A Little Yule Cheer, Day 18, 2021: Pecan Tassies

Did you know tassie is a Scottish word meaning small cup? Pecan tassie is a fitting name, then, for a tiny crust made from cream cheese, butter and flour and filled with a teaspoon-sized dollop of pecan pie filling. These delicate, gooey morsels are one of my absolute favorite “cookies” of Christmas. My mom is a master of the pecan tassie, making them for Christmas for years. I’ve decided to share her recipe. It comes from the original, gingham-covered, 1976 edition of The Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, which is definitely showing its age. I’m continually amazed that truly delectable goodies can spring from so few ingredients. From such humble ones, too.

The sacred page from the New Cookbook

I’ve tried several other tassie recipes over the years with mixed results. Mom’s version always yields the prettiest, most delicious tartlets. They are perfect for popping in your mouth, one after the other. Although not the easiest “cookie” to make–they require some planning and fiddling–they certainly aren’t difficult. And, friends, the flavor pay-off is huge. These tassies are tender and sweet with a crackly top and nutty, syrupy middle. My mouth is watering just thinking about them.

Pecan Tassies (recipe makes approximately 2 dozen tassies)

  • 3 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup and 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted or stirred with a whisk
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • dash of salt
  • 2/3 cups coarsely chopped pecans
  1. Blend cream cheese and 1/2 cup butter together until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes).
  2. Add flour and combine just until flour is incorporated.
  3. Chill at least 1 hour.
  4. Shape dough into 2 dozen 1 inch balls.
  5. Place in ungreased 1 3/4-inch muffin pan (mini-muffin pan).
  6. Press dough into bottom and sides of each muffin cup.
  7. Beat the egg, brown sugar, 1 tablespoon butter, vanilla and dash of salt together just until smooth. (I do this by hand with a whisk).
  8. Divide 1/3 cup pecans evenly among the muffin cups.
  9. Add about a teaspoon of the egg mixture to each cup, being careful not to completely fill the cups.
  10. Top the tartlets with the rest of the pecans.
  11. Bake at 325oF for about 25 minutes or until filling is set.
  12. Cool and then remove from pan.

Some notes for the best results:

  1. Take time to chill the dough. It’s easier to work with and the crusts bake up prettier.
  2. Don’t mix the pecans and filling to save time. Trust me when I say you’ll get a more appealing looking tartlet if you take your time and follow the directions.
  3. Don’t over fill the tassies. They will cook over the edges of the crusts which makes ugly tassies.
  4. I took a chance with a silicone muffin pan. Wow! It was easy to work with and the tassies popped right out of the pan after cooling. Clean up was a breeze, too.
  5. Two dozen tassies is a woefully inadequate number. Just sayin’.

A Little Yule Cheer, Day 13: The Fat Chewy, an M&M Cookie Recipe

The M Cookie

Toddlers have a knack for impacting a family’s unique vernacular. For instance, when my daughter was small, she called M&M candies Ms. Just Ms. And this is what my family continues to call them, even though we haven’t had a toddler living with us for almost two decades. Today, I’m bringing an M recipe to the party that is both delicious and versatile. It is officially called the Fat Chewy, but here at Whimsey Pie, we’re just going to call it The M Cookie.

The M Cookie is not specifically a Christmas cookie. It can be an anytime or any holiday cookie depending on the color of Ms you use. With red and green Ms, this cookie holds its own alongside gingerbread men and snickerdoodles in the Christmas cookie canon. The recipe is low effort and the pay off in flavor is huge. Paired with a glass of milk, M Cookies are the perfect snack for Santa. Or anyone else who loves cookies or Ms.

The Fat Chewy M Cookie

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 large egg + 1 egg yolk (extra-large eggs work well, too)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup corn starch
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 12 ounce package of M&Ms Milk Chocolate Candies or 1 2/3 cup M&Ms (plus extra for the tops of the cookies)
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips (I prefer mini-chips for this recipe)
  1. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 2 – 3 minutes.
  2. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat until completely incorporated.
  3. Whisk together flour, corn starch, baking soda, and salt.
  4. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture and stir until just combined.
  5. Fold in the Ms and the chocolate chips.
  6. Refrigerate the dough until firm (overnight is best).
  7. Preheat oven to 375o F.
  8. Scoop cookies and roll into balls. (I use a scoop that’s approximately 1 1/2 tablespoons).
  9. Place a few inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet or, even better, a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
  10. Bake for 7 – 10 minutes or until the edges are golden brown.
  11. While cookies are still warm, press a few extra Ms into the top of each one.
  12. Move to a cooling rack.

