Sunday, January 09, 2011

A Snowy Cookie

Crescent cookies are a traditional holiday cookie, usually a gift from my Mom, a seminal part of the Christmas celebrations food-wise. These tender, delicate cookies combine lots of butter with finely ground toasted pecans and some sugar, plus a few other ingredients. They are hand formed into logs, then the ends are tapered and curved in to create a shape like a crescent moon. Once baked they get a snowy drift of confectioners' sugar on top. Although they are fine by themselves, they go really well with a hot cup or tea or coffee.

I've just returned home from my Mom's. She is recovering nicely from major surgery and we had some fine times with conversation and tea. Due to her illness the crescent cookies, usually baked in quantity, were almost missing this Christmas. I put together some crescent dough a few days after I arrived but there was no time to shape and bake them. One chilly day this week we sat together at the dining room table and shaped some,

then warmed up the kitchen (plus made it smell SOOO good) by baking a few dozen crescents. Mom added the powdered sugar to the first ones.


They were excellent with tea and it was great fun to bake with Mom.

If you want to make some yourself here is the family recipe. They are very similar to Mexican Wedding Cookies but I like the way the crescent shape sits at the side of the saucer if you have your tea in a fancy tea cup with saucer.

The recipe may have come from somewhere else originally, but I got my copy from my Mom and reprinted it in Family Food, 1994.

Crescent Cookies

1 ½ cup butter, softened
¾ cup sugar
3 cups flour
1 ½ - 2 cups finely chopped pecans
1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Cream butter, add the rest of the ingredients, and mix thoroughly. Chill. Shape into 1 inch by 3 inch crescents on a buttered baking sheet. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes in a preheated 300 degree F oven. Cool. Roll in confectioners’ sugar and store airtight. Makes 4 dozen.

To prepare in a food processor: Put the butter, cut into chunks in the bowl of the processor. With metal blade, cream butter on high about half a minute. Add rest of ingredients and process until a ball of dough forms. Chill. Continue as described above.

Oh, I forgot to mention, we had SNOW while I was there. Yesterday morning it snowed for about an hour and a half. Since it has only snowed twice since I moved to California, it was fun to see the white stuff coming down, especially since it wasn't supposed to accumulate very much. Here are a couple of photos I took once it stopped:


6 comments :

tanita davis said...

Haha! I knew me thinking SNOW at you would mean you'd get some eventually!

Next Sister Down said...

Pssst, I'll tell you a secret about the way Mom makes this recipe. She uses part margarine. The Captain's Wife checked with her before Christmas to find out what her recommended proportions are: it's 1 cup margarine and 1/2 cup butter. She also said to use margarine that has 100 calories; I think this is a way to get margaine that doesn't have as much water as some brands. If I recall correctly, she generally uses Blue Bonnet.

The margarine gives it the flavor and texture of the crescent cookies she made when we were kids. I think they're a little crispier with all butter.

The original recipe came from the Boston Cooking School cookbook, but she made a number of alterations, including using pecans, where the original recipe called for almonds

Anonymous said...

I love your mother's hands (and her pink sweater!). They're lovely, and make me look at my own (nearly 52 year old, overworked, arthritic)hands in a more gentle way.
The recipe sounds terrific. I look forward to trying it. Thanks for sharing.

Molly said...

How lovely to see this! I wish we had more overlap in our visit, so that I could have helped you two with these.

Also, interesting to hear the history of the recipe from Next Sister Down (although, I'm not sure which sister this is...)

xoxo

Elizabeth said...

Crescents are a part of our Christmases as well and have been as long as I can remember. Mum always made them but with ground almonds rather than ground pecans.

NOW I want to try them with ground pecans! I bet they're fabulous that way.

(Ha! I just saw that your sister mentioned the pecans are your mother's fix of the recipe and that ground almonds were in the original recipe.)

Lisa said...

Elle, I love, love, love these cookies. There are so many different nuts versions but they're all melt in your mouth delicious. The first I ever made were called Swedish Crescent cookies, which used almonds, and as soon as the confectioner's sugar started to melt on the still hot cookies, I added more and more lol A TAD too sweet lol I've learned my lesson, and have yet to try them with pecans, so yours are the ones I'll try :) Glad to hear your Mom is feeling better!

OH, to make this comment even longer, one of your fabulous breads would have made a perfect pairing with the cassoulet. I thought about that when I saw your comment. I think 'Elle' when I think of home baked bread now :)