Pecan shortbread cookies are a classic recipe you will make again and again. The buttery dough with chunks of pecan are the perfect combination and the if you want to add more flavor to the top, try the maple glaze or candied bacon!
Why do they call it shortbread?
These cookies are called shortbread because of their crumbly texture. In the baking world a "short" texture means a crumbly texture, like a shortcrust pastry. The butter from the recipe is what contributes to this.
What's in shortbread?
The main ingredients in a shortbread cookie are butter, sugar and flour. There's minimal ingredients, but you can have fun with adding fillings and toppings like these pecan shortbread cookies.
What is the difference between a shortbread cookie and a sugar cookie?
Although both cookies share the majority of the same ingredients, the real difference is the ratios of those ingredients. There's more butter to flour ratio in a shortbread, which results in the short and crumbly texture. Additionally, sugar cookies include eggs that help bind the dough and creates more moisture for a softer cookie.
Why do you put shortbread in the fridge before baking?
Because there's so much butter in this cookie dough, they can easily spread in the oven. Chilling the dough before baking helps solidify the butter again so they hold their shape and create a crumbly texture when baked.
Do you have to poke holes in shortbread cookies?
Poking holes in your shortbread can help the steam release and heat evenly distribute in the cookies to help the cookies bake more evenly. I tested them without poking holes and they turned out, so you don't have to! It's a personal preference.
Why are my shortbread cookies chewy?
If you overwork your cookie dough the gluten can develop too much and cause a chewy texture.
How to make pecan shortbread cookies:
- Beat the butter on high for a minute or so then add the sugars and vanilla and beat again until combined, 1-2 minutes.
- Scrape down the sides of the bowl then add the flour until a soft dough is formed. It will be very crumbly at first and may look like it won't come together but just keep beating! The dough will start to form and pull away from the edges of the bowl. Add the chopped pecans and beat again to incorporate.
- Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, divide the dough in half and roll the dough out until it's about 2 ½ - 3 inches in diameter.
- Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 3-4 hours or up to 5 days. You could also freeze the dough at this point.
- Right before baking, slice the dough into ½ inch rounds and arrange on parchment lined baking sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the bottom edges turn golden brown.
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Pecan Shortbread with Maple Bacon Topping [Gluten Free Option]
For the pecan shortbread cookies:
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter softened to room temperature
- ⅔ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup light brown sugar packed
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 ¼ cups all purpose flour (1:1 gluten free flour blend with xanthum gum for gf version)
- ¾ cup chopped pecans
For the candied bacon(optional):
- 6 strips bacon not thick cut
- 2 tablespoon light brown sugar (or coconut sugar)
For the maple icing(optional):
- 1 cups powdered sugar
- 2 teaspoons maple syrup
- 1 tablespoons room temperature water
To make the pecan shortbread cookies:
- Using a stand mixer or handheld mixer, beat the butter on high speed until creamy, about one minute. Add the granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla and beat on medium until combined. Scrape down the sides and beat on high for one minute.
- Turn the mixer off and add the flour into the wet ingredients. Turn the mixer on low and beat until a very soft dough is formed, about two minutes. It might look like the dough won’t come together, but it will. Keep beating until it starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl and a stiff dough forms. Add the chopped pecans and mix again until combined.
- Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and, with floured hands, divide or cut into two. Shape each half into an 8-inch log, about 2.5 inches in diameter. The measurements don’t have to be exact. Tightly wrap the logs in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 3-4 hours and up to 5 days.
- When you're ready to bake, preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Slice each log into 12-13 round cookies
- Bake the cookies in the oven for 10-12 minutes or until just slightly golden around the bottom edges. If you want a flatter cookie, press down with a flat surface like bottom of a cup or measuring cup slightly. Allow to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes and transfer to a wire cooling rack. You can leave the cookies like this if you don’t want the icing and bacon.
To make the optional maple bacon toppings:
- To make the candied bacon, increase the oven temperature to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with foil and place the slices of bacon on top. Sprinkle the bacon with 1 tablespoon of the brown sugar (or coconut sugar) and gently rub it in to coat the top then flip them over and repeat with the second tablespoon of brown sugar. Bake in the preheated oven for 18-20 minutes, flipping halfway through. The bacon should be brown and crispy.
- While the bacon is cooking, make the icing. Whisk all of the icing ingredient together in a medium bowl. When you lift the icing up with a spoon and drizzle it back into the bowl it should melt back into the icing within a few seconds. If it’s too thin, add a bit more powdered sugar and if it’s too thick add more water. Set aside until you’re ready to frost.
- When the bacon is done, allow to cool until they’re cool enough to handle and use your fingers to break it up into small pieces of chop it up on a cutting board.
- Assemble the cookies: place a wire cooling rack on top of a large sheet pan covered with foil or parchment paper. This helps catch any icing that may drip off. Take each cookie and dip the top of it the maple icing then place on the prepared rack. Sprinkle with crumbled candied bacon. Repeat with all of the cookies.