double chocolate pecan praline cookies


for the cookies
125g soft, unsalted butter
175g soft brown sugar
Seeds scraped from ½ vanilla pod (or 1 tsp good vanilla extract)
150g plain flour
25g cocoa
1 tsp baking powder
large pinch of salt
1 large egg
100g dark, milk or white chocolate, coarsely chopped

For the pecan praline
100g caster sugar
75g pecans, roughly chopped

Start with the praline. Line a baking sheet with nonstick parchment paper. Put the sugar in a heavy-based pan (with a light-coloured base, so you can see the sugar change colour) and put on a medium-low heat. After a couple of minutes, it will start to melt at the edges. Shake and swirl it gently as it starts to liquefy (you can stir it a bit, but be restrained, else it may crystallise). By the time all the sugar has melted,
some of it will be quite brown. Keep cooking for a minute or so, swirling gently, until all the syrup has turned a rich caramel colour. When it reaches this point, take it off the heat, stir in the chopped pecans and tip the lot on to the parchment-lined tray; take care because the caramel will be extremely hot. Leave to cool and set, then coarsely chop the praline.

Heat the oven to 190C/375F/gas mark 5 and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Beat together the butter, sugar and vanilla until fluffy. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt, add a tablespoon of this to the butter and sugar mix, together with the egg, and beat smooth. Add the remaining flour mix and work it in with a wooden spoon, then work in the praline and chocolate.

Place heaped teaspoonfuls of the mixture on the baking trays, shaping them roughly into rounds and leaving plenty of room for spreading (bake in batches, if necessary), and press a whole pecan into the top of each. Bake for 10 minutes, remove and leave on the tray for about five minutes, so they firm up a little, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.

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