High Altitude Baking: Toasted pecan rounds (recipe)
October 11, 2016
Editor's note: High altitudes makes cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips that make baking in the mountains successful.
Gluten-free bakers, meet your new best friend: Gluten-free Measure-for-Measure Flour. It makes gluten-free baking so easy. Replace all-purpose flour with it with a one-to-one ratio, in your favorite recipes — no additions or other changes are needed (unless ingredients other than the all-purpose flour include gluten). I spoke with a representative of King Arthur Flour, where this gem is made, and was assured that it works successfully in any baking recipe that calls for all-purpose flour, except for those that use yeast.
I purchased some online at http://www.kingarthurflour.com, and tested it in recipes for a simple cake and this cookie. I'm pleased with the results. The texture of the baked good isn't exactly the same as the one produced by bleached all-purpose flour, but it's so close that it's hard to tell the difference. If you give it a try, please let me know what you think of it.
Whether prepared with gluten-free or all-purpose flour, these toasted pecan rounds are winners. A little crunchy, a little sweet and flavored with toasted pecans and vanilla — it's hard to eat only one.
They're very easy to make, but to get the best results, you absolutely must toast the pecan pieces; it's vital to the cookie's flavor. And don't overwork the dough or the cookies may be tough.
Pecan pieces are shelled pecans, chopped into 3 to 4 pieces and available commercially in many grocery stores. Got a knife? If so, you can make your own.
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Toasted Pecan Rounds
(Makes 24 to 26 cookies.)
1 cup bleached all-purpose or Gluten-free Measure-for-Measure flour (spoon and level)
1/3 cup superfine granulated sugar, preferably Baker's, plus more for coating
2 pinches salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (one stick), cold
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
¾ cup pecan pieces, toasted
Candied pecan halves, optional
Preheat oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the center position I toast the pecan pieces while the oven heats up. Line a heavy or insulated cookie sheet with parchment paper. Don't grease the pan.
To make in a food processor: Combine the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl, and process for 20 seconds to combine thoroughly. Cut the butter into 20 pieces, add them with the vanilla, and use long pulses to bring the dough to large, moist curds, until it's almost cohesive. Add the nuts, and pulse only until they're chopped fine and a dough forms.
To make with a mixer: Finely chop the toasted pecans. Soften the butter, cut it into pieces, add to a mixing bowl with the sugar, and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in the salt and vanilla, and using a slow speed, mix in the flour only until a dough forms. Stir/fold in the chopped pecans by hand.
Pinch off pieces of the dough and roll them into balls that are 1 inch in diameter, the size that will sit in a teaspoon. Pour some granulated sugar in a shallow bowl, and roll each ball in it until it's very generously coated. Place the balls about 2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheet. Re-roll in sugar, if needed (some may absorb the sugar, leaving little as a coating). If the dough has softened during this process, chill the cookies, on the cookie sheet, until firm.
Bake on center rack for about 5 minutes, until the cookies have firmed a little and hold their shape but are still quite soft. If using the candied pecans, lightly press one in the center of each cookie. Reverse the cookie sheet (front to back), and continue to bake until the cookies are set and the bottoms and edges are golden, about 10 to 12 additional minutes.
Remove from the oven, place the cookie sheet on a rack, and immediately sprinkle more granulated sugar on the tops of the hot cookies. After about 10 minutes, use a spatula to move the cookies from the cookie sheet to a rack to cool completely. Store, airtight, for up to five days at cool room temperature or freeze for a month.
Vera Dawson is a high-altitude baking teacher and author of two high-altitude cookbooks, "Baking Above It All" and "Cookies in the Clouds" (available at The Bookworm of Edwards). Her recipes have been tested in her Summit County kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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