One of my favorite old cookbooks is The Christmas Cookie Book, by Virginia Pasley, 1950. It’s filled with cookies from a simpler time about a family in Chicago that made cookies for weeks before Christmas. Besides the charming stories and illustrations, the cookie recipes are “tried and true,” truly great ones. My Maple Pecan Puffs recipe was inspired by her Pecan Balls, and I am very fond of her springerle, and gingerbread, and her several recipes for lebkuchen. The book’s as much fun to read as it is to bake from. She gives useful tips, too, such as which cookies will keep, which can be shipped, which are too delicate and should be eaten quickly. These puffs fall into the latter category.
Yield: about 40 1-1/2" balls
1/2 c. unsalted butter at room temperature
2 Tbs. maple sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. shelled pecans, very fresh
1 c. sifted whole wheat pastry flour or whole spelt flour (sift before measuring)
Additional maple sugar for powdering, about 1/4 c. - see note
following recipe - or about 1/4 c. regular powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 300 d.
With a wooden spoon or an electric mixer, beat butter until soft. Add maple sugar and blend until creamy. Stir in vanilla and set aside.
Measure pecan meats first, then grind them in a nut grinder or very briefly in a food processor until a fine meal is formed (if using food processor, just pulse a few seconds, or you will get nut butter).
Stir the ground pecans and pastry flour into the butter mixture. Roll dough into small ball, about 1 1/4" in diameter. Place balls on greased cookie sheets about 3/4" apart. Bake on upper rack of oven for about 20-25 minutes, until cookies have a nice roasted smell and bottoms are just lightly browned (check periodically to make sure bottoms are not browning too quickly - if so, reduce heat to 275 d. and continue). Roll while still hot in powdered maple sugar* or powdered sugar. After cooling, store these in an airtight container.
I imagine they'd keep for about a week, but they never last this long!
*Powdered maple sugar: To make this, place about 1/4 c. of maple sugar in an electric coffee grinder, spice grinder or the small (1 c.) attachment to a blender. Grind at high speed for about 20 seconds, or until sugar is very fine and powdery (it won't be as fine as regular powdered sugar). Use to roll hot cookies in.
Adapted from a recipe in The Christmas Cookie Book, by Virginia Pasley, Little Brown & Co., 1950.