Throwback Thursday: Penny’s From Heaven Cookies

We’re running this one again with our new eBook because it is oh so good!   I developed this cookie for my mother, Penny Bailer (neé, Penelope Vesta Naylor), who, I’m sure, is responsible for my marked adoration of all things nutty. I don’t know if it has ever been researched, but I think there may some genetic predisposition that has been passed from mother to daughter, at least in my family. Maybe it’s because she grew up in Georgia where pecans are abundant and maybe it’s because her mother, my grandmother (Flora Hill Naylor, or as we called her, “Munner”), loved nuts too. Who knows why we love them (and who really cares?) – we just do! Though my mother loves all nuts (and her supremely egalitarian world view would inspire her to insist that this is so), she has a special weakness for pecans — and lots of them.

My mother tells me that she often dreams about this cookie (she really does). I bake them when she visits, and it’s all I can do to keep her from eating half of the batter and then grabbing the hot cookies right out of the oven. No matter how many times I tell her that they really do need to cool at least a few minutes before they are safe for consumption (the centers are like molten lava just out of the oven), she still tries to convince me that she can handle the heat. Who doesn’t like warm cookies? You’d think she’d learn after she burned her mouth the 101st time…

Why Penny’s From Heaven, you may ask? Well, first, I must apologize for the questionable grammar. Penny’s From Heaven (“Penny’s” instead of “Pennies” – from the original song, Pennies from Heaven) is a reference to three things: first, to my mother, Penny, a lover of all things nutty, chocolaty and gooey, who is eternally optimistic and has encouraged and supported me (in more ways than one) from the day I was born; second, to my mother’s campaign logo from her election to public office in 1990 in Detroit, MI; and third, from the original song my grandfather, Donald Covey Naylor, sang on the radio for my mother on November 11, 1940 on the day that she was born.

Penny’s From Heaven Cookies

FOR THE PECAN BUTTER:Pennys-from-heaven-cookies
8 ounces pecans, toasted in the microwave oven or in the conventional oven (see notes in Tips, Techniques &Ingredients section) cooled completely
½ cup room temperature unsalted butter (8 Tablespoons)

1 cup (16 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, slightly cooler than room temperature
2 cups dark brown sugar
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 large whole egg
2 large egg yolks
3 Tablespoons dark corn syrup
2 tsp. of “Kelly’s Secret Weapon” Handcrafted PURE VANILLA EXTRACT
1 teaspoons baking soda
4 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup (about 6-8 ounces) toffee bits (Hershey’s Brand) or chopped toffee candy bars
2 cups (about 12-16 ounces) semi-sweet white chocolate swirl chips (or 1 cup [about 6-8 ounces] of semi-sweet chips and 1 cup [about 6-8 ounces] of white chocolate chips)
1 cup (about 6-8 ounces) butterscotch chips
4 cups coarsely (very coarsely – leave some pecan halves uncut) chopped toasted (microwave or oven toasted) pecans (about 16-20 ounces), cooled – you can use pecan halves here – Penny (Mom) likes to be able to see the large chunks of nuts in the cookies. I don’t even chop the nuts for my Mom’s cookies – I just break up a few of the toasted pecan halves with my hands.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper, a silicon nonstick mat or nonstick aluminum foil.
FOR THE PECAN BUTTER: Place the pecans into the bowl of the food processor fitted with the metal blade. Process until finely chopped. Add the butter and process until very smooth, at least 2-3 minutes. Scrape the pecan butter out of food processor into a small bowl and place into the refrigerator while you prepare the cookie dough.
FOR THE COOKIE DOUGH: In the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer, beat the butter on medium high until somewhat softened. Add the dark brown sugar and the salt, scrape down the sides of the bowl and cream until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes on medium-high.

Add the eggs, yolks, dark corn syrup and vanilla extract and mix on medium-high until creamy. Add the soda and flour and mix for about 30 seconds.
Remove the pecan butter from the refrigerator and add it to the mixing bowl. Beat the mixture on low until all of the flour is incorporated and then on high until all ingredients thoroughly incorporated (see glossary for “tough cookie” definition). Scrape down the sides of the bowl and check to see that the mixture at the bottom of the bowl is as well-mixed as the mixture at the top of the bowl. If the bottom is noticeably softer, remove the bowl from the mixer and use a rubber spatula to fold the bottom of the dough on to the top of the dough. Replace the bowl on the mixer and mix again on high until thoroughly incorporated. This will take about 30 seconds – be careful not to mix any more than necessary to achieve a homogeneous blend.

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Add the toffee, chips and nuts and mix again until add-ins are evenly distributed, about 20-30 seconds (you can also do this with a rubber spatula and a lot of elbow grease, if you are really worried about toughening the dough). Use a spatula to make sure the batter is uniformly mixed.
Cover the bowl and let the dough rest at room temperature for at least 15 minutes and up to 30 minutes. If you plan to bake the cookies at a later date, cover the dough tightly and refrigerate it (up to 3 days) or freeze it (see “FREEZER NOTE” below; freeze dough for up to 1 month). Let refrigerated dough come to room temperature before proceeding.

Scoop the dough into ¼ cup balls (use an ice cream scoop with ¼ cup capacity). Place 6 dough balls on each half-sheet pan, evenly spacing them so they have enough room to spread when they bake. Flatten the dough balls slightly with the palm of your hand. Bake 1 or 2 sheets at a time 9-10 minutes or until the cookies are golden brown on the edges but still a bit soft in the center, rotating the pans top to bottom and back to front half way through baking. Remove from the oven and, if desired, follow the Post-Bake-Shaping instructions in the Tips, Techniques & Ingredients section of this book. Let cool on the pan for 5 minutes before transferring cookies to a cooling rack. Repeat scooping and baking with remaining dough. MAKES 25-30 large cookies.

FREEZER NOTE: To bake frozen dough directly from the freezer, follow the instructions for forming the flattened dough balls in step #8 above. Place the balls of dough onto a parchment lined cookie sheet and freeze until the dough balls are frozen solid. Transfer the frozen balls to a re-sealable freezer bag . Bake the frozen dough as directed above, adding 2-3 minutes to the total baking time.

To truly enjoy a Penny’s From Heaven as my mother and the cookie gods intended, you must gobble down at least one cookie while it is almost too hot to handle. Let the cookies rest on the pan for 5 minutes and then gently transfer the still hot cookies to a cooling rack. Let the cookies set up on the cooling rack for 1-2 minutes and then use a spatula to gently transfer a cookie to a small serving plate. Pour yourself a large glass of ice cold milk (to offset the molten lava quality of the cookie) and use a fork to break off a piece of the cookie from the center. You can use your hands if they are asbestos fortified as many a baker’s are, but use caution – it would be a sin to lose even a crumb if you fumble the hot cookie – though I’m sure any true cookie lover would be able to eat through the burn.