Chunky Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookies for Papa

My grandfather passed away recently. It’s never easy to lose a loved one, even though you know it’s coming when you see their health declining.

He lived a long, good life and made it until the ripe old age of 90. This blows my mind.

How do people make it to their nineties these days? He is survived by my grandmother, who is 91.

I’ll go ahead and say it… They were the cutest couple on the planet. Maybe even the universe. This April would have been their 72nd wedding anniversary. I’m serious. The thought of my husband tolerating me for that long seems impossible, but they made it. I can still hear him calling for her in that sweet voice from across the house. “Eloise? Have you seen my billfold?” He was a very hard-working man with a fiery temper and an immensely deep love for his family. He would go over the moon for any of us at any time, especially Grandma. I’ve never seen a man love his wife more than he loved her.

He was a man you wouldn’t want to mess with if you threatened his family. Forget Mama Bear, Papa Bear would tear you to shreds in an instant.

Perfect example…

Thirteen years ago, I was visiting my parents when my dad had a heart attack. My mom was at the hospital with my dad, and I had come back to their house to take a shower. It was dark outside, and I was alone in the house. After getting out of the shower and drying off, I heard someone knocking at the back door. No one EVER knocks on the back door. It freaked me out. I stayed in the bathroom with the door locked and waited for a few minutes, listening to my heart pound in my ears. After throwing a towel on my head and getting dressed, I bolted into a nearby bedroom to call my mom and see if they were expecting anyone to stop by. “Um, no. You said they knocked on the back door? Are you sure?” I replied, “I’m 100% positive it was the back door. Do NOT tell Daddy, he doesn’t need any more stress on top of all this and he’ll get super paranoid. I’ll keep my eyes peeled and the doors locked.”

What did she do?

You guessed it, she told my dad.

Lord help us.

He started making phone calls to different neighbors, and called my grandparents who lived five minutes away.

Papa was on his way over.

At this point, Papa was in his late seventies, but still walked and rode his bicycle several miles a day. Every day. He stayed active working on the yard and in his workshop, also helping Grandma with the garden. They both grew up on a farm, and he was in three branches of the military. Oh, and he ALWAYS had a pocket knife on him.

He gets to the house and is on high alert. We’re talking about who could have knocked on the unlit back door. A few minutes later, the front doorbell rings. I look over and see a guy from across the street, armed with a smile and a casserole dish. Surely he looked threatening.

Papa whips out that pocket knife, gets a grimaced, teeth-gritted look on his face and starts stomping toward the front door with the knife pointed out to confront the intruder.

“PAPA!!! Put the knife away!!!! Stop!” I cried, and sprinted across the room. Luckily I beat him  by a split second, opened the door to the unsuspecting neighbor, Papa standing behind me ready to cut some booty.

“Hi! We heard about your dad being in the hospital, and my wife made y’all a baked ziti.” Papa still had that knife in his hand, and the neighbor looked at him, slightly puzzled. I responded, “Thank you so much. They’re both still at the hospital, but I’ll take that and put it in the fridge. Did you by any chance come by earlier and knock on the back door?” He said, “Yeah, I came to the front door first and wasn’t sure if the doorbell worked, so I tried the back door.”

Whew.

I thanked him again and sent him on his way.

As I turned around to look at Papa, I saw that grimaced look on his face with the knife STILL in his hand.

“You can put the knife away now, Papa. The baked ziti won’t hurt us.”

For many years, Papa and Grandma would go our family’s farm and pick pecans. And when I say they would pick pecans, I mean like TEN POUNDS of pecans at a time. Not kidding. They would bring them home, shell them, give everyone they knew a large bag of pecans, then pack the rest up and stick them in the freezer.

If only I had a nickel for how many pecans I was offered over the years.

When they moved into assisted living at the beginning of the year, I inherited their freezer. Guess what was in it?

PECANS. TONS OF PECANS.

My sister-in-law prepared a huge meal for the family the day of the funeral. All the delicious southern foods you can think of, and she asked if I could make dessert. After thinking about making cupcakes, it seemed only appropriate to make something for Grandma with the pecans she and Papa picked together.

So, here are the cookies.

