Hot Chocolate & Pecan Sandies

If you follow this blog, you know Sunday Dinner is a pretty big deal in The Bell House. We always have a guest or two and I use this day to experiment with food. Sometimes coming up with dinner and dessert ideas can be difficult. I bore easily!

One afternoon, I was having a conversation with my mom about an upcoming Sunday dinner. My father and her only come down once in awhile, but she likes to ask what we’re feeding the Bells. I happened to tell her I wasn’t really in the mood to get all crazy, I was just coming off of a food making marathon. I mentioned how I would probably just get some ice cream from the store and call it a day.

Oh man, lucky for my in-laws, my mom is watching out for them. She basically told me to get off my ass and have something nice for dessert. She threw out a few ideas and together we decided on Hot Chocolate & Pecan Sandies.

Both of these items are relatively easy to throw together and I thought this idea would be an unexpected after dinner treat. For the adults, I offered up some Horchata and Bailey’s. For the kids and nonalcoholic adults, they could decide from peppermint sticks, cinnamon sticks, marshmallows and whipped cream for their hot chocolate garnish.

Let’s start with the CHOCOLATE SYRUP. Feel free to use this syrup for chocolate milk too. No need for the store bought syrup that’s full of words you can’t pronounce. This syrup has four very recognizable ingredients.

1 cup of cocoa powder, the better the quality, the better the flavor

1 cup of granulated sugar

Pinch of kosher salt

1 cup of water

In a small saucepan over medium heat, whisk together all the ingredients. Continue to whisk the syrup until all the sugar has dissolved and the cocoa powder has been incorporated, about 2-3 minutes.

Pour the syrup into a heat proof container and let it rest on the counter for 1 hour. Store in a tightly sealed container for up to 1 week. At this point, you can add desired amount of syrup to cold milk, scalded milk or on top of ice cream.

Let’s get the dough ready for PECAN SANDIES. The shortbread base for these cookies as well as the chocolate syrup recipe is from Joanne Chang. She is the owner/operator of Flour Bakery in Boston and the author of a few cookbooks, for which I own all of them.

Growing up I remember my dad feasting on Keebler Pecan Sandies. When I came across Joanne Chang’s Rosemary Shortbread recipe in her first Flour cookbook, I thought about those store bought pecan sandies. I omitted the rosemary and added chopped pecans. I packed up a batch of these for my Dad and he was in heaven.

I’ve tried many shortbread recipes and as always, Joanne Chang does not disappoint. These cookies are the perfect balance between salty and sweet. They are delicate in texture and perfect to serve with a hot beverage such as hot chocolate.

PECAN SANDIES:

2 sticks of unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 cup of light brown sugar

1 egg yolk

1 1/2 cup of flour

1/2 cup of cornstarch

3/4 teaspoon of kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon of baking powder

1/2 cup of chopped pecans

In a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together on high until it turns light in color. Scrape the sides of the bowl occasionally. This step should take 3-5 minutes. 

Meanwhile, in a medium sized bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, salt and baking powder.

Separate your egg yolk from the whites and place the yolk in a small bowl. Save the egg whites for breakfast.

When the butter and sugar are light in color, add the egg yolk and beat for an additional minute. Scrape the sides of the bowl and dump in the flour mixture. Beat on medium just until the flour has been incorporated. Scrape the sides of the bowl and fold in the pecan pieces.

The dough is very delicate. Spread plastic wrap across the counter and scrape the dough onto the wrap.  Pat the dough into a 1 inch thick circle. Wrap the dough tightly with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour up to 1 week.

When the hour is up, preheat the oven to 325 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

On a clean, well floured counter, roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch thick. The dough will be very tough at first and may crack in places. That’s ok! you can easily squish the dough back together and continue rolling.

Use any shape or size dough or cookie cutter you desire. This dough may be delicate but the cookie will hold its shape when baking. I used a 1 1/2 inch dough cutter and it yielded 40 cookies. Place cut cookies on the parchment paper.

Pull up the scraps of dough, pat it into a circle and roll the dough out to a 1/4 inch thick and cut out more cookies.

Bake the cookies for 12-15 minutes or until the cookies are light brown. After a few minutes out of the oven, transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

FRESH WHIPPED CREAM:

2 cups of cold heavy whipping cream

1/4 cup of granulated sugar

1 tablespoon of vanilla extract

30 minutes before you want to make the whipped cream, freeze or refrigerate a large metal bowl and the beaters to the hand mixer. Heavy whipping cream likes very cold environments to turn itself into actual whipped cream.

Once chilled, add the whipping cream, sugar and vanilla extract to the bowl. Beat on high speed until the cream is thick and luxurious. Store in an airtight container for 1-2 days.

DESSERT ASSEMBLY:

1 cup of milk (or almond milk) for every person having dessert

1 Chocolate Syrup Recipe

1 shot of Horchata or Bailey’s for every adult who wants to partake

Candy Canes

Cinnamon Stick

Marshmallows

Whipped Cream, homemade or store bought.

1 batch of baked Pecan Sandies

In a saucepan, scald the milk over high heat. You want to bring the milk just under a boil. When you notice little bubbles forming around the side of the saucepan the milk should be ready. Pour the hot milk into desired mugs and add the chocolate syrup and all the favored accoutrements.

Serve with a plate full of pecan sandies. Yields 8 cups of hot chocolate.