Pecan Shortbread

The march of progress often seems inexorable, with each passing step of time yielding new ground in our scientific and technical fields.

The digital age is the embodiment of this phenomenon.  With the advent of computers, we’ve watched our lives become longer, our automobiles become safer, and our world become closer.

In the world of photography, the digital age has made film obsolete and our cameras smaller and faster.  We’ve gone from the Polaroid to the point and shoot, and from carrying buckets of film to squeezing thousands of images onto a single photo card, no larger than the size of a half-dollar.  We’ve traded film development for image software; our darkroom for a computer.

All of which makes the technical and artistic expertise of an Ansel Adams that much more compelling. Adams shot his landscapes with a view camera and nothing more than a loupe for focusing.  He did not have autofocus or an internal light-meter.  He did not have image-stabilizing lenses or the benefit of white-balance.  He did not have an “auto contrast” or “auto sharpen” button.  He had nothing but his own abilities and his negatives.

Tonight, as I played around with my Adobe Elements software, I couldn’t help but marvel at the abilities of a photographer like Adams, who could create such  soaring beauty without the benefit of an editing software, an autofocus, or any of the other innumerable advancements we associate with digital photography.

Pecan Shortbread

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart Living.

PREP TIME: 10 minutes
COOK TIME: 30 minutes
YIELD: 8 Triangles

3/4 cup pecans, toasted
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
6 tablespoons butter, softened
6 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


1.  Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Toast the pecans for 10 minutes.  Allow the pecans to cool briefly.  Once cool, pulse the pecans in a food processor until they are finely ground.  Pour the flour and salt into the food processor, and pulse briefly, until combined.

2.  Beat the butter, sugar, and vanilla until pale and fluffy.  Slowly add the pecan mixture to the sugar mixture, beating until just combined.

3.  Butter a 8-inch or 9-inch round cake pan.  Transfer the dough to the cake pan.  Place a piece of parchment paper or plastic wrap on the dough, and use it to press the dough evenly into the pan.  Remove the parchment paper (or plastic wrap), and use a spatula to create an even layer.  Carefully cut the dough into eight wedges using a paring knife.  Prick the dough, all over, with the tines of a fork.

4.  Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown and firm in the center.  Transfer the pan to a wire rack.  Cut the shortbread along the wedges, and prick again.  Let it cool slightly, then dust with confectioners’ sugar and serve!


One response to “Pecan Shortbread

  1. Glad you’re enjoying the software! I love Ansel Adams’s photography, but I have to say I think you’ve done pretty well without fancy equipment too.

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