Years ago, I vowed to allow myself to be proud of my accomplishments, even though I’m Catholic and I know that this makes God angry. I have sons, and sons learn about women from watching their mothers. When anyone notes one of my husband’s accomplishments, he says “thank you,” and that’s that. Compliment received, thanks given, transaction completed, everyone walks away happy. Earlier in my life, when someone would compliment me, I would say something self-deprecating, contort my body, and then spend a solid two minutes convincing that person that I was, in fact, pure rotting garbage. That’s what girls do! And that’s what my sons were learning: that when a woman does something kind or amazing or really anything at all, she should always be apologizing for it.
So I stopped doing that. Now, when people give me a compliment, I say “thank you,” and that’s that. The day I vowed to celebrate my accomplishments was the day I stopped being, in my mind, a waste of space. (To some people, it might be the day I started being “an arrogant bitch who is totally full of herself and thinks she’s better than she actually is,” but agree to disagree.)
Why do I tell you all this? Because this is the best cookie I have ever made in my entire life. You might not believe me; I’m having a hard time believing it myself. I’m trying to accept that I’ve made the best cookie of my entire life because, well, I’m pretty sure it’s the best cookie I’ve ever eaten in my entire life. But that could just be personal taste; you might not like these cookies at all. But maybe you will. But you don’t have to really like them like I do if you don’t want to—you can like them a little, or like them kinda sorta, and it’ll be fine. I mean, I really think I made a great cookie and I can’t stop eating them and I think about them all the time, but, yeah, you might think otherwise.
There’s that ol’ contortion-and-apology routine again. Old habits die hard. Let’s try that one more time:
They’re great cookies. I think they may very well be the best cookies I’ve ever made.
Makes about 35 cookies
Note: These cookies need to be prepared the day before you intend to bake them. During the resting period the dough will hydrate and the sugars will dissolve, which are the keys to making a spectacular shortbread. A cookie baked the same day will certainly taste fine, but it won’t be nearly as good as if you had given them 24 hours to make themselves pretty for you.
The nuts you use in this cookie are completely up to you. I’ve made them with pecans, hazelnuts, walnuts, pistachios, and a mix of whatever leftover odd nuts I had lying around in my baking cabinet. It’s tremendously adaptable—just be sure that if you’re working with very sturdy nuts (like hazelnuts or almonds) you chop them finely, since large pieces don’t do all that well in slice-and-bake cookies. Softer nuts, like pecans and walnuts, can be roughly chopped.
- 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter
- 1 Tbsp. dry non-fat milk powder
- 1 cup nuts, roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 tsp. water
- 1 egg
Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in the milk powder and continue cooking until the butter and milk solids turn golden brown. Pour into a mixing bowl.
Return the skillet to the stove, add the chopped nuts and cook, stirring occasionally, until nuts are fragrant and toasted—about 3-4 minutes. Put in the mixing bowl.
To the brown butter and nuts, stir in the sugar, salt, flour, vanilla, water, and egg until a cohesive dough forms. Split the dough in two, then put each half onto an 18" long piece of parchment paper. Roughly form into logs about 2" thick, roll up in the paper, then put into the freezer for 30 minutes.
Once the dough has firmed up a bit, roll the logs again to smooth out the sides, making them as round as you can get them. Twist the ends of the paper like candy to seal, then refrigerate overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Slice the dough into rounds 1/2" thick and arrange onto two parchment-lined or ungreased cookie sheets, leaving at least 1" between cookies. Bake for 20 minutes, rotating pans once after 10 minutes.
After cooling, the cookies can be kept in an airtight container for about a week, if you can keep your hands off of them.