I think these cookies would be just as delicious made with other varieties of Ms such as caramel or mint or with Reese’s Pieces. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. One small word of warning: These cookies are rich. Bellyaches have been known to happen, so go slow. I know, I know. Easier said than done…

A Little Yule Cheer, Day 8: Sweet Little Strawberry Shortbread Cookies

(One of the ideas I shared in yesterday’s post about creating holiday cheer was to make a favorite Christmas recipe. If you don’t have a favorite recipe or you’re looking for something a bit different from the standard Christmas offerings, you’ve come to the right place. I’m bringing out and dusting off another cookie recipe I posted for the first time 10 year ago (can that possibly be true?). These beauties are fussier than my normal cookie choices, but they are delicious and worth all the effort. So, put on some Christmas tunes, gather your ingredients, and whip up some Christmas deliciousness.)

Most of my cookies, regardless of the final result, begin with the same reassuring formula.  Combine dry ingredients and set aside.  Cream softened butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, along with the flavorings.  Gradually stir dry ingredients into the butter mixture until well incorporated.  Finally, fold in nuts, chips, fruit, etc.  To me, these are the simple, tried and true steps for cookie-making magic.

The other day I was yearning to bake some cookies.  My classes were finally finished for the semester and I had some time on my hands.  I considered all the standards I usually make this festive time of year – chocolate, snickerdoodles, molasses spice, peanut butter kiss, gingerbread, soft sugar.  Nothing inspired me.  My lack of enthusiasm for the usual led me on a hunt through the piles of books and magazines filled with cookie recipes I’ve been stockpiling over the years.  (I wonder, is recipe hoarding an illness?)

In the 2007 edition of Better Homes and Gardens Christmas Cookies publication, a shortbread recipe caught my eye.  I’d never made shortbread before and it seemed like it would be a fun challenge.  Besides, the cookies in the magazine photo looked so adorable, I couldn’t resist.  This recipe took me far from my comfort zone.  Freeze the butter?  No eggs??  Knead the dough???  I don’t need my Kitchenaid mixer?!  Very scary stuff, I’m telling you.  However, after taking the plunge, I can confidently say that there is more than one way to bake cookie magic in my kitchen.

These cookies are definitely worth the extra fussing.  Their subtle strawberry sweetness and tender shortbread texture make them pop-in-your-mouth yummy.  The bonus – they’re pretty enough for very special occasions.  At my house, a true test of a cookie’s deliciousness is how quickly it disappears.  All seventy some cookies were gone in less than 48 hours.  Now that is magic!

Strawberry Shortbread (originally printed in Better Homes and Gardens Christmas Cookies, 2007)

2 tablespoons strawberry preserves (I used my homemade strawberry jam)

1 cup butter, softened

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

2 2/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

Strawberry Glaze

Coarse sugar (optional)

1. Snip large pieces of fruit in the strawberry preserves.  Beat butter, preserves, and almond extract in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until well blended.  Transfer butter mixture to a sheet of plastic wrap; shape into a six-inch log.  Wrap and freeze for 1 to 2 hours or until firm.

2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Stir together flour, granulated sugar, and salt in a large bowl.  Add butter mixture. Cut butter into flour mixture with a pastry blender ubtil mixture starts to cling together.  Knead dough until smooth; form dough into a ball.

3. Divide dough in half.  Roll each portion of dough to 1/4-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface.  Cut out dough rounds with a scalloped 1 1/2 to 2-inch cookie cutter.  Place cut-outs 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets.

4. Bake in a pre-heated oven for 12 to 16 minutes or until edges just start to brown.  Transfer cookies to wire racks and cool completely.  Spread tops with Strawberry Glaze; if desired, sprinkle with coarse sugar.  Let stand until set.  Makes about 54 two-inch cookies or seventy-six 1 1/2-inch cookies.

Strawberry Glaze

Microwave 1 tablespoon of strawberry preserves in a medium microwave-safe bowl on 50 percent for 30 seconds or until melted; snip any large pieces in the preserves.  Stir in two cups of powdered sugar and 1 tablespoon of milk using a wire whisk.  Stir in additional milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, to make a smooth glaze of spreading consistency.  Makes about 2/3 cup.

I made a few changes to the original recipe when I baked up my batch.  Instead of the preserves, I used homemade strawberry freezer jam.  I also substituted vanilla extract for the almond variety – I’m not a big fan of almond flavoring.

