Buttery, soft ‘n chewy cookies exploding with toasted pecans and brown sugar flavor.
Welcome to recipe #2 of my Christmas Cookie Palooza! Just like last year, we’re celebrating the holidays with 10 new cookie recipes. Bake one, bake two, heck… bake all ten recipes and join the cookie monster madness.
Maybe it’s just me, but I think butter pecan is an underrated ice cream flavor. Quite often overlooked and running with the “boring” pistachio and rum raisin ice cream crowd. For the record, I love all three of these ice cream flavors! And that’s exactly why I made today’s cookie recipe. They’re salty, they’re sweet, and they’re rich with butter flavor.
Along with pie and more pie, I made these butter pecan cookies for Thanksgiving last week. Baked them on Tuesday and by Thursday, half were gone. And then the entire batch was mysteriously missing on Friday morning.
If it’s not their chewy edges, soft centers, and buttery flavor– it’s the toasted pecans that make these cookies so incredible. Emphasis on the toasted! The toasty, nutty flavor of these pecans is crucial to their flavor. If you’ve never toasted nuts before adding them to a recipe, you are missing out. The flavor is 84573849% better. I actually did the calculation yesterday; it’s really that much better.
Diamond of California is my go-to brand when it comes to baking with nuts. Chop up the pecan halves (or simply use chopped pecans) then bake at 300F for 15 minutes, stirring once during that time. In test batches, I only used 1 cup of toasted chopped pecans. But taste testers and I agree that you need plenty more nuts in the cookie dough! Around 1 and 1/2 cups is ideal. The more pecans, the butter. I mean better.
If you haven’t noticed, butter plays a big role in today’s cookie recipe.
Food Science // Nerd Alert
As I’ve explained recently, butter is where most cookie recipes begin. It has several jobs, including keeping the cookies tender and also imparting flavor. As today’s butter pecan cookies bake, the milk proteins inside of the butter begin to brown– giving these cookies a nutty flavor. Which is intensified with the toasted pecans. A win win butter pecan situation.
Not only this, how butter is mixed into cookie dough affects a cookie’s texture. In my Chewy Chocolate Chunk Cookie recipe, I use melted butter. Melted butter is what makes them so insanely dense and fudge-like. But with today’s cookies, I chose to cream the butter and sugars together. During this creaming process, air is incorporated into the dough which, in turn, helps leaven the cookies as they bake. The cookies rise up, the centers stay soft, and the edges slightly crisp and become chewy.
You’ll notice that this cookie dough is supremely soft and a little sticky. And you know what’s best for soft, sticky cookie dough? Chilling. Chill this dough for at least 3 hours and up to 3 days. What a drag, right… waiting for cookie dough to chill. But trust me about this one. Chilling allows the cookie dough to thicken and the brown sugar*, butter, and toasted pecan flavors to enhance. The longer you chill, the better. Just remember that the longer you chill the cookie dough, the longer you should let it sit out at room temperature before rolling into balls and baking. The results of chilling this cookie dough are worth the wait.
*I use a higher ratio of brown sugar to white sugar in this cookie recipe. Brown sugar = rich flavor, ultimate chewiness, moist texture, and soft cookie centers. Brown sugar compliments the butter pecan flavor so well. You’ll love it!
I rolled some cookie dough balls in sugar, others I did not. The sugar makes the baked cookies have a beautiful sparkle, but really doesn’t do much in terms of flavor– besides (duh) just making the cookies taste sweeter and less salty/sweet.
So, coat the cookie dough balls in sugar if you’d like.
These cookies are perfect for the holidays because they are slightly more complex in flavor than say, a delightful decorated sugar cookie. Everyone will love their chewy edges, toasty flavor, and soft centers. I guarantee they’ll disappear just as quickly as they did in this house. If you want to go overboard, and you totally should, crush them up and sprinkle on top of butter pecan ice cream.
Butter Pecan Cookies
Buttery, soft 'n chewy cookies exploding with toasted pecans and brown sugar flavor. This cookie dough requires chilling - at least 3 hours and up to 3 days.
- 1 and 1/2 cups (195g) Diamond of California chopped pecans
- 1 cup (230g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
- 1 cup (200g) packed light brown sugar (or dark brown)
- 2 large eggs, room temperature preferred
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 and 1/2 cups (312g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup (67g) granulated sugar, for rolling
- sea salt, for sprinkling
- In a 300°F (149°C) oven, toast the chopped pecans on a large parchment paper or silicone mat-lined baking sheet for 15 minutes. Stir twice during this time. Turn oven off and set pecans aside.
- In a large bowl using a hand-held mixer or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter for 1 minute on medium speed until completely smooth and creamy. Add the granulated sugar and brown sugar and beat on medium high speed until fluffy and light in color. Beat in eggs and vanilla on high speed. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.
- In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, cornstarch, baking soda and salt together until combined. On low speed, slowly mix into the wet ingredients until combined. The cookie dough will be quite thick. Add the toasted chopped pecans, mix on low for about 5-10 seconds until evenly distributed. Cover dough tightly with aluminum foil or plastic wrap and chill for at least 3 hours and up to 3 days. Chilling is mandatory for this cookie dough.
- Remove cookie dough from the refrigerator and allow to sit at room temperature for 20 minutes-- if the cookie dough chilled longer than 3 hours, let it sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes. This makes the cookie dough easier to scoop and roll.
- Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Set aside.
- Once chilled, the dough might be slightly crumbly, but will come together if you work the dough with your hands as you roll into individual balls. Scoop and roll balls of dough, about 1 Tablespoon of dough each, into balls. You may roll the cookie dough balls into the 1/3 cup of granulated sugar listed under the "optional" ingredients. It's optional because I merely did this for looks-- the sugar gives them a pretty sparkle. Or you can bake the cookies without the sugar rolling and sprinkle with a little sea salt when they come out of the oven. If you love salty/sweet, do the sea salt.
- Bake the cookies for 11-12 minutes (13 minutes for crispier cookies), until slightly golden brown around the edges. My oven has hot spots and yours may too- so be sure to rotate the pan once during bake time. The baked cookies will look extremely soft in the centers when you remove them from the oven. Allow to cool for 5 minutes on the cookie sheet. If the cookies are too puffy, try gently pressing down on them with the back of a spoon. They will slightly deflate as you let them cool. Transfer to cooling rack to cool completely.
Make ahead tip: Cookies stay fresh covered at room temperature for up to 1 week. You can make the cookie dough and chill it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Allow to come to room temperature then continue with step 5. Baked cookies freeze well for up to 3 months. Unbaked cookie dough balls freeze well for up to 3 months. Bake frozen cookie dough balls for an extra minute, no need to thaw. Click here for my tips and tricks on freezing cookie dough.
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