Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Wednesday Work in Progress - 2014 Christmas Cookie of the Year Edition

It's that time…what recipe will earn the title of 2014 Christmas Cookie?
Previous winners have included:  2013 Chocolate Sugar Cookie…2012 Irish Cream Cookies...2011 Chocolate Peppermint Kiss Cookie…and 2010 Sparkly Peppermint Cookies
The cookie bar is set pretty high!

First up,  Caramel Pecan Cookies
Actually they are called "Jeweled Pyramids"
and were a finalist in the current Cook's Country magazine Christmas Cookie Contest (December/January 2015 issue)

Caramel Pecan Cookies

What I liked:  You mix all the ingredients in the food processor, one less bowl/mixer to clean up.
It made extra caramel sauce!  And there are leftover chopped pecans to use for other recipes.   There aren't any eggs in this recipe.  Not much (brown) sugar, either - only 1/2 cup.

However -- Two sticks of butter!

What made me go "Hmmm…":  They were still gooey (the caramel) almost 6 hours later.  I also live in humid Houston but today was not really an especially humid day.  Definitely reconsider making these in the Summer!  I am running an experiment to see how they freeze after being dipped in caramel and pecans.   Perhaps if you want to make them in advance, you could bake and then freeze to the point before dipping.  These may not be a mailable gift treat.  (Apologies to the volunteer taste-testers mailing distance away.)

2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) all purpose flour
2 1/2 cups (10 ounces) pecans - 1 cup is for the dough, the rest for the dipping
2 sticks (16 tablepoons) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled.
1/2 cup packed (3 1/2 ounces) light brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 bag of Kraft caramels
1/4 cup milk (I used skim)

1.  Adjust oven rack to upper middle and lower middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees.  Line 2 (4) baking sheets with parchment paper.  Pulse flour, 1 cup pecans, butter, sugar, vanilla and salt in food processor until combined and dough starts to hold shape.  Transfer to bowl and press together.
2.  Original instructions-divide dough into 24 balls, form each into a pyramid shape and space evenly on prepared sheets.  Bake until light golden, 20-25 minutes, switch and rotate sheets halfway through. Let cookies cook on sheet for 5 minutes, and then transfer to wire rack and cool completely.  Save the parchment paper on the cookie sheets.
3.  Microwave caramels and milk in bowl, I stirred about every 20-30 seconds, until melted and smooth, about 3 minutes.  Place remaining pecans (see my advice below) in a shallow dish.  Dip the top point of each pyramid/cookie in caramel to coat and then lightly dip into the pecans.  Return to sheets and let cookies set for at least 20 minutes before serving.

- When I can, I weigh my ingredients.  I feel it is more accurate, especially for flour and nuts.
- I also pre-chopped the pecans in the food processor first, emptied it and then filled with the rest of the ingredients.
- Also forewarning, you only use 1 cup of pecans in the dough.  I also think you could get away with 2 cups of pecans.  I had a lot extra.
- Don't pour out all the chopped pecans on the dipping plate.  Replenish as needed.  Those that don't stick on the first pass will start to pick up the excess caramel. A tasty treat for the clean up crew, though.
- If you make the dough balls/triangles big gum ball sized (not jaw-breaker ones), you can get over 4 dozen instead of the two dozen the recipe indicated.   They still baked for about the same time, 21 minutes.  
- With the salted caramel craze, perhaps a sprinkling of sea salt might be yummy, too!

On to the next contender!

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