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I recently had the chance to speak with Marilynn and Sheila Brass, the authors of Heirloom Baking with the Brass Sisters, a fantastic cookbook full of old family recipes they found at yard sales and flea markets. (Mrs. Carl Winchenbach's Banana Cream Pie is particularly good.) Talking to them inspired me to look through my own family's old recipes. They are mostly from my grandmother and my aunt, and many are handwritten on tattered, yellowed, food-stained note cards. Amid the Jell-O molds and canned-soup concoctions, I came across a few relevant favorites, including chocolate cookies loaded with pecans. To tell the truth, I was a skeptic and thought the recipe wouldn't work-shame on me. The lack of flour made me question the recipe's accuracy. Because I work in the Test Kitchen and can't leave well enough alone, I tried the cookies a few different ways: As I should have guessed, the original recipe was the winning version (thin but chewy in the center and crisp around the edges). Here is the recipe as my grandmother made it, followed by a few tweaks that I made in the testing process.

Nana Betty's Chocolate-Pecan Cookies
Makes about 40 cookies

1 3/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup vegetable shortening
3 eggs
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 cups coarsely chopped pecans
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

- With an electric mixer, cream the sugar and the shortening.
- Add the eggs, cocoa powder, pecans, vanilla and salt and blend well.
- Scoop heaping teaspoons of the cookie batter onto parchment-lined baking sheets (a small ice cream scoop works well).
- Bake at 375° for 12 minutes (they will look almost raw at this point, but trust me).
- Cool on the baking sheets for 10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.

1. For a cookie that's crisp all the way from the edges to the center, bake them for 15 minutes.
2. For a thicker cookie with a more brownielike texture, add 1/2 cup all-purpose flour to the batter.