Sunday, December 21, 2008

Mama's Pecan Finger Cookies, Crescents and Snowball Cookies

A heritage recipe from my Mama's collection, these pecan shortbread finger cookies are known by many names. Mama's recipe is just perfect and it is the one Christmas cookie above all others in my holiday baking!

Pecan Finger Cookies

Pecan finger cookies just speak Christmas to me. My Mama passed away just before Christmas in 1997, but this is the recipe she used to make with her sisters on their big Christmas holiday cookie night. One night while browsing through Mama's old cookbooks, there it was, handwritten in the back of one of them.

It is always still a little shocking to see her handwriting so long after she passed away. Every once in awhile I look at inscriptions on old cards that she gave me, and run my fingers across her words, wondering what she was thinking and feeling at the time that she signed them. (Yes folks, that is a pound of butter and 8 tablespoons, yes, 8 tablespoons of vanilla extract!)

Mama with her sisters, used to do big batches of all the cookies they made every holiday so that they could split them up, and though this is a fairly big batch, I'd be willing to bet that they probably at least doubled, and possibly even tripled this one. If I halve the recipe, I get about 2-1/2 dozen finger cookies, so I think the full recipe below probably yields about 5 dozen - depending on how fat you roll them. As you see, I tend to roll them kinda fat!

Speaking of which... don't expect the rolled "fingers" to stay completely round. They will, of course, flatten a bit on the bottom as they cook, but you can see that they still resemble a log or "finger" shape, which is how they got their name. These are known by many names across the world - often depending on how they are shaped. Pecan sandies, sand tarts, snowball cookies, pecan nougat cookies, Mexican hats, or Mexican wedding cookies, Russian tea cakes, Butterballs, and down in Cajun country, cocoons. Georgia, one of our Facebook readers, says that the Greeks and Germans use almonds and that the Greek Cookies are called Kourabiethes and the German cookies are Vanillekipferl. Apparently these are a well-loved cookie everywhere!

I have seen comments across the net about dry and crumbly dough for these types of cookies, but I can assure you that my Mama's recipe is anything but. They are simply perfect, and definitely a traditional Christmas cookie for me, and if I make no other, I always make these in memory of my mama. They are of course delicious and enjoyable any time of the year and would be great for any potluck, church supper, or as a funeral food. I hope that you enjoy them.
From Sara B: I have made 4 batches of your recipe SO FAR! FABULOUS...I have people asking for the recipe. Love baking and sharing recipes, esp. during the holidays! Thank you so much...Merry Christmas

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Recipe: Pecan Finger Cookies

©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 15 min |Cook time: 15 min | Yield: About 5 dozen

  • 1 pound butter
  • 8 tablespoons powdered sugar 
  • 5-1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 8 tablespoons pure vanilla extract (yes, that is 8 T. y'all)
  • 2 cups of chopped pecans
  • Additional powdered sugar for rolling finished cookie

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cream the butter, add the sugar and blend together. Add remaining ingredients, mixing well. Chill dough for about 10 minutes to make it easier to handle. Shape into small finger shaped logs and bake at 350 degrees F for 10 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned. May also bend and shape dough into a crescent shape for Crescent Cookies, or roll into a ball for Snowball Cookies.

Let cool slightly so that you can handle them but while still warm, roll in the extra powdered sugar to coat; re-roll in the powdered sugar several times if desired. I usually roll mine two or three times. Set aside to cool completely before storing.

Cook's Notes: I use White Lily flour and Land O'Lakes butter. If you use unsalted butter, add 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Yes, the amount of vanilla extract shown in this recipe is correct - 8 tablespoons.


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Posted by on December 12, 2008
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  1. 8 Tablespoons of vanilla?? Really???

  2. These are my Mama's Cocoons!!! She made them every Christmas, and my sisters and I have kept the tradition. LOVE them!!

  3. Thanks a million, Mary! I have several recipes for cocoons and other cookies of this type (including Vanillekipferl!), but I've NEVER been satisfied with the result. I know already that this is the one. THE one! Like my grandmother's cocoons! I can hardly wait to make them! Thanks for your generosity in sharing this precious heirloom recipe. Merry Christmas!

