Chocolate Pecan Sandies

These treats help the crew of a Baba 35 stay alert during a night watch. "People and Food" from our February 2008 issue


Nothing beats these treats during a night watch, a beach potluck, or anytime the urge for a chewy morsel strikes.Lynda Morris Childress

For the past year, my husband, Casey, and I have sailed V'ger, our Baba 35, up and down the eastern coast of Baja California and the western coast of mainland Mexico. We've made numerous crossings between the desert of the peninsula and the more humid mainland. Recently, we caught a nice five-day downwind sail from La Paz, which is on the Baja side, to Bahía Tenacatita, on the mainland.

On our last night out, as we passed Cabo Corrientes, we sailed down four- to five-foot waves in about 25 knots of wind. We listened to Don Anderson on the Southbound Net describe the conditions of the trough that existed somewhere between Cabo Corrientes and Bahía Chamela-our weather exactly!

During the next watch change, we spotted a white light ahead, about a mile away. We guessed it must be a fishing boat, so we both stayed on deck to monitor it. As we drew nearer and continued to see only one white light, we speculated that it might be a trawler or other powered vessel. Finally, we spotted a red light, as the vessel appeared to turn directly toward us. We were very surprised to see a crane on a small dredging barge as we passed.
Casey went below to catch a few hours of sleep while I grabbed a couple of cookies and some coffee to keep me awake. About an hour later, the wind shifted from aft to ahead, and the velocity increased slightly. The tide began flowing northward. When the windvane lost steerage, I took the wheel. It failed to respond, so I woke Casey, thinking that the steering cable was faulty. But it turned out that the boat had stopped because of a change in wind and tide. We turned on the engine, regained steerageway, and continued to motorsail in 28 knots for the last few hours of our trip.

Both Casey and I are cookie lovers, especially of the homemade variety. Though fresh, homemade cookies are a treat to look forward to during watch, preparing them can be tortuous. Daytime temperatures on the Golfo de California can soar to more than 100 F in the cabin and stay close to that mark throughout the night. Also, fresh, quality baking ingredients aren't always readily available in Mexico. Because of the heat, the shelf life of fresh and prepared food is very short, so we have to quickly consume, share, or freeze it.

One cookie that never goes stale on our boat is my chocolate pecan sandy. I always loved the snowball cookies that my mom made each Christmas, and I decided that they'd be even better if they were chocolate. These cookies have evolved into a favorite of mine to make as well as eat. They can be prepared in stages, and the ingredients are basic, usually on hand, and readily available at most markets. The dough can be made when my energy level is high, baked immediately, or placed in the fridge and baked during the coolest hours of the day.

Once cooled and dusted, the cookies stack nicely and can be frozen. On V'ger, though, they usually disappear well before they require preserving.

Chocolate Pecan Sandies

1 cup butter (salted or unsalted),
5 to 6 tablespoons white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon dark rum
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
3/4 cup pecans, finely ground
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted

Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease a cookie sheet. Cream butter and sugar together until smooth and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla and rum until well blended. Mix in flour, pecans, and cocoa powder. Dough may be refrigerated at this point or formed into tablespoon-sized balls. Place balls closely together on the cookie sheet. Bake at 350 F for 20 to 25 minutes. Cool, then roll each cookie in confectioners' sugar. Makes approximately two dozen.

Variations: Substitute margarine for butter. Add 1/2 teaspoon orange peel to dough. Add 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon to confectioners' sugar before sifting. Eliminate rum and decrease flour by 1/4 cup.