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Thick, soft and fully loaded cookies packed with chocolate chips and those wonderful pecans. We ate them in his honor while telling old “Papa” stories. There was laughter, and there were tears.

It was a beautiful service and we paid our respects to a man we will always miss, and truly cherished the time we had with him.

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Rest in Peace, Papa. We love you.

Chunky Chocolate Chip Pecan Cookies Recipe

2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup butter
2 tablespoons shortening
1 whole egg
1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 (12 oz.) bag chocolate chips + 1 heaping cup chopped pecans

In a small mixing bowl, combine both sugars. In another medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. Cut up butter and put in a microwave safe dish with shortening. Microwave for 1 – 1 1/2 minutes, until melted. Pour melted butter/shortening into small mixing bowl with sugars, whisk vigorously until well combined and smooth. Whisk in egg, egg yolk, and vanilla. Pour into medium mixing bowl with dry ingredients, gently stir together until well combined. Stir in chocolate chips and pecans. Using a medium size cookie scoop (about the size of 3 tablespoons), distribute cookie dough to a cookie sheet lined with wax paper. Shape each piece of dough into a disc, place back on cookie sheet. Put cookie sheet in refrigerator to chill for at least 1 hour.

When ready to bake, pull cookie sheet out of fridge to let dough rest at room temperature for about 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place cookie dough about 2 inches apart from each other on cookie sheet (highly recommend baking stone!!!). Bake for 12-14 minutes, until a very light golden color. Remove from oven and let cookies sit on pan for about 12 minutes before transferring to cooling rack lined with wax paper to cool completely.

When cookies have cooled completely, store in airtight container. Best when consumed within two days after baking!

Cayenne Chocolate Cookies

In all honesty, I was a little skeptical of these cookies at first.  One of my good friends told me about these cookies over the summer, which left me intrigued.  Spicy and sweet, all at the same time?  Will my taste buds revolt against me after eating these?   It’s amazing how the flavor of these cookies can send your entire mouth into a twist…  First, you get the rich sweetness of chocolate.  Next, it’s that sweet spice of cinnamon.  For the big bang, here comes the cayenne with a kick.  My mouth almost felt a weird numbness after the first one, but still wanted more.  The perfect opportunity to make these presented itself while I was preparing chicken tortilla soup and quesadillas for dinner.  It truly was the perfect ending to a Mexican style meal.

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Cayenne Chocolate Cookies

2 sticks butter, softened

2 cups sugar

2 cups all purpose flour

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 bag semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a medium size mixing bowl, combine butter and sugar.  Using an electric mixer, beat at medium speed until mixture is fluffy.  Add eggs and vanilla, continue mixing at medium speed until combined.  Add flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt, cayenne pepper and cinnamon, continue mixing until dough is well combined.  Stir in chocolate chips.  Using a cookie scoop, drop dough on cookie sheet.  Bake for approximately 12 minutes, remove from oven.  Let cookies sit on cookie sheet for another 2 minutes before using a spatula to move cookies to cooling racks to cool completely.  Store in airtight container at room temperature.

Snickerdoodles

The day I made these cookies was also the day I realized it was time to start enforcing a little privacy from my 4 year old.  Remember the days of taking an uninterrupted shower for longer than five minutes?  I found myself locking the door after my daughter became curious with questions.  Now I’ve become a skilled ninja going from the bathroom to the bedroom after a shower…unlocking and slowly opening the bathroom door, peeking around the corner, tiptoeing across the hall, then diving on the bed while humming the Mission Impossible tune.

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My husband used to buy these cookies by the dozen from the store, and it was always one of those circumstances when I became immediately excited…then frustrated because I knew I’d end up eating half a dozen of them…immediately.  Who could resist the soft, buttery goodness of those cookies topped with the perfect balance of cinnamon and sugar?  I sure couldn’t, and I’m starting to think it may be a super power to avoid these if at all possible.

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These days, it’s me providing our home with these cookies…and my husband is now the one who is grumbling about how much he loves the cookies while he shoves three in his mouth.  Oh, how the tables have turned.

