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I have to tell you, Karen Cook really knows her cookies.

She answered my recipe quest with a couple favorites, and while I’ve only taste-tested one, I’m convinced there’re both winners.

Referring to her grandmother as “the best cookie baker,” Karen passed on the recipes she figures are at least 60 years old. Time, it is said, is the best judge, and family favorites definitely prove that adage to be true.

According to Karen, her grandmother was a pastor’s wife who lived in Paso Robles for over 30 years.

“Obviously, their income was very limited so my grandmother would bake dozens and dozens and dozens of cookies each year at Christmas,” she said.

Karen has kept her grandmother’s handwritten list of some 21 different kinds of cookies she would make, and can remember going on delivery trips with her grandfather in his Model A Ford.

“She would make up trays of cookies as gifts for special friends,” she said, adding that her grandmother’s health wasn’t the best and her cookie baking was therapy. “Her cookies were not only very tasty but beautiful to look at as well. I learned to bake by watching her. Patience and how they look is just as important as how they taste.”

She has her grandmother’s “broken-down cookie book” with her recipes, many in her handwriting. She recalls that her brother and two nephews also spent summers with their grandparents. “She always had our favorites in cans in a room off the kitchen,” Karen reminisced.

Although her grandmother has been gone for 30-plus years, “those cookies live on in all our memories!”

Karen, a retired nurse who owns up to being in her 70s, said her Christmas baking has slowed down.

“I haven’t baked in years,” she said, “but this,” referring to her sharing this week’s recipe, “might spur me on to bake some.”

She passed on two favorites — I’d love to have a look at her treasured cookie cookbook — and I’m definitely a fan of this week’s recipe.

These pecan delights are her and her husband’s favorites.

Since the second recipe is called “spiders,” I’m putting that into my Halloween file and will most certainly take them on a taste test soon.

Aptly named, Karen’s pecan delights are delicious, easy and quick. I took a sampling to a neighborhood gift-wrapping party and received an enthusiastic thumbs-up rating. From Gretchen, whose age is a single digit, to octogenarian Denis, these were a hit.

A little heads up — when all ingredients are mixed, it appears to be quite crumbly, but when forming the cookies, the texture changes into pliable dough that holds together and is easy to shape.

Add these to your Christmas cookies list. I plan to.

Pecan Delights

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1 c. softened butter (2 sticks)

½ c. granulated sugar

1 Tbsp. water

1 tsp. vanilla

2 c. flour

2 c. finely chopped pecans

Granulated sugar for rolling 

Cream butter until soft. Gradually add sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Blend in water and vanilla. Combine flour and nuts, adding gradually to creamed mixture. With lightly-floured hands, break off small pieces of dough and shape like dates — small logs about 1½ inches long by ½- to ¾-inch diameter. Place one inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 325 for 25 to 30 minutes or until very light brown. Remove from cookie sheet onto cooling rack. While still warm, roll in granulated sugar. 

Makes 6 to 7 dozen cookies. Store in closed container, where, Karen says, “they hold up very well for two to three weeks.”

Santa Ynez Valley resident Elaine Revelle can be reached at thewoodenspoon@juno.com

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