The story of these Easy Pecan Tiles begins in a Paris museum and ends a couple of hours after Jody dances atop a bar in a Boston restaurant (a groundbreaker for both of us). First Paris, then the recipe, then the bar.
We visited our daughter Roxanne in the City of Light over Christmas. When not eating or cooking we went to museums, including the spectacular new Frank-Gehry-designed Fondation Louis Vuitton in the Bois de Boulogne. After an hour of disorientation and enchantment at the Olafur Eliasson exhibit we drifted downstairs, where Jody bought Eliasson’s TYT (Take Your Time) Volume 5, The Kitchen. Eliasson’s book is a compendium of photographs, recipes, essays (by Eliasson and others) and some thinking about the role of food and eating in his own studio life. It has a raw unpolished feel about it, as though assembled from field notes and photos, including a series of shots showing (interns? students?) sitting about, each gingerly lifting a single calendar-sized thin cookie from its sheet pan. Each cookie had been scored before baking so that it could be broken (or not) into smaller pieces.
Bingo! Blog inspiration strikes – sheet-pan-sized cookies that you break into smaller pieces!
We already have a killer gingersnap recipe, so Jody opted for pecan spice cookies instead. They’re absurdly addictive if, like us, you don’t allow cookies in the house unless they’re homemade. The damn things were so dangerous we gave most of the first and a third of the second batch away, still leaving us with a fatal 2 tray’s worth remaining on our kitchen counter, softly keening the Bali Hi song every time one of us made an espresso. We fell off the cookie wagon enough times to go through a bag in a few days. They’re also fun to break apart (pay no attention, kids, to the lady below who says they’re for adults). It’s easy to envision a dinner party when the salad and cheese have been cleared and a single giant cookie makes an entrance and participants collectively rest their fingers on it, Ouija-board-planchette-style, and… on the count of three. One-two-three! Snap!
The following weekend, Jody and her team* from Rialto and TRADE, competed in Cochon555 2015 Boston. If you’re not au courant in all things porcine, you may not know that Cochon555’s mission is to increase public awareness of small farmers sustainably raising heritage pigs. To that end, Cochon555 organizes dinners and educational events, including competitions pitting 5 top chefs in various cities against each other in a 6-course throw-down. Blood puddings; porchetta flatbread and pork liver sliders; Frito pie; rib chop nigiri; homemade hot dogs; pig’s blood tortellini in brodo; an exquisite selection of pork charcuterie, including two kinds of paté en croute and a “saucisse de Frankfurt” – some of what Jody and team were up against.
But they won! See below for their full menu, but the first course will have a familiar ring for readers of this blog, Truffle and Porcini Tortellini in Pork Brodo.
At an after-party at Tavern Road peopled with “industry” (restaurant workers) Jody was suddenly hoisted atop the bar alongside Tavern Road chef/owner and generous competitor Louis DiBiccari. A little dance, a little round of congratulations, some spraying champagne. (THE ONE TIME IN MY LIFE I DID NOT HAVE MY CAMERA, GRRRR!!!) Eventually we made it home, where Jody shed her superhero costume. Before we settled in to catch the end of the Oscars we wondered if it would be worth cooking to take the peckish edge off the end of a long day. And then we both heard it – the seductive song of the Pecan Tiles. We did what we’d been lusting to do for the last week. What you’re supposed to do when you win a pork competition and do a little victory dance atop a competitor’s bar. No restraint, no I’ll-just-have-one, no counting. We gobbled down the entire remaining tray of Pecan Tiles. With red wine. They’re not called Easy for nothing.
*David Ladner, Cory Seeker, Kaelynn Babin, Jonathan Posiko, Ashley Santos, Tenzin Conechok Samdo, Kyung-Won Lee and Jacki Morisi.
PICK YOUR PORK!!!
Here’s a partial list of what Jody’s team prepared at Cochon555. If there’s a dish or component you’d like to try at home, let us know and maybe we can fashion a blog version of it. Enjoy. Ken
–Truffle and Porcini Tortellini in Pork Brodo
–Profiteroles with Bacon Crack and Gorgonzola Ice Cream, Chocolate Glaze and Almonds
–Pork Riblets with Soy-Apple-bourbon Glaze and Spicy Kimchi
–Smoked Pork Loin Sandos with Fois Gras and Head Cheese, Fig Jam and Pickled Mustard Seed
–Pork Belly Lettuce Wraps with Peanut, Lime and Mint
–Pork Sausage and Polenta Stew with Peppers and Pomegranate, Offal Confit
Easy Pecan Ginger Tiles
- 1¾ cups all purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- 1½ teaspoons ground ginger
- 1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom (use a mortar and pestle to crush the seeds from 3 cardamon pods into a powder, if you prefer)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 5 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature
- ½ cup light brown sugar
- ¼ cup white sugar
- 1 whole egg, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
- 3 ounces chopped pecans
- 2 ounces candied ginger, sliced thin
- Sift the flour, baking soda, ground ginger, ground cinnamon, ground cardamon and salt into a bowl.
- Dump the butter, brown sugar and white sugar into the bowl of a standing mixer and beat together until light and fluffy. Add the egg and lemon zest and beat well.
- Add the sifted ingredients and beat on a low speed until just combined. You do not want to over develop the gluten by beating too much. It should be crumbly. Add the nuts and beat until the dough comes together, 30 seconds or so.
- Divide the dough into 2 pieces and form into flat squares, wrap in parchment paper and refrigerate at least one hour.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Unwrap one of the squares of dough. Transfer the dough to the counter. Put the parchment inside a sheet pan and fold the edges down the length of the pan making margins. Put the parchment back on a counter, dust with flour, and set the dough on top. Dust the dough with flour. Start by batting the dough with a rolling pin to start to flatten it. Pick it and turn it every now and then. When the dough is about 1-inch thick, start to roll the pin over to dough into a sheet ¼-inch thick. You may have to lift the dough and sprinkle the parchment with a little more flour. Keep the dough within the folded margins.
- Transfer the sheet of parchment with the rolled dough onto a sheet pan or baking sheet. The dough may have some holes where it has split or the pecan pieces were a little big. Simply patch with a small piece of dough from the edges. Using a pasta cutter, cut the sheet of dough into irregular shaped tiles. Top with slices of candied ginger. Repeat with the remaining squares of dough.
- Bake the pans for 10 minutes in the center of the oven. Turn the pans and bake an additional 4-5 minutes. The sheet of cookies should be golden brown. Transfer the cookies on the parchment to a rack and cool 5 minutes. Break into individual tiles. Discard the parchment, and return the cookies to the rack to finish cooling.
As Ken notes, I got the idea for cookies cut this way from Olafur Eliasson’s book, Take Your Time, Volume 5, The Kitchen. I call them “easy” because the shaping is easy, but easy doesn’t necessarily mean quick. One gets the impression in paging through Eliasson’s book that he appreciates cooking as much as he does making art. It’s all about enjoying the process.
Close readers will note that in the photos I divide the dough into 2 squares. But each piece was too unwieldy to roll easily. In the recipe above I portion the dough into 3 squares, which makes rolling the dough thin less muscular. If it tears around a nut, just patch it. These are fun, not elegant.
These are grown-up cookies, not too sweet, and with nice crisp feel. If you like cookies sweeter, increase the amount of brown or white sugar by 2-4 tablespoons. Any more than that and they’ll be too sweet.