Snickerdoodles (recipe modified from food.com)

2 sticks butter, softened

1/2 cup shortening

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 3/4 cups all purpose flour

2 teaspoons cream of tartar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

3 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a medium mixing bowl, beat butter, shortening, and sugar at medium speed until creamy using electric mixer.  Add eggs and vanilla, continue beating until blended.  In a smaller mixing bowl, combine flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, salt, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon.  Gradually add flour mixture to the butter mixture while continuing to mix at medium speed.  Set cookie dough in refrigerator for 15 minutes.  In a small dish, stir together 3 tablespoons sugar and 2 teaspoons cinnamon.  Using a cookie scoop to measure out dough, roll dough in cinnamon sugar mixture, then place on baking stone or cookie sheet.  Bake for 8-10 minutes, until a light golden color.  Remove from oven, leave cookies on stone or sheet for another 2 minutes.  Transfer to a cooling rack lined with paper towels (this keeps the cookies from developing indentions from the cooling rack) to cool using a cookie spatula.  Store in airtight container.

Lemon Poppyseed Cookies

In all honesty, I’m a little picky when it comes to citrus flavors.  I like lemons, but there are certain lemon desserts and other dishes that I keep at arm’s length… but lemon poppyseed is a combination that I usually give a bear hug.  I catch myself lingering in the bakery at the store when I spot the muffins to see if they have any of these flavor.  Sometimes they do, but most of the time they don’t have the large ones that I’m looking for.  In fact, last time I pooched my lower lip out when I saw there weren’t any and moved on…only to buy ingredients to make my own.

lemon poppyseed

My husband recently told me that he likes flatter cookies that are still soft.  I told him that he’s nuts, because I’m a huge fan of fluffy cookies myself…but after a few batches of making different types of cookies and making them slightly thinner, I can certainly see the appeal (although I still love fluffy cookies).  I did make a boo boo the first time around with these, though.  I got the brilliant idea of dipping the cookie dough in freshly squeezed lemon juice before the sugar, then placing on the baking pan.  Well, the extra juice from the lemon on top of the cookie dough really changed the consistency of the cookies.  They were almost paper thin, and spread out all over the place.  Lesson learned!  The last dozen of the batch, I just rolled them in sugar before baking…and the consistency was just right.  While explaining these to my husband through text message, the best way I could think of to explain to him was that these were like lemon sugar cookies…with a bunch of little black dots.

Lemon Poppyseed Cookies Recipe:

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

2 cups granulated sugar

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

grated lemon peel (from 2 lemons)

2 tablespoons poppy seeds

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 eggs

extra sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cream butter and sugar together until fluffy, using electric mixer.  Add eggs, grated lemon peel and vanilla, continue beating.  In another small bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt and poppyseeds.  Gradually add to creamed mixture, beating until combined.  Using a cookie scoop to measure out dough, roll in extra sugar.  Place on baking sheet, and baking for 10-12 minutes, or until tops are a very light golden color.  Remove from oven, transfer cookies to cooling rack to cool completely.  Store in airtight container.

 

White Chocolate Almond Cookies

When it comes to cookies that have nuts in them, personally I’m a big fan.  Not everyone is a big fan of nuts in their cookies and desserts, but one thing I have noticed is that it’s been almost impossible to find someone that does NOT like almond extract flavoring…even the people who don’t like almonds or nuts in general.

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I’ve made white chocolate macademia nut cookies, and those were fantastic…but in all honesty, these just might be my new favorite cookie.  In fact, I believe three batches of these cookies were made in less than two weeks, and each time I was fussed at and complimented at the same time.  Fussed at mainly because people couldn’t stop eating them and called me a bad influence.  Guilty as charged, because honestly I can’t stop eating these little guys when they’re in my house, too…

White Chocolate Almond Cookies Recipe:

3 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup white sugar

1 cup light brown sugar

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

2 eggs

1 teaspoon almond extract

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 bag white chocolate chips

1 cup almonds (toasted and roughly chopped)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cream the butter, white and brown sugar together using electric mixer.  Add eggs, almond extract and vanilla, beat until combined.  Add flour, salt and baking soda, mixing well.  Stir in white chocolate chips and almonds.  Using a cookie scoop, scoop out dough and distribute on baking sheet and bake for approximately 12 minutes, until tops of cookies are a very light brown.  Cool completely on cooling racks, store in airtight container.

**If you’re toasting your own almonds, it’s very simple…  Just lay them out on a baking sheet and bake for 5-6 minutes at 350 degrees, let cool before chopping into chunks.

