Thursday, December 16, 2010

Brown Sugar and Butter Pecan Shortbread


Count Down to Christmas Cookie Recipes

Shortbread may have come to us from the British Isles but the pecans add our own southern style.  This cookie looks impressive and difficult to make but it's so easy that you'll want to give a batch to every one you know. Put a whole shortbread on a plate, cake circle or bread board, wrap it up in cellophane and tie it all up in festive ribbons. Don't forget to make one for your own cookie tray.

Yummy Brown Sugar and Butter Pecan
Shortbread
(Bottom Picture)


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Makes 1 (9 inch) pan
Uses a 9 inch spring form pan and a cookie sheet with rimmed edges
Uses parchment baking paper
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1/2 cup dark brown sugar (packed)
2/3 cup cold butter (cut into random 1 inch chunks)
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup pecans

Note: There are no eggs or liquids in this recipe


Prepare the Pan

Open the hinge of the spring form pan and remove the bottom. (The pan is not re-assembled until after the dough is made.) Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom of the spring form pan. Remove the paper. Lightly coat pan bottom with cooking or baking spray then lightly coat the lower 1/3 of the pan sides. Place parchment circle on bottom of pan. Press down lightly. Set both pieces aside.

Make the Dough

Place brown sugar, butter and flour into the food processor. Pulse together until uniform - about 1 minute.

Add the vanilla and pecans. Pulse until the pecans are finely chopped (almost ground) and the dough almost comes together into a ball - about 1 minute more.

Remove the dough (and any pieces of dough or un-mixed ingredients) from the food processor and gather it all up into a ball. Work the dough briefly with your hands, if necessary, to bring it all together. Don't over handle the dough or you'll melt the butter.

Using your fingers, pat the dough onto the bottom of the prepared pan. The shortbread will be very thin and it may look like there's not enough dough but keep going.

Lightly press down the dough with the palm of one hand to make it level and even. (You can, instead, lightly roll a rolling pin over the top to smooth and make it even.)

Dough is in the pan and
the pan is assembled
Cut the shortbread into wedges by pressing a knife, metal spatula or similar cutter. Use a dinner fork to make 3 sets of holes down each wedge. (See photo.) 

Assemble the spring form pan - attaching the side ring to the bottom and closing latch. Refrigerate dough (in pan and lightly covered) for 1 hour. Longer is OK but not more than 24 hours.

When ready to bake, position oven rack so shortbread will bake in center. Preheat to 325 degrees.

Place the dough filled spring form pan on a larger pan to catch any dripping butter that may seep out of the pan bottom. Bake in the preheated oven 25 to 30 minutes. The shortbread is done when it's firm to a light touch, lightly browned on the bottom and smells wonderful!

Remove the shortbread from the oven and carefully remove the sides of the pan. Lightly press a knife into the slices to define the original cuts. Using a fork, re-poke the holes in the slices. Be careful not to poke new holes. You are just re-defining the original holes. Place shortbread (still on pan bottom) on cooling rack until cool enough to handle - about 5 minutes.


Use a long metal spatula
positioned between the
parchment paper and the
pan bottom to slide
the shortbread off the pan. 
 When cool enough to handle, position a long metal spatula between the pan bottom and the parchment paper. Slide the shortbread off the pan (but still on the parchment paper) and on to the cooling rack. Cool completely - at least 1 hour.

Remove the shortbread from the parchment paper for serving. Leave shortbread whole or carefully break into wedges. Shortbread can also be left on the parchment paper and packaged for gift giving.

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