This week in baking: a crispy, nutty cookie that’s almost as salty as it is sweet.
Salt belongs in every bake, of course. And a baked good with nuts is always going to call for a healthy dose of salt, because — well, ever eaten a handful of unsalted almonds? An unseasoned nut is a nut with the volume turned down; sprinkle it with salt, though, and suddenly you’re at the symphony (and they’re playing Beethoven’s 5th).
Still, even with all that in mind, these Salty-Sweet Butter Pecan Cookies stand out for their salinity.
The 1/2 teaspoon of salt in the dough — a standard amount — is just the beginning. It’s what allows you to taste everything that’s going on in this complex cookie: the brown sugar and white sugar, the toasted pecans and butterscotch chips, the vanilla extract and espresso powder. Every cookie needs that bit of salt, or else the cookie's nuanced flavors will get lost.
But the full teaspoon of salt you add to the sugar you roll these cookies in before baking? That’s there to take the cookie over the edge. To match the sugar head-to-head. To hit the bliss point.
A cookie hits the bliss point when it walks the thin line between sugary and salty so defiantly that you simply have to keep eating, just to find out which side the cookie lands on. The answer with this cookie, of course, is that it lands on neither — the crackly sugar-and-salt layer that coats each cookie ensures that it’s both.
Yes, yes, many cookies get sprinkled with a little flaky salt before baking. In those cookies you get a blast of salt in one or two bites. That's not what happens here. By adding salt to the rolling sugar, saltiness literally coats the cookie. It’s there in every bite. And that saltiness is the reason the butterscotch flavors in this cookie sing so loudly. It’s the reason we added this cookie to our fully revised King Arthur Cookie Companion (out November 23rd!). And it’s the reason Salty-Sweet Butter Pecan Cookies are our Bake of the Week.
Cover photo by Rick Holbrook.