While there are many things I can tell you about my grandfather, the one thing you should know is that he loved pecan sandies. In fact, I cannot bite into these buttery, nut-studded cookies without thinking of him. This version, which he'd heartily approve of, is firm and sturdy, and greets you with a crisp edge all around that softens as you get towards the center. A generous scoop of brown sugar lends a rich, caramel flavor and highlights the toasted aroma in the pecans that you'll notice in every bite.
Toast the Nuts for More Flavor
I'd argue that the most important step when making a really good batch of pecan sandies starts on the stovetop. Before you start mixing together any of the ingredients, get out your favorite skillet and toast the pecans first. You won't be sorry you went the extra step. Toasting the pecans deepens their flavor, making them even nuttier and giving this beloved cookie a pronounced flavor in every bite.
Butter Pecan Sandies
Makes about 18 cookies
coarsely chopped pecans
(1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
packed light brown sugar
Arrange 2 racks to divide the oven into thirds and heat to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats; set aside.
Heat a medium skillet over low heat. Add the pecans, and cook, swirling the pan frequently until the nuts are lightly toasted, about 5 minutes. Transfer the nuts to a plate and cool slightly.
Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. (Alternatively, use an electric hand mixer and large bowl.) Beat at medium speed until lightened in color and creamy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat in the vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, beat in the flour and pecans until just combined.
Using a spoon or cookie scoop, measure 1 1/2 tablespoons of dough from the bowl. Roll between the palms of your hands to form a ball, and place on the baking sheet about 2 inches apart, a maximum of 12 per baking sheet. Use a flat spatula or the bottom of a measuring cup to flatten each scoop into a roughly 1/2-inch-thick round disc.
Bake for 8 minutes. Rotate the baking sheets between racks and from front to back. Bake until the cookies are lightly browned around the edges, 7 to 8 minutes more.
Make ahead: The cookie dough can be formed into balls and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw cookie dough balls in the refrigerator before baking.
Storage: Store the baked cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.