I was thumbing through a cookbook when this recipe for Butterscotch Cookies caught my eye. I had to try them!
Dear Reader, they did not disappoint. They were rich with butter and brown sugar. Toothsome and just the right amount of sweet.
I tried tweaking them bit by bit, but really, they needed very little adjustment. They were practically perfect the way they were.
That tweaking, however, is why it took me until 2021 to publish this recipe, despite finding it in 2018. Although they're one of my favorite cookies, I can only eat so many!
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This recipe's origin
I found this recipe in the Fannie Farmer Baking Book by Marion Cunningham, which I picked up off the bargain shelf at a mall bookstore sometime between 2000 and 2005. I've made few recipes from it, but this book has survived my cookbook purges over several moves just because of how many different types of recipes it does have.
This particular recipe originated from Schrafft's restaurant in New York, which apparently was famous in its heyday (think, mid-60s). Cunningham asked them for the recipe (think, late-70s/early-80s) and shaved it down from a 10-pound batch of cookies to a recipe that could easily be made at home.
Those original cookies were crisp, but my version is softer, thanks to trading in butter for the shortening. Baking them for 10 minutes instead of 7 makes them crisper. Either way, they are rich and delicious.
Making cookie dough
This recipe works best with a stand mixer, although a handheld electric mixer should work fine for it. You can also use a large mixing spatula and do it by hand to get a great arm workout.
Cream your butter on medium speed, then add the dark brown sugar.
Add your egg, powdered milk, and a full tablespoon of vanilla. (Don't skimp.) Beat until the mixture has notably lightened. I notice this contrast the most at the top of the mixer paddle, where sometimes ingredients don't quite get mixed.
Add the flour, baking soda, and salt, and mix again on low until everything's just combined. You don't want to overwork the dough.
Scrape down the bowl, and then mix in the ground pecans. (See notes below for substitutions.) Use the stand mixer on low, or a rubber spatula, but don't overmix.
Drop the cookie dough by heaping tablespoons onto greased or silicone mat -lined baking sheets, spacing the cookies at least 2 inches apart. My preferred tool for portioning is a medium (1.5-tablespoon or #40) cookie scoop . (I do actually use the OXO brand, and prefer it because it's easy to squeeze.)
Use your fingers to pat down the cookie dough into 2 ½ inch circles. You could use a glass to flatten them, but the dough is sticky and I find it easier to just use my hands. It is easier if my fingers are damp, though; not wet, but damp as in when you don't dry your hands very well.
Bake in a 375F oven for 7-10 minutes, until they're golden brown. Let cool on the baking sheets for at least 15 minutes before removing.
These cookies have a range of baking times, and how long you bake them really does matter.
At 7 minutes, the cookies are pale but set. Cookies are completely soft from middle to edge. I don't have photos of them.
At 8 minutes, the cookies are soft in the center, but the very edge has a slight crunch to it. After storing them for a day, these cookies soften up completely.
At 9 minutes, the cookies have a beautiful golden color. They look more appealing than the 8 minute cookies. The centers are soft, and the edges nicely crisp. After storing them for a day, though, these cookies soften up completely, but still taste better than the 8 minute cookies.
At 10 minutes, the cookies are beautifully golden with a distinctly darker edge. The center has a little give, but the edge has crunch. Mine do not soften or change texture after storage.
As always, how done your cookies should be is largely up to your personal preference.
Ingredient notes and substitutions
The original recipe in the Fannie Farmer Baking Book called for 2 tablespoons butter and 12 tablespoons shortening. I changed this to all butter because I hate scooping shortening and so I don't buy it or use it. However, shortening would make a crisper cookie.
Dark brown sugar is important to the butterscotch flavor of these cookies. However, light brown will work if you don't have or can't find dark brown sugar.
Powdered milk isn't an ingredient that everyone has in their cupboards, and so I tried omitting it. The recipe works without it, but the cookies are richer and tastier if you add powdered milk. (If you use shortening, you probably need the powdered milk for flavor.) I've always used nonfat powdered milk because it's easy to find in grocery stores; Target also carries it, at least seasonally. The recipe doesn't use much; finish off the rest by making Hot Cocoa Mix.
Pecans should be finely ground; they blend into the cookies that way, and make them chewy and moist. A few larger pieces are fine, but you want most of them very fine, almost like a meal or powder. I couldn't get my pecans fine enough by chopping them with a knife, so I pulse them in my Breville food processor . I've also done them in batches in my bullet blender .
I've added a mix of pecans and walnuts in a pinch when I've run out of pecans.
