These started out as an old favorite sugar cookie and morphed into a new favorite. I would suggest these would feel just as 'at home' on a holiday cookie plate as they might as an after-school snack. As we head into the holiday prep frenzy season, it's nice to have a cookie option that comes together super quickly (yay, no chilling time!) and is a big hit.
Pecan Spice Pillow Cookies
Makes 3 to 3 1/2 dozen cookies
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (10 ounces; can use 1/2 cup white wheat)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon table salt
14 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened but still firm
1 ounce cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
36 - 42 whole pecan halves, toasted
1/4 cup granulated sugar (for rolling dough)
1 T cinnamon (if you're a fan of nutmeg or cardamom, a tiny dash is also nice)
Adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-middle positions; heat oven to 375 degrees. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl; set aside.
In standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment or with hand mixer, beat butter, cream cheese, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, and brown sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl with rubber spatula as needed. Add egg and vanilla; beat at medium speed until combined, about 30 seconds. Add dry ingredients and beat at low speed until just combined, about 30 seconds, scraping down bowl as needed.
Place sugar for rolling in shallow bowl. Add cinnamon and mix to combine. Fill medium bowl halfway with cold tap water. Using a small cookie scoop, get a small ball of dough, and flatten slightly. Press pecan half into the center of dough ball, and then fold over to fully encase the pecan in dough. Roll the dough ball in the cinnamon-sugar mixture to coat lightly, then place on prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough.
Bake until cookies are golden brown around edges and just set and very lightly colored in center, 10 to 13 minutes, reversing position of cookie sheets from front to back and top to bottom halfway through baking time. Cool cookies on baking sheet about 3 minutes; using wide metal spatula, transfer cookies to wire rack and cool to room temperature.
Rolled into balls, the dough will keep in the freezer for up to 1 week. The baked cookies will keep in an airtight container for up to 5 days.