“Do you say: care-a mel or kar-muhl,” asked the grocery store checker as she scanned my package of candy?
“Hmm, I say cara- mel.”
“No, no. It’s car-mel, just two syllables,” said the bagger, a hard-working high school student.
“Well, whatever…Don’t you just love them?” I asked.
“Oh my yes,” gushed the checker. “They are sooo good, but, you know, most people buy caramels at Halloween.”
“Well, I found a new cookie recipe (in Rachael Ray’s magazine) and I’m trying it for Christmas.” So, I went home and baked a batch.
About an hour later I heard from my teen-age daughter, “Mom, why haven’t you made these before? They are the best ever.” And I have to agree. The round white cookies are definitely chewy, yet melt in your mouth with a delicate buttery-nut taste. They remind me of what I call Russian tea cakes, but have a velvety oozing center with a hint of pecan pie.
Every year I try a new recipe or two at the holidays and usually discard them in favor of traditional favorites. But, this new cookie recipe (below) is a keeper.
And here’s a photo of Laura baking her batch of sugar cookies for a cookie exchange party.
Pecan Caramel Surprises
With thanks to Rachael Ray
Rachael Ray Magazine, December 2008-January 2009 issue
With additional hints from Debi
1 cup pecans (3 ½ ounces)
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, sliced
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup flour
24 soft caramel candies, unwrapped
¾ cup confectioners’ sugar
1. Using a food processor, finely chop the pecans with 1 tablespoon sugar for 20 seconds or until ground. Transfer to a bowl.
2. In the food processor, pulse the butter, remaining 1/3 cup sugar and the vanilla until combined, scraping the bowl occasionally. Add the flour and pulse again to combine. Stir into the pecan mixture.
“At this point the batter does not really hold together, but don’t worry. You will use your hands to form balls around the caramels.”
3. Position the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
4. Roll about 1 tablespoon of dough into a ball. Press a caramel into the center, and then roll to enclose the candy. “Add a little more dough if needed.”
5. Repeat with remaining dough and place balls 2 inches apart of the cookie sheets.
6. Bake until lightly colored, about 13-15 minutes.
7. Let cool about 10 minutes and carefully dredge in the confectioners’ sugar.
8. Dust again with confectioners’ sugar before serving.
Makes: 2 dozen exactly
The cookies keep well at room temperature, covered with plastic wrap.