The process of cutting in the butter and turning the mixture into a kneadable dough takes some time and muscle.  Just be patient and don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty.  Whenever I wasn’t working with the dough, I kept it cold in the fridge.  I rolled each half of the dough out only twice to keep the cookies from getting tough.  With a 1.5 inch scalloped cookie cutter, I made about seventy-five cookies.  I’m sorry I don’t have an exact number; I began counting after I had already eaten several directly from the hot cookie sheets.  Finally, for the glaze, I used at least two tablespoons of milk to create the desired spreading consistency.  There was more then enough glaze to cover the entire batch – even the ones I ate right out of the oven, had they actually lasted that long.

Blueberry Streusel Coffee Cake


At the back of our yard is an unruly patch of wilderness we loosely refer to as “our garden”.   We never seem to have the time to plant and tend anything worthwhile so the patch is overrun with leggy raspberry canes and  prickly thistles.  As bad as it sounds, it’s not a total bust.  In one small corner of the patch, four little blueberry bushes are thriving and have produced a gorgeous crop of spicy, midnight-colored gems.

This surprising bounty is due wholly to Jay’s efforts.  He is the blueberry whisperer and an all-around green thumb.  He grows and tends to all the things and I take that raw potential and create art with it in my kitchen.   This recent blueberry windfall is the perfect example.  As soon as Jay brought the berries in from “our garden” I put butter on the counter to soften and then grabbed my camera to capture the dark beauty of the tiny fruit.  After about a hundred shots of blueberries from every angle and degree of magnification, I got busy making the real magic – turning these berries and a few other humble ingredients into one of the finest coffee cakes in the history of the world.



Blueberry Streusel Coffee Cake (Adapted from a recipe submitted to Taste of Home by Lori Snedden several years ago.)

9 servings


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 1 cup chopped pecans


  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cold unsalted butter
  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Grease a 9×9 inch baking pan.
  3. In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
  4. Add egg, milk and butter.  Beat well.
  5. Fold in blueberries and pecans.
  6. Spread batter into pan.
  7. In another bowl, combine the sugar and flour.
  8. Cut in the butter until crumbly.
  9. Sprinkle over batter.
  10. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted near the center comes out clean.

I can’t really tell you what it is about this cake that makes it so good.  The delicate crumb topping?  The abundance of blueberries?  The pecan chunks in every mouthful?  Who knows.  Maybe it really is magic.  All I can say is that I’ve eaten four pieces of this cake in the last two days and I’m about to have another and my mouth is watering just thinking about it.  Do yourself or those you love a favor, friend, and make this cake.




A Little Yule Cheer: Day 16 (Tips and Tricks for the Best Christmas Cookies Ever)


Baking is an exacting process.  It’s one of the reasons I choose it as a way to relax.  It sounds counter-intuitive, I know, but it really isn’t.  Because I have to pay attention to what I am doing and follow all the steps in the recipe, I can’t multi-task and I can’t rush through the process.  Baking forces me to slow down and be mindful.  Plus, it is so sensually satisfying.  The taste of creamed butter and sugar, the smell of vanilla and spices, the silky feel of flour, the riot of sanding sugar colors.  The house smells delicious as the cookies bake and then everyone can enjoy the yummy results.

While I was writing this post, I found myself thinking about some of the cookie baking wisdom I’ve acquired over the years.  My unique arsenal of tips and tricks have come from a wide variety of sources.  Some have been handed down from more experienced bakers in my family (i.e., Nana and Mom, etc.) and some grew out of a desperate need to solve a frustrating baking problem.  Other tips developed from happy accidents or were gleaned from baking blogs and articles.  Taken together, these bits of wisdom have significantly decreased the frustration level and increased the fun factor of cookie baking for me.  Since Christmas time is the zenith of cookie baking activity, I thought I’d share some of my best tips and tricks.  Hopefully, you’ll find something to increase you own cookie baking pleasure or efficiency.


  • Use fresh, best quality ingredients like eggs, butter, baking soda, baking powder, etc.  Quality ingredients increases your chances of producing quality cookies.  At least you are building a solid foundation.  I put dates on my baking soda, baking powder and spices so that I can keep track of freshness.
  • Use unsalted butter.  I used to think that the emphasis on unsalted butter was one of those useless pieces of trendy advice.  Not so.  After reading somewhere that salted butter contains a higher concentration of water which causes cookies to spread more when baked, I switched to unsalted butter for my chocolate chip cookie recipe.  TADA! – plump, perfect cookies.  I’m a convert.  Unless otherwise stated, use unsalted butter.

