Joy of Baking

Lemon-pecan butter cookies

(Karoline Boehm Goodnick for The Boston Globe)
May 19, 2010

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Makes about 30

What makes these lemon-butter cookies irresistible is a lightly cakey, butter-infused crumb. The texture is created by using good unsalted butter, creaming it for a few minutes, then adding the sugar, and creaming the two ingredients a little longer. This builds the structure of the dough. Then beat in egg yolks, lemon rind and extract, and toasted pecans. Once you place the mounds of dough on the baking sheets, dust them with granulated sugar, which gives a little sheen and light sweetness to the baked rounds. This time of year, a plate of cookies goes well with a bowl of fruit salad, poached pears, or scoops of sorbet after dinner. The little confections are not hard to make, and if you tuck some in the freezer, you won’t have to do a thing next time you need dessert.

3/4 cup pecans
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt, preferably fine sea salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
Grated rind of 1 lemon
1/4 teaspoon lemon extract
Extra sugar (for sprinkling)

1. Set the oven at 350 degrees. Spread the pecans on a baking sheet and set them in the oven. Cook, tossing once or twice, for 12 minutes or until lightly toasted. Leave to cool. Chop the nuts coarsely.

2. Turn the oven down to 300 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

3. In a bowl, whisk the flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt just to blend them.

4. In a mixer, beat the butter on medium-low speed for 3 minutes. Add the sugar in two additions, and beat for 1 minute. Blend in the egg yolks, lemon rind, and extract.

5. With the mixer set on the lowest speed, add the flour mixture in two additions, adding the nuts with the second addition. Beat just until the flour is absorbed.

6. Place heaping, rounded 1 tablespoon mounds of dough on the baking sheets, spacing them about 2 inches apart. Sprinkle the tops with sugar.

7. Bake the cookies for 20 to 25 minutes or until they are softly set and the tops are golden. Let the cookies stand on the sheets for 1 minute, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

Lisa Yockelson