Moving has been an ongoing theme in my family recently.
They’re moving in with my parents, bringing the total number of full-time occupants to four humans and three dogs. (When I visit, you can add a dog and a cat, which brings us to an equal five humans and five pets, teehee.)
The move has been a gradual one, and if I’m being completely honest, it’s turned me into a grubby little scavenger, mostly of kitchen goods. I called first dibs on the charcoal grill (which, to be fair, likely would have been trashed otherwise) and when I was last in New Hampshire, my family was setting up a garage sale for the following weekend. I hit those tables hard, y’all. I grabbed some vases and a blanket, while debating a trifle bowl, ya know, for all the trifles and layered salads I make literally none of the time before ultimately deciding to let it go. I’m proud of me.
We went over to my grandparents’ house to help move some things and that’s when the real damage happened. I upgraded my stand mixer and picked up some promising cookbooks, including the Silver Palate Cookbook, The Joy of Cooking, and a cookbook all about cookies.
One thing to know about my grandparents is that they have an afternoon cup of tea and a cookie or two on a daily basis. It’s one of the things I love most about them.
This means they’ve got tea gear, and plenty of it. By the time we got to their house, my mom had already unloaded one of her teapots on me to make room for more. (Lol at my mom telling me I need to stop acquiring kitchen things – you’re an enabler, Anne!) Accordingly, when my nana asked if there was anything in particular that I needed, I told her teacups, and that’s how I added five or six teacups to my growing haul.
All this is to say I had a fair number of goods to scurry back to Brooklyn with and disperse throughout the apartment. And though I scavenged like a little pizza rat, it wasn’t the most disjointed collection of homewares. Two things in particular go hand in hand to me; the cookie cookbook and the mismatched tea set.
Though I don’t have a daily cup of tea, I always love partaking in that ritual. To quote my favorite podcaster, Karen from My Favorite Murder, “I just love the fact that people cut out times in the day to drink tea and eat cookies.”*
I really do. It’s warming and luxurious, even if it only lasts ten minutes. And tea cookies are such a treat! To me, a perfect tea cookie is small, only a bite or two, and definitely not your run of the mill chocolate chip (although, twist my arm, I’d still take one of those).
Within the first two minutes of flipping through the cookie cookbook, I found the perfect sounding tea cookie – the Maple Pecan Sandwich Cookie.
It’s small, has great flavors, and is definitely special. These cookies are a labor of love, but to me, that makes them even better; it makes the luxury of the tea ritual even more satisfying. I made them in one afternoon, but you can easily split the process in two.
A few days after I baked these little discs of maple-y goodness, I made some tea for my roommates and myself. It was a drizzly Sunday afternoon, another desirable trait for an afternoon cup of tea. We sat for a few minutes and chatted and soon after, I went to work on dinner (which was this, by the way). It wasn’t long and it wasn’t anything fancy, but it was just enough of a pick-me-up to tide me over through dinner prep and cocktails.
I have a tin of these in the freezer, waiting to be taken up to New Hampshire and doled out to my parents and grandparents when we next have tea together. Hopefully it’ll be another damp afternoon with the pets at our feet and maybe even a good old BBC procedural on in the living room while we discuss who is making what for dinner.
Maple Pecan Sandwich Cookies
Adapted (hardly) from The All-American Cookie Book
Yields: A lot of cookies (i.e. 40-50 little sandwiches)
Note: If you want to break this into a two-day project, you can make the cookie dough and leave it in the freezer for twenty-four hours. You can make the buttercream and leave it in the fridge for the same amount of time, and bake/frost on day two. You can also make all the cookies in one day and frost the next day. It’s up to you!
For the cookie:
1 cup (4 ounces) toasted pecans, chopped
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
Generous ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ cup packed brown sugar (your choice of light or brown)
¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, slightly softened
2/3 cup powdered sugar
3 ½ tables spoons pure maple syrup
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
For the maple buttercream:
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1 cup powdered sugar
6 ½ tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 tablespoons toasted pecans, finely chopped
Maldon sea salt, to taste (or any flaky finishing salt)
- In a medium bowl, thoroughly stir together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
- For the cookies: In a food processor, process the pecans and brown sugar continuously until it forms a cohesive paste. This should take 3-4 minutes and you will need to stop every now and then to scrape down the sides of the processor bowl. Add the butter and process until well blended. Add the powdered sugar, maple syrup, egg yolk, and vanilla, and process until very well-blended and smooth. Add the flour mixture and process in pulses just until evenly incorporated. (My processor only holds 3 cups and was a little too small, so I blended the dry and wet ingredients in a bowl with a rubber spatula, also until just evenly incorporated.)
- Divide the dough in thirds as evenly as you can. Place each portion between two sheets of wax/parchment paper. Using a rolling pin, roll out each portion until it’s roughly a generous 1/8 inch thick, as smoothly as you can. Stack these portions, still sandwiched between paper, on a baking sheet. Freeze for thirty minutes, or until chilled and firm.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line two rimmed baking sheets with silpats or parchment paper.
- In a small bowl, mix together the 4 tablespoons of chopped pecans and however much finishing salt you like.
- Working one portion at a time and leaving the rest of the dough in the freezer, gently peel one sheet of paper away, keeping it to one side. Using a 1 ½-to-1 ¾ inch round cookie cutter, cut out the cookies and transfer them with a thin metal spatula to one of your baking sheets, leaving about 1 ½ inches between each cookie. If your dough becomes too warm to handle, place back into the freezer. Re-roll any scraps once they warm up (doesn’t take long), and freeze as you did the first time. Continue until both baking sheets are full. (I filled mine with the same number of cookies to insure easy sandwich-ing.) On one sheet, sprinkle the tops of cookies with the pecan-salt mixture and press down very slightly. These will be the sandwich tops.
- Bake the cookies one sheet at a time in the upper third of the oven for 6-8 minutes, flipping the baking sheet (front to back) midway. The cookies should be just twinged with brown and slightly darker around the edges.
- Transfer the first baking sheet to a wire rack to cool while you put the other baking sheet in. Once each batch has been out of the oven for a few minutes, transfer the cookies directly to the wire rack with a thin, metal spatula until completely cool.
- Repeat steps 6-8 until all cookies are baked.
- Meanwhile, to make the buttercream frosting: In a small, heavy saucepan, bring the maple syrup to a simmer over medium-high heat. Simmer briskly for 2 minutes and remove from the heat. Allow to cool until barely warm.
- Pour the syrup in your food processor and add the powdered sugar, butter, and vanilla. Process until well blended and smooth.
- To assemble: Pair each bottom round (without any pecans) with a top round (with pecans). You can spread the buttercream on or you can use a pastry bag (or a large plastic bag with a corner cut off) to pipe the buttercream out, which I find much easier. Either way, put about a teaspoon of buttercream on each bottom round and top with a top round, pecans on the outside of the cookie. Gently press down.
- After all that work, admire your dainty, little discs and treat yourself to one or two. The others can go in airtight containers in the fridge for about a week or the freezer for about a month (or longer, really).
*From episode 33 of My Favorite Murder. In reference to watching Rosemary & Thyme, an old British procedural about to middle-aged English ladies solving crimes and drinking tea. Sounds like the perfect show to watch while you have tea and cookies yourself, if you ask me.