Jul 6, 2010

Toasted Pecan-Cinnamon Wafers

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I love my life. Really, truly I do. The husband, Little C, our home here in San Francisco, the craziness, all of it. But it’s taken a lot of work and overly dramatic, awkward young woman years to get to this place, believe you me. You couldn’t pay me to go back to being in my early 20s. Well, maybe I’d go back to what I like to call my Georgia Period. Just for a day. That was pretty sweet. And by “sweet” I mean mostly drunk and full of questionable choices and eating lots of incredible southern food with my best friend from high school who went to college there and gave me plenty of excuses to visit often and wreak delightful havoc on the city of Atlanta.

It was so much ridiculous fun that I swore that I would move there one day, become a Yankee-turned-Southern Belle and throw elaborate, overtly feminine luncheons during which I would serve sweet tea and tiny sandwiches and the sort of delicate, heirloom recipe wafer-like cookies that provoke un-ladylike gossip. However, that was not to be (and, really, thankfully so). But that doesn’t mean I didn’t transport back to those old daydreams when I was stuffing my face with these completely perfect Toasted Pecan-Cinnamon Wafers with a tall glass of sweetened iced tea a few weeks ago.

To be honest, I didn’t have extremely high hopes for these cookies. It was the sort of day where I just felt like baking whatever, and began leafing through cookbooks I hadn’t used in a while for inspiration. I happened to land upon a recipe for an unassuming icebox butter cookie I hadn’t tried before. Simple enough, I thought. I could slice and bake half the dough, freeze the rest. I had a hankering for something involving cinnamon and a sack of pecans in the pantry. Done and done. Well.

The combination of toasty pecans and vibrant Vietnamese cinnamon is totally magical here, people. Have you tried Vietnamese cinnamon yet? Because you really should. It’s all I use for baking now. It’s like cinnamon on steroids. Spicy and sweet, it tastes exactly like Red Hots candy, and nothing like the sort of dust-flavored ground cinnamon you get at the supermarket. It really helps to make this cookie something special and seriously addictive, something I just didn’t see coming from a humble butter cookie recipe.

Don’t you just love it when you have no expectations for something and than that thing rocks you so hard you feel like you got clocked in the face, making you curse out loud before you ask for another? Yeah, that’s this cookie. Every time I reached for one and took a bite, it surprised me all over again. And what’s better, the flavors seemed to really bloom over a couple of days. I’m telling you, this cookie will charm the pants off you. Just like a good old Southern boy. Oh, I said it.

Toasted Pecan-Cinnamon Wafers
Adapted from Tartine

Makes about 3-4 dozen

Toast the pecans while the oven is preheating for about 10 minutes or so or until fragrant. If you’ve never tried Vietnamese cinnamon, now is the time. It is intense, spicy and sweet and tastes exactly like Red Hots candy and I covet it. Use a bit more regular ground cinnamon if that’s all you’ve got. The original recipe called for walnuts, and suggested pine nuts or almonds, too. I’m in love with pecans here, but those sound delicious, too.

For the cookies:

1 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
11 tablespoons unsalted butter, at cool room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup pecans, toasted and chopped

For the coating:

2 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons heavy cream (milk is fine too)
2/3 cup sugar

Whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar on medium speed just until combined and creamy–do not whip. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and salt until the egg is uniformly beaten and liquified, and add it to the butter and sugar, beating to blend. Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed until a smooth dough forms. Stir in the pecans.

Turn the dough out onto a plastic wrap or parchment-lined work surface and shape the dough into a rectangular slab, about 1x4x8 inches. Wrap the dough tightly and refrigerate until firm, about 4 hours (you can also store it in the freezer for future use).

When you’re ready to bake, position a rack to the center of the oven and preheat it to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

Unwrap the dough slab and slice it in half lengthwise into two 2-inch wide logs. Beat together the egg yolks and cream in a small bowl, and spread the sugar out in an even layer on a work surface. Brush each log lightly with egg wash and dredge generously in the sugar. Slice each log crosswise into about 1/8-inch thick slices (no more than 1/4-inch thick, otherwise they will not really crisp up). Place the slices on the prepared baking sheet and bake until firm and just golden on the edges, about 15-17 minutes. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Store an airtight container for up to 1 week at room temperature.

  • Most of my baking experiments don't always turn out as I hoped so I'm glad this turned out so well for you! It definitely looks delicious! I will have to look for Vietnamese cinnamon.. I don't think I've heard of it before. Thanks!

  • First off, everything about these cookies sounds good. Especially the red hot cinnamon part. Red hots are my favorite candy. Second off, I live in Arkansas so I can tell you with authority that women here do not have fancy lunches with tiny sandwiches. They mainly eat crispitos from the gas station.
    Being that I am originally from Ohio, I was somewhat disappointed when I found this out. But there you have it.
    Awesome cookies, girl!

  • I live for Vietnamese cinnamon–it just brings everything up a (very big) notch. Your post really made me smile–I tend to have this same daydream about moving to North Caroline near the intracoastal waterway i.e., too many Nicholas Sparks books read on long plane rides!!

  • NB–You might also find it called Saigon cinnamon, just FYI. So, so worth it.

    Kristan–Why you gotta dash my dreams like that? I thought everyone down that way was living in an endless episode of "Designing Women".

    Lucie–Yes! I will maintain the daydream with you.

  • OMG. These look SO good.

  • I also just discovered Vietnamese cinnamon. But the saddest part about my discovery was that it was sitting in my pantry for almost a month until I finally got around to using it for the first time. I'm making up for lost time now!

  • oooh, I will have to look for that cinnamon!
    And don't you think the un-ladylike gossip around the feminine table is really all about southern women trying to promote balance…at least that's what I tell myself ūüėČ

  • I have no idea if I can get Vietnamese cinammon in the UK but I'll definitely look into it! These look amazing! I love cinammon and as I have recently discovered a love for pecans (I never thought I liked baking with nuts and have now realised how wrong I've been – and I'm busy trying to make up for lost time!), these sound absolutely perfect!

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