Recipes at the Ready

One of my go-to albums in MemoryWeb is an ever-growing collection of recipes I like to have wherever I go. Having these recipes in an album let's me reference the ingredients when I’m at the store, and I can make these dishes from anywhere in the world. Plus, I love seeing the handwritten recipe cards.

Do you have any coveted family recipes that make you think of the original chef whenever you make them?

For me, that's my grandmother Kathe's (pronounced Katie) pecan shortbread cookies. My oma* was an incredible cook. Not only could she whip up a dinner worthy of a king, but the woman could also bake like a dream.

Whenever I make the pecan shortbread cookies she called Pecan Puffs, I think about how my oma perfected her culinary skills - and her business savvy - after coming to the US as a young woman.

Through a winding path (a story for another time), she was hired as the cook/housekeeper at a large estate on Long Island, NY, and spent many years developing and perfecting her recipes there. Not only was Kathe was tasked with cooking for the family who lived there, much to their delight and expanded waistbands, but she also earned overtime by prepping the food for the many parties they held each year.

My oma was celebrated across the Island for the incredible finger foods she created for these events. Dripping with flattery, the wealthy ladies in attendance often asked Kathe to write down the recipes so their own cooks could make them. Now, my grandmother was a wise woman. She realized that giving the recipes to the other families could make her expendable, so she knew just how to manage these requests.

The very charismatic Kathe would gush at the praise heaped upon her dishes and say, yes, of course, she'd be happy to share her recipes. She would then walk away, make a big production of writing everything in beautiful print, and would hand the paper over with her best regards.

The funny thing is, no one was able to make the dishes taste even remotely as good as the ones Kathe prepared. So, my oma was always in high demand for catering gigs, which fed her ego as much as the nest egg she was building.

Why did Kathe's recipes never turn out right for other people? Well, my crafty grandmother would purposely leave out a key ingredient and/or change the proportions, so no one could replicate her dish exactly. Lucky for me, that policy didn't extend to family, so I am able to share her recipe for pecan shortbread cookies with you today in its entirety - I promise!

* Oma is German for grandmother


Oma Heinz's "Pecan Puffs" Shortbread Cookies

Batch size: 100 cookies

Ingredients:

2.5 sticks of salted butter, at room temperature
2.5 cups all-purpose flour
1.25 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2.5 cups ground unsalted pecans*
5 teaspoons granulated sugar
2 lb bag powdered sugar

Steps:

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees
  2. Mix butter, flour, vanilla, pecans, and granulated sugar in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Roll pieces of dough into balls, roughly 1 inch in size
  4. Place dough balls on an ungreased cookie sheet spaced a few inches apart (do not press or flatten the dough balls)
  5. Cook for 45 minutes**
  6. While cookies bake, pour the powdered sugar into a shallow baking dish or pan
  7. Place sheets of wax paper or parchment paper near the powdered sugar dish (enough to place all your cookies when done)
  8. Remove cookies from oven and cool for 5 minutes
  9. After 5 minutes, gently roll the still-warm cookies in the powdered sugar until fully coated. You may want to use metal spoons to do the rolling so the sugar doesn't stick to your fingers.
  10. Place sugar-coated cookies onto the wax or parchment paper to cool
  11. Enjoy!

* You can use roasted or unroasted pecans. I prefer the roasted kind. For an extra fresh-taste, I buy the nuts in halves or pieces and grind them fresh in a food processor (they should look about the size of grains of sand).

** The dough will not flatten out much, so expect to see the cookies maintain a ball shape with a flattened bottom when done. They will have very slight cracking on the top. Do not cook for more than 45 minutes or the cracks will become large and the cookies will crumble.


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