MasterCook is pleased to have Chef Emily Novak as our guest blogger. Chef Novak graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in New Zealand, where she received Le Grand Diplôme. She has worked as Pastry Chef at some of Philadelphia’s top restaurants—including the James Beard Award-winning Abe Fisher and Serpico—and currently works at One80.
While the calendar may tell us that spring is here, the blustery cold winds that continue to whip around the city of Philadelphia make it feel otherwise. These chilly mornings make the blankets feel a little warmer, and the slippered shuffle to the coffee pot a little further away. Yet nothing warms up the house quite like the smell of toasting pecans and robust maple syrup.
One of my favorite cold weather recipes is Maple Pecan Sandie Stacks. These little stacks not only look elegant and inviting, but are also the perfect balance of rich, comforting butter cookies and light fluffy maple diplomat cream. It is easy to dress them up with extra pieces of dark chocolate or maple sugar candies, but they can also pair well with zesty gingersnap ice cream or an after-dinner coffee.
The Pecan Sandie cookie recipe is easy to make, and incredibly forgiving. It readily takes on different shapes, and while I choose to cut them into thin rectangular cookies for stacking, this dough also makes an excellent tart shell or thumbprint cookie if you are looking to change the appearance of the dessert.
After the dough has been mixed, it works best if it is allowed to chill for half an hour to an hour, but can also be made in advance and kept overnight in the refrigerator. When preparing to roll out the dough, work directly on top of a pre-measured portion of parchment paper (or silicon mat).
It is important for stacking that the cookies are quite thin, so using parchment paper or a mat avoids the headache of trying to transfer the ultra-thin dough to a new location. Additionally, the small processed pieces of pecan within the dough can make it fragile and prone to tearing when rolling down to a few millimeters thick. If this happens, pressing small pieces of dough into the gaps as filler works perfectly fine.
To achieve uniform cookies with a clean definitive shape, parbake the sheet of cookie dough before cutting it. When the sheet begins to look dry and the edges are just starting to barely turn golden brown, remove the tray from the oven.
You can now use a cookie cutter or slide the sheet carefully onto a large cutting board to trim the desired shapes with a knife. At this point, the cookies are already set in their shape and should retain a nice clean edge once you have finished baking them off.
The maple diplomat cream that is piped in between the cookies may sound foreign, but is closely related to a whole family of dessert creams which includes anglaise and standard pastry/patisserie cream. The reason I like using a diplomat cream is because it offers a middle ground in consistency between runny, sauce-like anglaise and thick and dense pastry cream.
A diplomat is a pastry cream which is fortified with gelatin for structure, but cut with whipped cream for lightness. It maintains a pipe-able firmness and hold, but doesn’t overwhelm the other delicate pieces of the dessert.
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250 grams chopped pecans or pecan pieces
225 grams butter, softened
110 grams cream cheese
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
100 grams brown sugar
125 grams white sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
315 grams all-purpose flour
- 1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Lightly toast pecans on a cookie sheet until they are fragrant and golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Reserve a small portion for garnish, and blitz the remaining nuts in a food processor until they are in very small pieces. Be careful to not over process the nuts or they will start to look wet and clumpy when too much of the natural oil is released.
3. Blend softened butter and cream cheese together in a mixing bowl with the paddle attachment. Scrape down the bowl and continue to beat until there are no lumps. Add in vanilla extract.
4. Add the sugars, salt, and flour to the bowl and slowly mix until the dough looks sandy and there are no large clumps of fat remaining. Add in your finely processed pecans and continue to mix until the dough just begins to come together in a single ball and pull away from the sides of the bowl.
5. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for ½ hour-1 hour.
6. Lightly flour and roll out the dough to 2mm thick.
7. Bake for 6-8 minutes until parbaked, cut out cookie shapes, and return to the oven as described above for another 3-4 minutes.
2.5 sheets gelatin
75 grams egg yolks
115 grams brown sugar
35 grams cornstarch
300 grams milk
20 grams softened butter
130 grams maple syrup
300 grams heavy whipping cream
1. Bloom gelatin in ice cold water.
2. Whisk together yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and a small quantity of milk in a large bowl. Use just enough milk to help incorporate the dry ingredients into the yolks so the mixture is not too thick and paste-like.
3. Heat the remaining milk until it comes to boil. Temper the hot milk into the yolk mixture, and then return all of the liquid to the pot on the stove. Whisk continuously over a medium-low heat until the mixture is thick and begins to boil. Continue to whisk while boiling for 1 minute.
4. Remove from heat, and immediately transfer the hot mixture into a clean container. Whisk in bloomed gelatin, then butter and maple syrup.
5. Cover the mixture with a piece of cling film directly on the surface to avoid forming a skin. Chill the mixture in the fridge (stirring occasionally) until it is approximately room temperature. You do not want to chill it all the way until it is set.
6. While the mixture is cooling, whip cream to soft peaks. Once the mixture is ready, gently fold in the whipped cream. Return the fresh diplomat cream to the fridge until the gelatin has set. Once firm, the cream can be transferred into a piping bag and used in decoration.