If you can't eat nuts, these can be made nut-free! I've made them with 1 cup of quick rolled oats that I briefly chopped; I prefer it over whole oats. The texture of cookies made with oats instead of nuts will be chewier and less crunchy. Bake them a tiny bit less.
Store these cookies in an airtight container for a day or two. Don't store them with other cookies; these will soften on their own quickly enough. That said, even the 10 minute cookies will soften after a few days.
These cookies have the best texture on the day that they're baked - particularly if you want them soft. For perfection, make the dough ahead of time and bake the cookies when you want them!
Line a baking sheet with waxed paper or parchment (to make removing the cookie dough easier). Shape your cookies and flatten them as described in the recipe. Stick the baking sheet in the freezer.
Once frozen, remove the cookies from the pan and transfer them to a freezer bag. Be sure to label it with the baking instructions!
When you want the cookies, heat your oven and bake the cookies from frozen, adding an extra 2 minutes to the bake time. Then you have cookie perfection!
Childhood Leona doesn't understand my fascination with these. Where's the chocolate? Grownup Leona appreciates these, with their rich simplicity.
Perhaps you can gussy them up by adding ganache to them, or maybe a couple of chocolate chips to the top of the warm cookies. Swirl the chocolate around after it's softened for a few minutes. I haven't tried. I would not, however, add anything to the dough itself.
I've also turned these into a great cookie sandwich! Add a layer of vanilla buttercream frosting between two cookies. This is a great use for any extra icing or frosting you may end up with!
Want more recipes with pecans?
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Have you tried this recipe? Or have a question about it? Rate it or leave a comment below! (PS: rating my recipes helps other people find them too!)
Buttery, rich butterscotch cookies made with dark brown sugar and pecans. Crisp edges, with just the right amount of chewiness and sweetness in the center. Use oats in this recipe for a nut-free version!
- 14 tablespoons unsalted butter (196 grams; softened)
- 1 ¼ cup dark brown sugar (250 grams)
- 1 egg (50 grams)
- 2 tablespoons powdered milk (12 grams)
- 1 tablespoon vanilla (14 grams)
- 1 ¾ cup flour (245 grams)
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon table salt
- 1 cup pecans (125 grams; finely ground, but a few big pieces are ok)
If you haven't already, grind your pecans in a food processor. They should be mainly powdery, with a few big pieces for texture. Chopped pecans (instead of ground) will still be delicious, but will change the texture of the cookie a bit.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the softened butter on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the sugar and beat until creamy, about 2 more minutes. Add the egg, powdered milk, and vanilla extract. Beat until light, another 1-2 minutes. (I see this best around the top edges of the mixer's paddle.)
Add the flour, baking soda, and salt. Mix on low until it's all just combined. Scrape the bowl and stir in the pecans, either with a rubber spatula, or with the stand mixer again.
Scoop the dough by heaping tablespoons onto a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. (A medium, 1 ½ tablespoon or #40 cookie scoop, with the dough leveled off, works perfectly.)
Use your fingers to pat the dough down into a 2 ½ inch wide circle. This works best for me if my fingers are slightly damp, but not wet.
Bake at 375F for 7-10 minutes, until golden brown. See the notes below for doneness recommendations.
Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for at least 15 minutes before removing to a cooling rack. Store in an airtight container for a day or two. See notes for make-ahead options.
The recipe originally called for 12 tablespoons shortening and 2 tablespoons butter. Shortening would make for a crunchier cookie, but isn't something I usually bake with.
Light brown sugar will also work.
Don't have or want to buy powdered milk? Omit it. The cookies are better and richer with it, but the recipe also works without it. Keep it, however, if you use shortening.
Want to make it nut-free? Use 1 cup of roughly chopped quick oats instead of pecans; it works.
Cookies spread out to about 3 inches wide, so don't overcrowd them.
7 minutes: cookies are pale and soft throughout, even when cooled.
8 minutes: cookies have soft centers with a slight crunch on edge. After a day of storage, they are completely soft, but the color is better than the 7 minute cookies.
9 minutes: cookies have soft centers, but more crispness on the edge, and notably better color than 8 minute cookies. They are completely soft after a day of storage, but tastier than the 7 minute cookies.
10 minutes: cookies are slightly soft in the center, with golden edges. They retain their crispness. They also store the best but will still soften after a couple of days.
Make-ahead: scoop and shape cookie dough. Freeze, then move to a freezer bag. Bake from frozen; add 2 minutes to baking time.
Adapted from the Fannie Farmer Baking Book, which adapted it from Schrafft's restaurants
Recipes from the past