My mom, Betty Keller, was a creature of habit. She worked very hard at her job managing restaurants while raising five boys and a daughter as a single mother. She loved to have cookies on hand at the end of the day, and she especially loved the Keebler pecan sandie. It was part of my childhood, and it's a flavor combination, vanilla and pecan, that I associate with her. It was an adult cookie to me. There was always a bag of them in the cupboard.
Or almost always. We were six kids, and we were voracious. That was a problem when it came to my mother's cookies. We had our own cookies, Oreos and Nutter Butters, but when we'd dispatched those, there would be that bag of Mom's pecan sandies, daring us. It was really hard. Those cookies were sacrosanct, but sometimes, guiltily, we ate her cookies, one by one, until they were gone.
Mom had very few things she could call her own. She had no real luxuries. We didn't have winter family vacations; we didn't go to a cabin by a lake in the summer. She worked, and she gave us everything we wanted and needed. But we didn't appreciate it then. How could we know? How could I, youngest of the boys, know?
But I do now. Day after day, year after year, Mom set an extraordinary example for me. An example of hard work, attention to detail, and an all-consuming love for our family that I still have today.
Food is a powerful connecter of who we are to who we were, to our past, to our memories, and, for me, to a different and simpler time. Even the smallest thing--a cookie--can help us understand what we feel now while reminding us of what we once felt and who we've become versus who we were then. So much of who I am today is tied to who my mom was, the choices she made, the way she worked, and how she lived her life. What success I have today, I owe to her.
All of which is why the pecan sandie is so important to me.
- 1 3/4 cups + 1 1/2 teaspoons All-purpose flour (250 grams)
- 3/4 cup Coarsely chopped pecans (80 grams)
- 4 ounces Unsalted butter, at room temperature (170 grams)
- 3/4 cup + 1 3/4 teaspoons Powdered sugar (90 grams)
- Additional powdered sugar for dusting (optional)
Position the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F (convection) or 350°F (standard). Line two sheet pans with Silpats or parchment paper.
Toss the flour and pecans together in a medium bowl.
Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on medium-low speed until smooth. Add the 90 grams/3/4 cup plus 1 3/4 teaspoons powdered sugar and mix for about 2 minutes, until fluffy. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed for about 30 seconds, until just combined. Scrape the bottom of the bowl to incorporate any dry ingredients that have settled there.
Divide the dough into 30-gram/1 1/2-tablespoon portions, roll into balls, and arrange on the sheet pans, leaving about 1 1/2 inches between them. Press the cookies into 2-inch disks.
Bake until pale golden brown, 15 to 18 minutes if using a convection oven, 22 to 25 minutes if using a standard oven, reversing the positions of the pans halfway through. (Sandies baked in a convection oven will not spread as much as those baked in a standard oven and will have a more even color.)
Set the pans on a cooling rack and cool for 5 to 10 minutes. Using a metal spatula, transfer the cookies to the rack to cool completely.
If desired, dust with powdered sugar.
The cookies can be stored in a covered container for up to 3 days.