Pecans are the nuts harvested from native hickory trees found throughout the north, northeastern ,southern, and southern south western United States, and Mexico. Pecans have been a part of the native American diet long before European explorers arrived in the Americas. These elegant native hickory trees can grow over a hundred feet tall and live for more than a thousand years. The name pecan comes from the Algonquin Indian word pacane, meaning a nut that needs to be cracked with a stone.
Thomas Jefferson planted native hickory trees at his home “Monticello” in Virginia and shared some of his hickory nuts with George Washington who planted them at his Mount Vernon home.
The first successful grafting of native hickory trees was done by a slave gardener named Antoine at Oak Alley Plantation in Southern Louisiana around 1846 and a pecan industry was born. Today Georgia, Louisianan, and Texas produce about 80% of the world’s pecan supply, while Mexico produces the remaining 20%.
Pecans still reign supreme with home cooks and bakers throughout the American south. Favorite recipes include southern pecan pies, pecan pralines from New Orleans, pecans topping baked sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving dinners, and of course butter pecan ice cream and gilato. All these southern delights go hand in hand with hickory wood smoked Texas barbecues, a Louisiana Cajun gumbo or jambalaya, or a Gulf Coast shrimp crab and crayfish boil. This is real southern food you’ve got to love!
Pecans pack a load of healthy benefits as well. They are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Organic pecans are available from specialty shops and online. Pecans are a must have essential to keep on hand in your larder. Pecans are delicious roasted and salted, dded to salads, ground for coating baked poultry or fish, and of course for heavenly baked goods.
These butter pecan cookies are easy to make and a perfect accompaniment when served with a butter pecan gelato or for a summery peach and strawberry pecan short cake.
Butter Pecan Cookies makes 24 cookies
preheat oven to 350 f/180 c with the rack set in the middle position
Have ready 2 baking sheets lined with parchment
For the pecans:
- 2 tablespoons salted butter
- 1½ cups whole pecan halves
- 2 teaspoons light brown sugar
For the cookies:
- ¾ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- ¾ cup light brown sugar
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 large egg
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon corn starch
- ½ teaspoon flaked / or kosher salt
To prepare pecans melt 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter in a small sauce pan set over medium heat. Swirl the pan until the butter begins to color. Then lower the heat a bit and continue swilling the butter until it is a medium amber color. Add the brown sugar and swirl the pan until the sugar has melted. Promptly remove the pan from the heat and add the pecans. Gently turn the pecans in the browned butter until evenly coated. Set aside to cool for a couple of minutes.
Then give the pecans another turn in the butter mixture, and pick out the pecans and spread them out on a parchment lined baking sheet. Transfer to the preheated oven and toast the pecans for about 8 minutes.
Remove the toasted pecans from the oven and set aside to cool. Once the pecans have cooled set 24 pecans aside to use later. Then chop the remaining pecans and set them aside to use for the cookie dough later.
For the cookies:
Place the unsalted butter in a mixing bowl. Using a hand mixer whip the butter on medium speed until fluffy. Then add the brown sugar and granulated sugar and whip until the mixture is light and fluffy.
Place the egg in a small bowl along with the vanilla extract and whisk until combined.
Add the egg mixture to the butter mixture and mix on medium speed until incorporated.
Combine the flour, baking soda, corn starch, and salt in a bowl and mix with a spoon until combined.
With the mixer set on low speed add a third of the flour mixture and mix until combined. Ad the remaining flour mixture in two additions until combined. Scrape off the excess dough on the mixer blades and add to the dough.
Then using a silicone spatula fold the chopped pecans into the dough until evenly combined.
Take two tablespoons of the dough and roll it between the palms of your hands to form an even ball. Place on the parchment lined baking sheet. Form the remaining dough into balls and place them on the baking sheet, allowing about 3 inches between each ball of dough, generally 9 to 12 cookies to a tray.
Gently flatten the balls of dough just slightly and top with a pecan placed in the center of each cookie.
Transfer the cookies to the oven and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, rotating the tray after 5 minutes to insure even baking. The cookies will be lightly browned and will be soft, but not to worry. They will firm up as they cool. Be mindful of your timing s over backing will dry the cookies out!
Promptly remove the cookies from the oven and set them aside for a few minutes to firm up. Then transfer them to a cooling rack and set aside to cool to room temperature.
Store the cooled cookies in an air tight container for several days or refrigerate for longer storage.