I love this recipe because it combines two of my favorite sweets in one--butter cookies and Southern pralines! The results are buttery, sweet and nostalgic. I also love this recipe because it includes a simple praline sauce that can be made without a candy thermometer.
For the cookies: Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
Arrange the chopped pecans on half of the prepared baking sheet and place the pecan halves on the other half. Bake the pecans until toasted, about 10 minutes. When done, set aside to cool, keeping the chopped pecans and pecan halves separate.
In a large bowl, cream the butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar with an electric mixer. Add 1 egg at a time, beating to combine, then add the vanilla and mix well. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt; add to the creamed mixture in 2 batches, beating well to combine. Fold in the toasted chopped pecans.
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. With an ice-cream scoop, scoop 1 1/2-tablespoon rounds of dough onto the prepared baking sheets (making sure you leave at least 1 inch of space between each). Cover and chill the dough for at least 1 hour and up to overnight. Chilling the dough helps prevent it from spreading during baking.
After your dough chills for at least an hour, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Allow the dough to sit at room temperature for 5 minutes, then bake the cookies until slightly golden brown around the edges, 11 to 12 minutes (12 to 13 minutes for crispier cookies). Add a pecan half to the middle of each cookie and cool to room temperature.
For the praline sauce: While the cookies are cooling, add the brown sugar, granulated sugar, butter and milk to a medium saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil, whisking continuously. Boil and whisk for 3 minutes more, or until the sauce is thickened slightly and coats the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat. Let cool for 4 to 5 minutes.
Drizzle the sauce over the cookies before serving. The cookies and any leftover praline sauce will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days stored separately. Spoon leftover sauce over ice cream or stir into hot coffee.
When measuring flour, we spoon it into a dry measuring cup and level off excess. (Scooping directly from the bag compacts the flour, resulting in dry baked goods.)
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