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!
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, Meltaways, 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 per batch
Total time: 55 min
Yield: About 3 to 5 dozen

  • 1 pound salted 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 lightly salted 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 salted 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. I have used less, but that's what Mama used!


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Posted by on December 12, 2008
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