If you are like me, new to baking with unrefined sugars, this naturally sweetened pecan shortbread cookies recipe is a good place to start. These easy-to-make cookies freeze well so you can make a few batches and store them in your freezer for future baking.
Perfect for the upcoming holidays!
For a few weeks now, I have been working with a web designer to make the recipe index page of this website more user friendly. The plan is to have an easy to navigate filter system that will help readers find recipes with a few clicks. As I have been diligently working on a category structure for every recipe, I am realizing certain categories have fewer recipes than the others. Baking and cookies section are two of them. I guess that is mainly because I have a few cookie recipes that I make over and over again and do not feel the need to venture out. However, after seeing the need, I decided that it was about time to fill the gap and get baking. These naturally sweetened pecan shortbread cookies are the first of a few cookie recipes coming to your way.
Naturally Sweetened versus Granulated Sugar Sweetened
As the name suggests, these cookies are naturally sweetened. In other words, instead of using granulated sugar I used natural cane sugar (this brand in particular). If you are like me, new to baking with unrefined sugars, allow me to explain. The main difference between natural cane sugar (also called Sucanat) and granulated white sugar is the way that they were produced. While producing granulated sugar requires heavy duty and mechanical processing, producing natural cane sugar requires far fewer steps and no chemicals to get from plant to packaging. (source*)
Now you may ask, is baking with natural cane sugar a healthier choice? Even though the answer is yes, I prefer to be cautious, as it is a proven fact that too much of any kind of sweetener, regardless of how natural it is, does not promote health. With that being said, as we are approaching the holiday baking season, I think a small switch from granulated sugar to natural sweeteners like natural cane sugar, dates, maple syrup, honey or coconut sugar might be a healthier choice.
This recipe is created by the talented cooks of the America’s Test Kitchen and published on their newest cookbook Naturally Sweet. I have been baking from it for a few weeks now and everything I made (including these pecan shortbread cookies) turned out great.
About this Naturally Sweetened Pecan Shortbread Cookies Recipe:
The process of making this cookie could not be easier, but there are a few crucial tips I want to give you to get the best results. First, as you will read in the recipe below, you need to use a spice/coffee grinder to grind the natural cane sugar (a.k.a. Sucanat). This step is very important, as unlike granulated sugar, Sucanat’s granules are irregular in size due to the way it was produced.
For these cookies to have a buttery and soft texture, you need to make sure that your sugar has a powdery texture. I did try grinding it in my food processor, but (1) it took a long time for it to reach to that ‘fine’ texture and (2) it was visibly hard on the food processor. It did work in the end, but I thought that grinding it in my coffee grinder was much easier and safer than doing it in my food processor.
Second, after you add the wet ingredients into the dry ones in the food processor, you would have to stop the machine and scrape the bowl a few times before continuing. Doing so will help you get a cohesive and smooth dough.
Third, do not be alarmed if the dough has a powdery texture when you transfer it on to your work surface. When I first tried this recipe, at this stage, I thought I did something wrong. However, as you knead the dough, it will get easier to shape with the help of your body heat. Since this was the one and only “tricky” part of this recipe, I thought it would be nice to show it to you in a quick video so be sure to watch it.
Last but not least, once your logs are wrapped, make sure to let them sit in the fridge. The original recipe suggests at least 2 hours of refrigerating, but I personally thought that letting it sit overnight resulted in better cookies. Also, I froze the last batch and baked it a week later. They were just as delicious so if you want to make a few batches and freeze them for later feel free to do so.Print
Naturally Sweetened Pecan Shortbread Cookies
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 19 minutes
- Total Time: 39 minutes
- Yield: 28-30 cookies
- Category: Cookies
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: American
- ¾ cup (4 oz.) natural cane sugar
- 1 cup pecans, divided
- 2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
- 2 tablespoons water, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 8 tablespoons of butter, melted and cooled
- 2 ¼ cups (11 ¼ oz) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 large egg white mixed with 2 tablespoons of water
- Using a spice/coffee grinder, ground the natural cane sugar in 3 batches until it is fine and powdery. Set aside.
- Reserve 30 of the whole pecan-halves to use as garnishing. It should be ½ cup in total.
- Whisk together egg yolks, water, vanilla extract, and butter in a small mixing bowl until combined. Set aside.
- Place the rest of the pecans (approximately ½ cup) in the bowl of a food processor and process until coarsely ground. Add in the flour, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg. Process until combined.
- While the food processor is still running, add the butter mixture through the tube. Process until thoroughly combined. You may have to stop the food processor a few times and scrape the bottom of the bowl with a spatula.
- Transfer the dough onto a clean work surface and knead until smooth. It might be a little powdery, but it will come together as you knead with the body heat from your hands.
- Using a knife, divide the dough into two equal pieces.
- Roll each dough into a 6-inch log that is about 2-inches thick. Wrap each log tightly using stretch film and place upright in tall glasses. Refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours up to 2 days.
- When ready to bake, pre-heat the oven to 325 F degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Working with one log of dough at a time, slice into ¼-inch thick cookies, turning log every few slices to prevent sides from flattening. Space them ¾-inch apart from each other on prepared sheets.
- Brush cookies with the egg white-water mixture, then gently press the reserved pecan halves into center of each cookie.
- Bake one sheet at a time, until the edges of cookies are beginning to brown and set, 16-19 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through baking. Let the cool before serving.
1. The number of cookies you end up with might change with the size of your logs.
2. As you will see in the video, I only baked one of the rolls. I froze the second roll to see if it will still be good in a few days. Before I was ready to bake, I took the frozen dough out of the freezer, let it thaw in the fridge overnight, sliced, and baked it in the morning. It was just as good. So feel free to freeze them for fresh shortbread cookies for future.
This recipe is adapted (with minor changes) from America’s Test Kitchen’s cookbook: Naturally Sweet: Bake All Your Favorites with 30% to 50% Less Sugar