 

Cinnamon Graham Cracker Cookies

When I was working on the idea for the s’mores cookies I made a while back, the thought of making a graham cracker cookie sounded delicious.  And, since the regular graham cracker cookie recipe turned out to be so yummy, the thought of taking a cinnamon route with these cookies sounded even better…so off I went.

cinnamon graham cracker cookies

My dad is a huge fan of cinnamon graham crackers smothered with peanut butter, so I may just have to do that with these.  Oh, but add some chocolate on top of that.  Ohh yeah…that’ll do it.

Cinnamon Graham Cracker Cookies Recipe:

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 cup graham cracker crumbs

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 small box instant vanilla pudding mix

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 cup light brown sugar

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cream butter and sugar in medium mixing bowl beating with electric mixer at medium speed until well blended.  Add eggs, vanilla, and pudding mix, continue beating until combined.  In small bowl, combine remaining dry ingredients.  Pour half of dry mixture in with wet mixture, continue beating, then add remaining dry ingredients.  Use a mini cookie scoop to make the cookies small enough to be about the same size as the marshmallows.  Bake for 11-14 minutes, until a light golden brown on top.

Palmiers (French Pastry Cookies)

If you’re like me, you read the title of this recipe and said, “What?”  Palmiers (pronounced pall-me-yays) are French pastry cookies.  I had never seen them or even heard of them before our first baking class in culinary school, and had the chance to make these in class one night.  After class was over and we were all cleaning up, I finished my cleaning duty, went back into the classroom to get my container to fill up with the cookies, and walked back into the kitchen…only to find that they had literally been wiped out.  Completely.  So, I decided to make them again the following weekend at my parents’ house.  And honestly, it was a good thing that I got some pictures of them when I did, because they were wiped out a second time.

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One batch was brushed with a honey glaze, while the other batch was drizzled with a vanilla glaze.  Both were amazing, but in all honesty, these little guys remind me of cinnamon rolls.  The first two times I made these, the puff pastry was from scratch, but I also wanted to use the frozen puff pastry dough you can buy at the grocery store to see how that turned out.  It was definitely a shortcut version and it was much easier and quicker, but like most things that are made from scratch, they were a little bit better…but I’ll be honest, it was a lot more convenient with just whipping the frozen puff pastry dough out on the counter to thaw out before diving in to the process.

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First, roll out your puff pastry dough.  If you’re using frozen puff pastry dough, let thaw at room temperature until soft and ready to work with.

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Sprinkle the puff pastry with the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture, then roll the mixture into the dough with a rolling pin (this helps to keep it from falling out as much).  For one sheet of pastry dough, mix 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar with 1 teaspoon cinnamon.  Double the amount for using two sheets of dough.

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Fold in two sides.

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Fold in one more time on each side.

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Fold over, and roll with a rolling pin to secure the dough together.  Chill in fridge for about an hour for dough to set.

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Cut into approximately 1/2-3/4 inch thick pieces.

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Lay flat on baking sheet (I normally use a baking stone), then bake at 400 degrees for 8-12 minutes, or until a light golden color.

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Cool completely on cooling racks.

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Once finished, brush with honey glaze or drizzle with vanilla glaze.

For the Honey Glaze:

1/4 cup honey

2 tablespoons butter, melted

Mix two ingredients together, brush on tops of cookies.

For the Vanilla Glaze:

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1-2 tablespoons milk, until desired consistency

Mix all ingredients together until desired consistency, slightly runny.  Spoon into cake decorating bag (or ziplock bag), snip the tip off the bag, drizzle over cookies.

Puff Pastry Dough From Scratch:

1 lb. all purpose flour

1 lb. unsalted butter, cut into cubes and cold

6 oz. cold water

1/4 oz. salt

Cut butter into flour and salt using hands, or in a standing mixer.  Once mixture resembles cornmeal, add cold water and continue to knead until dough is formed.  Wrap in plastic wrap, set in fridge for at least 30 minutes.  When rolling out, flour your work surface and add flour to your rolling pin.  Roll out into a rectangle that is at least 7 inches wide and no more than 1/4 inch thick.  Trim edges if necessary for clean lines.