry to hear that this dough posed a problem for you this time. It's ordinarily a very easy dough to work with in both the mixing and the handling.

I'm not sure what happened to cause it to seem so dry. The only possibilities that come to mind are that there may have been an excess of flour measured or not quite the right amount of butter. Or perhaps the butter was not quite processed into the dough enough, although you did say you processed it twice, so that doesn't seem likely. This is all especially odd since you've made the dough before with good results.

I might be tempted to put it back in the processor and add an egg yolk if it still seems to be dry and is not really forming a solid consistency. I hope this works out for you.

saturday mike said...

Hey PS
I just tried one, and they turned out fine. I chilled the dough without adding anything more, and though crumbly, I was able hollow out the balls and fill them. As you said, it's a forgiving dough. The filling is just lovely, perfect for Fall.
I think I may try again, but I'm wondering how moist the dough should be. Should it really start coming together in clumps in the processor? Maybe if I'd just added a bit more milk?

pastry studio said...

saturday mike, I'm glad you were able to enjoy them after all.

The dough is pretty moist. The main thing is to process it enough to get the butter equally distributed throughout the dry ingredients before you add the milk and vanilla. Then after adding the liquid, as you continue to process it should begin to form clumps around the blade. You can use the pulse lever as it gets close to being mixed so you can watch it progress. You should be able to pinch the dough and have it hold together. When you pour it out, you will need to gather it and work it together just a bit to finish it.