Favorite Tools

It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway), you can’t bake well if you don’t have the right equipment.  Beyond measuring cups and spoons, spatulas, bowls, a fridge and an oven, there are a few tools that are essential to my success as a cookie baker.

  • Flat cookie sheets without sides.  I’ve tried all kinds of cookie sheets.  Hands down, I get the best results with the flat, sideless variety.  Cookies bake evenly and are so easy to put on and take off the sheets.   (Note: I have no preference for color or surface type because of my next tool.)
  • Parchment paper.  What a miracle worker!  It’s the perfect non-stick surface for any type of cookie (except maybe spritz that need a sticky surface) and can be used on any cookie sheet.  Because of its light color, cookie bottoms don’t brown too much.  And, it can be re-used and makes clean-up a breeze.
  • A variety of scoops.  Drop cookies became infinitely easier to manage when varying sizes of ice cream scoops were introduced.  I bought my scoops from Pampered Chef years ago; I use them all the time because drop cookies are my go-to type of cookie and they are still going strong.  Using scoops increases the efficiency of the cookie baking process and the uniformity of the size of the cookies.  It’s a win-win, really.  I can make the cookies faster and they look better.
  • KitchenAid Mixer. It’s my BFF when I’m baking.  It does the heavy work of creaming the butter and sugars while I combine the dry ingredients and then tirelessly mixes everything together.  I waited a long time to purchase my royal blue powerhouse.  Although my kids missed having two beaters to lick at first, I have never looked back.
  • Large cooling racks.  Cookies need to cool completely before they are stored. They also need to get off the baking sheets so that more cookie dough can fulfill its destiny.   Large cooling racks = more cookies cooling at one time = efficiency.

Best Practices

  • Read the whole recipe before you start and then follow. every. step.  Why?  See below.
  • Measure ingredients exactly.  Although baking seems like magic (and I’d still argue that some magic is involved), it’s really about chemistry.  For the chemistry to do what it’s supposed to do, you need to follow the directions and measure ingredients accurately.  Period.  End of story.  Non-negotiable.
  • Allow butter to soften on the counter.  Yes, it takes time and some planning.  But,  on the counter, butter will soften evenly and to the appropriate temperature  every time.  This is very good for your cookies, so just do it.
  • Bring other ingredients to room temperature, too.  When all the guests at the party are warmed up,  they mingle with ease.  It works the same way with your cookie dough ingredients.  Let them warm up so they have a better chance of getting along.
  • Don’t cream the butter and sugar too long.  When butter is softened correctly, 2 to 2 1/2 minutes of creaming with the sugar should be just about perfect.  If you cream for a shorter time than that, the butter and sugar don’t emulsify properly.  Longer than 3 minutes and too much air is introduced into the dough.  Cookies will then rise extra high as they cook and then deflate when they cool.  Sad, deflated cookies are just… sad.  Do follow the recipe, though.  There may be a very good reason you need to cream the butter and sugar for 7 minutes.
  • When adding dry ingredients, only mix the dough until dry ingredients are completely incorporated, then stop.  Over-beating the dough after the flour has been added can active the gluten in the flour.  Instead of tender cookies that melt in your mouth, you’ll be chewing on hockey pucks.  Also, use the lowest setting on your mixer as you incorporate the dry ingredients for the same reason.  The best policy at this stage in the process is to treat your cookie dough with tender, loving care.
  • Don’t crowd the baking sheet.  Cookies need room to grow.  Make note of the spacing suggested in your recipe and follow it.  If no guidance is offered, 2 inches is usually a pretty safe buffer zone.  If you don’t want your cookies looking like conjoined twins, pay attention to spacing.
  • When making rolled cookies, keep everything as chilled as possible.  Making rolled cookies can quickly turn into a nightmare.  The trick is to keep everything cold so that dough keeps its shape and doesn’t stick to anything.  I divide my dough in half so I always have some dough in the refrigerator chilling while I’m working with the other half.  If you’re like me and don’t have a naturally cool marble surface to work on, keep your counter chilled with a gallon plastic bag full of ice when you aren’t working on it.  It also helps to chill the cookie cut-outs before they go in the oven; they keep their shape better while they bake.  Trust me, chilling reduces the exasperation level exponentially with cut-out cookies.

I’m going to wrap up this long-winded piece of advice now.  I’m always looking for ways to improving my baking skills.  Do you have any suggestions you’d like to add?  Gingerbread and spritz cookies still make me want to curse and pull my hair out in clumps so advice related to those cookies would be especially appreciated.  Happy baking!