150 grams (1 cup plus 3 tablespoons) all-purpose flour
125 grams (1 stick plus 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter, at room temperature
90 grams (1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons and 1 teaspoon) granulated sugar
90 grams (scant 1 cup) toasted, ground pecans (see Notes)
25 grams (1 1/2) egg yolks
5 grams (1 teaspoon) masala (see Notes)
3 grams (1/2 teaspoon) kosher salt
1/4 vanilla bean, scraped
Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl by hand or in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment until a dough just begins to form.
Transfer to a work surface and form into a rectangle, wrap with plastic or a reusable alternative, and refrigerate until chilled but still pliable enough to impress a dent when poked. (Alternatively, at this point you can refrigerate for up to a couple days, then let temp up on the counter until soft enough to roll.)
Using a rolling pin on a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough to about 1/2 inch thick, then cut into squares (figure 2×2-inch, or smaller if you’d like). Transfer to lined baking pans, evenly spaced out by a couple inches, and refrigerate or freeze until firm.
Bake at 350°F for 10 to 15 minutes, or until deeply golden brown all over. Let cool completely until firm before digging in and dust with confectioners’ sugar, if you want.
Bien Cuit chef and owner Zachary Golper uses the sweet masala (with cardamon, fennel, cinnamon, dates and vanilla) from Moji Masala, which sells small-batch Indian spice blends. You can either order it directly from their website, or go off-road with your own mix of two parts warming ground cardamom to two parts ground cozy cinnamon and one part earthy ground ginger. For even more flavor, try adding some smashed fennel seeds or freshly cracked black pepper or both. With all the butter, lots of spice blends will work beautifully here.
With respect to the pecans, put them on a sheet pan and toast in a 350°F oven for 5 to 10 minutes, or until browned and fragrant (just check on them frequently toward the end, because nuts can burn quickly). Let them cool completely before grinding in a food processor, or mincing with a knife by hand; if you’re working with a food processor, opt for short bursts, so you don’t accidentally end up with nut butter. If you want to underscore the sweetness even more, Chef Golper likes to sift a little confectioners’ sugar on top of the cookies; you could even upgrade that dusting sugar with some of the masala spices, too.