I first came across these cookies (or puffs) in Waitrose Illustrated. Sophie Grigson called them pecan puffs and cited The Joy of Cooking as her source. Then I spotted that Phil Vickery was making something called Festive Pecan Puffs which looked exactly the same. Finally, I noticed that Cook’s Illustrated had devoted an article to something called Mexican Wedding Cookies which replicated the Grigson-Joy-Vickery puff in both ingredients and method.
This recipe is so short and so unassuming that I can’t quite believe it has been claimed not only by individuals but by a nation. But then I suppose the Scottish have done the same with shortbread, the Welsh with Welsh cakes and the English with, erm, fruit cake? Not sure about that one. I’m not really sure what I conclude from this; perhaps that the best recipes, the ones that people make over and over again, don’t really belong to anyone since they become part of a culture. And that, despite what book publishers and food writers would have us believe, there is no such thing as an original recipe. You only have to read a bit of Elizabeth David or dip into the Larousse Gastronomique to see that most recipes are derivations of certain basic and well-trusted techniques. But I’m not sure that matters. If it works, if it’s easy and if it tastes good then, well, who cares who invented it. And the recipe for these nutty, shortbread biscuits, wherever they came from and whatever they’re called, is so simple and yummy it deserves to be shared.
Pecan Puffs (adapted from Waitrose Illustrated)
You will need:
110g pecans, shelled
110g unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tbsp caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
150g plain flour
icing sugar, for coating/dredging
1. Preheat the oven to 150C (or 130C fan-assisted)/gas 2.
2. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment or, if you have one, a reusable baking liner.
3. Grind the nuts to a powder in a food processor or (clean) coffee grinder.
5. Add the vanilla extract to the beaten butter and sugar, mix together then beat in the nuts and finally the flour.
6. Break off small lumps of the mixture and roll into balls (I find having slightly damp hands helps for this).
7. Place the balls on the baking tray, leaving a bit of a gap between them (mine have never spread far and I find I can get 25 or so on a standard size tray) and bake for about 25 minutes or until golden (Sophie G says 29 which strikes me as madly exact).
8. Take them out of the oven, but leave it turned on, and leave to cool for a couple of minutes.
9. Whilst the puffs/cookies are cooling, sift some icing sugar onto a plate and, after the couple of minutes are up, roll them in the icing sugar, return them to the baking sheet and to the oven for about a minute so that the icing sugar can ‘set’ on them.