  4. Please let me know what you think Michele!

  5. Thank you so much for sharing this heirloom recipe. These "memory foods" are the most precious recipes to me. I'll add this one to my treasures!

  6. Just what I was looking for ~ made this recipe yesterday but used them for my jam thumbprint cookies. Everyone loved them ~ thanks for sharing the recipe!

  7. Quetcy I,made these today for a cookie swap I made three batches and got almost nineteen dozens. Of cookies they are very good,my mom and husband
    Loved them I wouldn't change a thing not to sweet just right will def keep this recipe,thank you for,sharing

    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to come back by and let me know! A lot of people get a little leery about the amount of vanilla & I have no idea why my Mama used that much but it works for me!! I'm so glad that they were a success & that your family enjoyed them!!

  8. Quetcy I just made these for a cookie swap and my mom and husband loved them would not Change a thing very good

  9. Hi! Thanks for posting, these look delicious - do you think they would roll out so I could shape the dough to fill them?

    1. I really don't know! It's basically a shortbread cookie, so I'm Just not sure how shortbread would take to a filling.

  10. SO I took the plunge and decided to use your recipe because it looked so good. I added a couple of tbs of milk and the dough rolled out beautifully after chilling. I used two different fillings - a caramel apple and maple butter, and folded them into triangle shaped cookies called Hamantaschen that are traditional cookies for the Jewish festival Purim. I didn't roll them in sugar at the end, the filling was sweet. They were absolutely DIVINE and I'm going to make these a tradition, thanks so much!

    1. Wonderful! Thanks so much for letting me know. Mama would be proud!!

  11. Mary, I've copied so many of your recipes to my computer files that I'm running low on
    I've had these before but didn't have the recipe. So good.

    1. :) I LOVE it!! Thanks for the smile this morning!!

  12. My old recipe came from a Swedish friend in the early 1960s and is very similar. Called Swedish Almond Balls, the recipe is very similar, but uses ground almonds and melted butter. My kids and grandkids beg for these every Christmas and are now making them themselves. A family favorite for several generations now!

  13. These are fabulous. I made a double recipe and am glad I did. They were a big hit.....thanks again for another wonderful recipe.

    Hope you and your family have a very Merry Christmas and joyous New Year.....

    1. Thanks Becky - Mama would be happy to hear you enjoyed her recipe! Merry Christmas & Happy New Year to you!!

  14. Here I am....reading your great recipes again!! A friend of my Mother's gave me a recipe when I got married for "Lady Fingers" which was a little different from these (not much) and I always loved them. Your recipe sounds very good!! Has a lot more vanilla! Yum!! I just got that card out to read it....her note at the bottom said to send 1/2 of yield to her!! Hand written recipes and cute added notes are such a wonderful trip back to the past. Have a Merry Christmas 2014!!!

  15. I made these for Christmas and every one went bananas for these cookies. My husband is having a club meeting tomorrow night and asked me to make them again. Thanks for the great recipe!!

  16. My mom and I use to make fingers every Christmas. She often makes them for family members weddings. I grew up in MS along the coast.

    1. They sure are a traditional cookie for us aren't they?

  17. Mary, These look absolutely wonderful. I love anything with pecans; IE: Pecan Sandies. They’re right up there with Oreo’s. I’m going to pass this along to my wife. She loves baking and making things like these.
    We had a traditional Christmas cookie in our house. Oddly enough, we’re Irish and the cookie is of Germanic origins. They’re called Pfeffernüsse. It’s a spicy drop cookie. I have no clue as to where the original recipe came from or why it became one of our traditions. The English have something vaguely similar; but nothing like it in Irish fare. My grandmother taught me how to make Pfeffernüsse back in the late 50’s. I still make them today.
    As always, thank you for this wonderful recipe. God bless.

    1. I've heard of them, but never made them. Need to!

  18. Hello about to try the Mama's Pecan Fingers, just checking no eggs in the mix....trying to make sure so I don't mess up, I use to get these from a local bakery and it closed...


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