New Orleans Praline Disks

Pralines are those addictively rich New Orleans candy patties made from brown sugar, butter, and pecans. These cookies are close in flavor, but a little less rich. Please make sure the butter is really soft for these or they won’t spread and become as thin as they should during baking.

Ingredients

  • cups (about 7 ounces/200 grams) pecan pieces
  • cups light brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • cups all-purpose flour (spoon flour into a dry-measure cup and level off)
  • 2 or 3 cookie sheets or jelly-roll pans lined with parchment or foil

Method

  1. Set nicks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 375°F (180°C).
  2. Place ½ cup of the pecans in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Pulse until the pecans are finely chopped, but not ground to a powder. Remove and set aside. Combine the remaining cups of the pecan pieces and ½ cup of the brown sugar in the bowl of the food processor and pulse until the pecans and sugar are finely chopped but not ground to a powder.
  3. Combine the butter, the remaining brown sugar, and the pecan and sugar mixture in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat with the paddle on medium speed until well mixed, about 1 minute. Add the egg and vanilla and continue to beat just until smooth. Do not overheat.
  4. Decrease the speed to low and add the flour. Continue beating until the flour is just absorbed. Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a large rubber spatula to give a final mixing to the dough.
  5. Roll a rounded teaspoonful of the dough (a tiny ice-cream scoop is perfect for this) between the palms of your hands to make a little sphere. Place it on one of the prepared pans. Continue with the remaining dough, keeping the cookies about 2 inches (5 cm) apart on all sides. Use a fingertip to flatten the spheres of dough slightly and sprinkle them with the reserved chopped pecans.
  6. Bake the wafers until they spread and become brown around the edges, 12 to 15 minutes. After the first 7 to 8 minutes, place the pan from the lower rack on the upper one and vice versa, turning the pans back to front at the same time. If you know that your oven gives strong bottom heat, stack the pan on the lower rack on top of a second one for insulation. Slide the papers off the pans to cool the cookies. If you only have one more pan of wafers to bake, readjust one of the racks to the middle level.

Storage

Keep the wafers between sheets of wax paper in a tin or plastic container with a tight-fitting lid.

Variations

Substitute 1 tablespoon of Bourbon for the vanilla extract.

Make the spheres of dough slightly larger and after flattening them, top each with a pecan half that has been moistened on the bottom with a little egg white, instead of the chopped pecans.

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