When I was in elementary (specifically grades 4-6) I lived very close to my school. So close, in fact, that I walked, rather than catch the bus. My path took me by the house of a kindly old lady named Mrs. Trent, who would sometimes bake me the most delicious cookies my 10-year-old taste buds had ever experienced. She was a friend of my grandmother, though many years older, so I trusted her.
The cookies were light in color with a brown band around the edge. They were thicker in the middle and sloped to a thin edge. The center of each cookie was adorned with a single pecan half. I loved those cookies (so did my grandmother, with whom I shared them) and was always excited to see her bringing a tin outside as I walked by. It was a special treat.
All good things must come to an end, however. Late in my 6th grade school year Mrs. Trent moved down south to spend her final years with family. She didn’t last much longer. I thought I would never taste those cookies again. I didn’t have the recipe and wasn’t interested in cooking at the time so I didn’t know where to start in reproducing them. My grandmother didn’t know the recipe either, as I hoped she might. She had been just as content with getting them from Mrs. Trent as I had been.
Years passed and I eventually forgot about those delightful little cookies, but fate had its own plans. Over the years I developed an interest in cooking and baking and began to explore my grandparents old (and I’m talking really old) cookbooks for recipes. In the baking section of one such book I saw an extremely simple cookie recipe titled “Butter Thins”. I read it and when I saw one step called for topping the cookies with a single pecan half my eyes grew wide with realization. Even with no picture I knew I had stumbled upon Mrs. Trent’s recipe.
That old cookbook was missing it’s cover and falling apart. I removed the page with the recipe and have kept it these past 15 years, though I‘ve long since committed to memory. I’ve made these cookies for bake sales. They always sell out. I make them every Christmas as well. Here I present the recipe for “Butter Thins”.
1) ¾ cup all-purpose flour, sifted
2) ¼ teaspoon salt
3) ½ cup (1 stick) butter
4) 2/3 cup sugar
5) 1 egg
6) ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
7) About 24 pecan halves (depends on how many cookies you make)
1) Preheat oven to 350°F. Position the racks in the upper and middle portion of the oven.
2) Cream the softened butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
3) Add the egg, salt, and vanilla and mix until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
4) Mix in the flour.
5) Drop dough by teaspoonfuls (I make mine a little bigger than that but the recipe said teaspoonfuls) at least two inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Note: If you chill the cookie dough before putting it on the baking sheet the cookies will come out thicker. If you use it right after making it then the cookies will be thinner.
6) You can now lightly press a pecan half into the top of each cookie. I make half with the pecan and half without. (You can also mix finely chopped pecans or other nuts in the dough at step 4).
7) Bake for 10-15 minutes, depending on how big you made the cookies, rotating the pans half way through for even cooking. The cookies are done when they have a nicely browned edge.
8) Cook on a rack completely. The cookies with go from pliable to crisp. Store them in an airtight container for up to three days (if they last that long). After three days, the cookies with probably start going soft as the sugar in them absorbs humidity from the air.
This recipe usually makes 2 dozen cookies for me. I double it at Christmas. Enjoy!