Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Sallies for Sally

The holidays are a time of joyful overindulgence. Why make one type of pie when you can make three? One main dish is nice—but why not two, so everyone can try a little of each?

Nowhere is this more true than with Christmas cookies. This month, most of the big food magazines have entire features devoted to cookies alone, and we all know a holiday cookie platter isn’t complete unless it includes at least three different kinds.

We all need to let loose sometime, right? And I’m all for it.

But what if you could only make one kind of Christmas cookie? Clearly, it’d have to be a knockout, and it would also have to include all the wonderful flavors that make this time of year so warm and toasty—regardless of the weather.

I set out to do that, and these sweet, spicy, ginger-flecked gems are the result. And not to brag or anything, but if these were the only Christmas cookies I got to eat this year, I’d be okay with it. Happily, it doesn’t have to be that way, and I can bake and eat and share as many different Christmas cookies as I want. But these will still be my favorite.

And the name? I have no idea. Well, I do, but it doesn’t make much sense, at least the Sally part. I was watching Mad Men last night and while baking this morning, poor, misunderstood Sally Draper popped into my mind. I’m sure Betty would flip out if she found her daughter snacking on any kind of treat, but Sallies sound like a sort of wholesome, classic name for a cookie, right? Right.

Pecan-Spice Sallies
If you don’t have pecans on hand, walnuts make a good substitute. But then you’ll have to change the name!

1/2 cup pecans
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 large egg
Zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup crystallized ginger, very finely chopped
1/2 cup powdered sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Place the pecans in a food processor and process until very fine. Transfer to a medium bowl along with the flour, spices, and salt. Mix well to combine.
3. In a large bowl or stand mixer, cream the butter and brown sugar until fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the honey, egg, and lemon zest and beat 1 more minute. Add the dry ingredients in batches, mixing until just combined. The dough will look slightly crumbly, but will hold together if you pinch a piece between your fingers. Fold in the crystallized ginger.
4. Roll the dough into gumball-size balls and place on the prepared baking sheets. (The cookies won’t expand, so there’s no need to worry about spacing them very far apart.) Bake 15 to 16 minutes, or until just set. They’ll look slightly underdone on top, but the bottoms will be lightly brown.
5. Allow cookies to cool for 5 to 10 minutes before rolling in the powdered sugar. Once cooled completely, they’ll store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Makes about 30 cookies

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