Recipe for Disaster: Pecan Cookies for Chairlift
Life: It is yours to do with as you choose, which means that if you want, you can dramatically overcomplicate anything you put your mind to. It is truly great to have a fifteen-piece drum kit, or boots that take 45 minutes to lace up, or a phone that gets you casual sex and laundry service and cat pictures and emails and the day’s news on demand. Foucault is great, as is elaborate rainbow hair and particle physics and Valentino embroidery, and the fact that people are psyched for a Twin Peaks reboot means that David Lynch’s movies still hold weight.
But sometimes things just do not need to be that complicated. Do not play head games with people you care about. Do not make our spectacles into little smartphones. Do not put peas in the guacamole. A perfect combination of simple ingredients is enough.
In fact, sometimes the most nuanced, complex, successful work comes from a decidedly uncomplicated background. Like Marcella Hazan’s tomato sauce. And Chairlift.
Still just two people, still making music in that particular way, wholly unique to them, exemplified on their first records but perfected on their new album, Moth. They are, by now, fluent in themselves; the rules have been established and polished and studied, and Chairlift know those rules so well that now they’re able to play around, get loose with the grammar, defy gravity in the space they've established.
Their approach to music is so honed that even the addition of a horn section doesn’t seem extraneous, but complementary, an iteration (or possibly an extension) of what they’ve already achieved. It is amazing to see a band insisting on a growth model — to improve and fine-tune with each album instead of radically changing their sound, something many bands try in lieu of finessing out their kinks. If Caroline Polachek suddenly decides to start rapping, well.... OK, I might love that too. But I can't say for sure, so for now I'll stick to being happy that they're continuing down this particular path.
Last week, maybe you caught a sneak peek of these weirdly elegant cookies from way back in my childhood. I have seen them labeled Russian tea cookies, Mexican wedding cookies, snowflake cookies (this one eludes me entirely). The point is, they’re primarily composed of four very simple ingredients that never change. With only these ingredients, they’re wonderful. And even when you add a horn section — or rosewater, anise, matcha, herbal liqueurs — they’re still fundamentally the same thing underneath.
After spending the last week finessing the proportions, rather than wildly switching to a different recipe, I can attest to the fact — also proven by Chairlift — that sitting with your work is exponentially harder than making radical jumps to avoid discomfort.
Russianteacookiesmexicanweddingsnowflake whateverohmygod they’rejustcookiesmadewithpecans, callthemwhateveryouwantidgaf:
2 cups pecans
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup butter, softened to room temperature**
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c powdered sugar
Optional (use one, or sub 1.5 tbsp vanilla extract for a basic cookie):
1.5 tbsp rosewater (or other extract: almond, maple, anise, &c.)
1.5 tbsp dutch processed cocoa powder (the bitterer, the better-er)
1.5 tbsp matcha
1.5 tbsp fresh-squeezed lemon juice/other fruit juice or purée
** First, a note on why you need your butter to actually be softened to room temperature: I’m no astrophysicist, but I can say for sure that matter in different states accomplishes different things. And just like you wouldn’t substitute water vapor for ice cubes to cool down a drink, liquid butter vs. rock-hard butter vs. room-temperature butter cannot be substituted for one another. Ice-cold butter makes for an amazing pie crust, but the interplay of easily aerated fat with the pecans and sugar is what makes these cookies fucking magical. Likewise, melted butter is good for buffalo wings and maybe some other stuff, but now I’m just thinking about wings...anyway, these aren’t buffalo wings, you big silly. You’ll have to think ahead when you wanna make these, but seriously, just take two sticks of butter out of the fridge the night before and let them hang out on your counter.
1. Preheat your oven to 325. Pulse pecans in a food processor or blender until they reach a well-ground, almost flour-like consistency.
2. Combine all ingredients except powdered sugar in a large mixing bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer if you’re fancy A-F. You can also add 10–15 drops of food coloring at this point, which is how I made my rosewater biscuits pink. Mix until a dough forms. This is why it’s really important to make sure your butter is room temperature: Without this, you might need a tablespoon or two of liquid to make the dough form, which is what happened to me the first time I tried these with slightly cold butter. Trust me, the difference in the final texture is noticeable.
At this point, you can split your dough into smaller bowls and flavor accordingly. I cut this batch of dough in half and made half rosewater-with-natural-red-food-coloring, and half dutch-processed-cocoa.
3. Form dough into 1.5” slightly flattened balls or shapes — I like to make crescents, because that’s how I remember these looking as a child — and space in 5x4 rows on a cookie sheet dressed with parchment paper. Bake for 20 minutes.
4. Once the cookies are completely cooled (and they must be COMPLETELY cooled), roll in a shallow dish of powdered sugar.
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