A couple of weekends ago, my friend Lizzy (of the romesco sauce) and I took a baking class at Tante Marie. I've been obsessed with Tante Marie ever since I toured it five years ago when I was considering going to pastry school. While I decided against school, I've never been able to shake the feeling that spending multiple hours a day at this cozy little school would have been one of the best things in the world.
However, the life of the professional pastry chef is not for me. But that doesn't mean I can't take a class now and then.
We signed up for a Holiday Baking class, which promised that we would learn to make all kinds of delicious things, like layered chocolate peppermint cake and Thomas Keller's nutter butters.
The class was comprised of 14 people and for the actual baking we split off into pairs. Liz and I were in charge of gingerbread cupcakes with lemon cream cheese frosting, caramel-dipped shortbread, and a fennel and persimmon salad to be eaten as part of our savory lunch. When everything was done, we admired a spread of more than a dozen treats.
It was easy to pick out my favorites--Pierre Herme's chocolate sables with sea salt, which I will be posting about soon, and these gorgeous little shortbreads. In fact, these were the two kinds of cookies I chose to make for our family's annual baking day this past weekend.
The shortbreads are very simple to make, especially because our teacher told us not to bother rolling out the dough but instead to pinch it into pinkie-sized sticks. Easy peasy! This was also my first time making caramel, and why I was ever intimidated by it before I shall never know.
So if you're looking for a new holiday cookie, look no further. This one's a crowd pleaser.
Caramel-dipped pecan shortbread
From Tante Marie
1 1/4 c. flour
1/2 c. butter, room temperature
1/2 c. pecans, toasted and ground
2/3 c. powdered sugar
1/2 t. salt
1/2 c. dark brown sugar
1/4 c. butter
2 T. heavy cream
1/4 c. powdered sugar
1 c. toasted ground pecans
For the cookies: In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the flour, butter, pecans, powdered sugar, and salt. Mix until the dough just comes together when squeezed in your hand.
Shape the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 and set the racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Pinch off pieces of dough and roll to form little sticks about the size of your pinkie. Place the sticks on baking sheets, 1 inch apart from each other. Bake until barely golden, about 15 minutes, swapping the sheets on the oven racks halfway through. Place the baking sheets on racks to cool for 5 minutes, then take the cookies off the sheets and cool them completely on a rack.
For the caramel, combine the brown sugar and butter in a medium saucepan and bring the mixture to a boil. Let cook for 1 minute, then remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the cream, salt, and powdered sugar. Dip one end of each cookie into the caramel then immediately roll the caramel-covered end in the pecans. Transfer the cookies to waxed paper to let the caramel set.