Special equipment: a 2 3/8-inch bear cookie cutter; a small offset spatula
Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. Beat the brown sugar and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the egg, then the vanilla until completely combined, scraping the bowl as necessary. Add the flour mixture and mix on medium-low speed until completely incorporated, about 1 minute. Divide the dough in half, then pat or roll each piece into 1/4-inch thick sheets between pieces of plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour and up to overnight.
Position 2 oven racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Working with 1 piece of dough at a time, remove the plastic wrap and transfer the dough to a piece of parchment paper. Place a second piece of parchment on top and roll out the dough between the parchment to 1/8-inch thick, being sure to smooth out any creases. Cut out 20 to 22 bears by pressing a 2 3/8-inch bear cookie cutter into the dough, sliding a small offset spatula underneath the cutter and dough and lifting to release from the paper. Place the bears on one of the prepared baking sheets about 1 inch apart. (If the dough becomes too soft, put it in the freezer to firm up a little so it is easier to work with.) Reserve the dough scraps wrapped in plastic at room temperature.)
Place a pecan between the arms of each bear and fold the arms up around the pecan to make it look like the bear is hugging the nut (the arms may crack at the shoulder; that's okay as long as they sit on the nut). Put the baking sheet in the freezer to firm up, 10 minutes. Repeat with the second piece of dough, adding the scraps to the reserved scraps to roll later. After 10 minutes, take the first baking sheet out of the freezer to bake it and put the second baking sheet in to chill.
Bake, 1 baking sheet at a time, rotating it 180 degrees halfway through, until the cookies are beginning to become golden at the edges but are still slightly soft to the touch, 14 to16 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets until firm enough to transfer to a wire rack to cool completely, about 10 minutes. The cookies will firm as they cool.
Knead together the reserved scraps and reroll, chilling if necessary; repeat the forming, chilling and baking process until all the dough has been used.
Melt the milk chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl in the microwave at 30-second intervals, stirring between each interval, about 2 minutes total. Use a toothpick to draw chocolate eyes, noses, ears and feet on the bears. Alternatively, put the melted chocolate in a resealable plastic bag, snip off a corner and pipe the features onto to cookies. Let the chocolate set completely before serving, about 30 minutes.
When measuring flour, we spoon it into a dry measuring cup and level off the excess. (Scooping directly from the bag compacts the flour, resulting in dry baked goods.)
This recipe has been updated and may differ from what was originally published or broadcast.
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