The Iconic Pecan Diamond
Are they a cookie? A dessert? A bite-size pecan pie? Craig Claiborne of The New York Times called them the “sweet hallmark” of CIA, and they are. Pecan Diamonds have been a CIA tradition for nearly six decades.
They were offered to guests with coffee at the original CIA restaurant, the Escoffier Room, and over the years, have been given to friends as an offering of gratitude for their support.
The recipe for these decadent sweets was brought to CIA by Pastry Chef-Instructor George Metropolis ’51, who first tasted them while vacationing at the Americana Hotel in Miami. The hotel’s Pastry Chef Dominique D’Ermo, developed many pecan recipes utilizing the abundant surplus of pecans harvested in the southern states after World War II.
Chef Metropolis returned to New Haven, CT—CIA’s original home on the Yale campus—and refined the recipe for this perfect treat that became the signature of CIA hospitality.
Among many changes and expansions, most notably the move from New Haven to Hyde Park, NY, CIA has never stopped making pecan diamonds. The recipe is featured in our textbooks, baked by our students, and, in true CIA fashion, shared around the world by our alumni and friends.
Makes four dozen 2-inch or eight dozen 1-inch diamonds
- 1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 whole egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 2/3 cups cake flour, sifted
- 2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, cubed
- 2 cups light brown sugar, packed
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 cup honey
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 7 1/2 cups pecans, chopped
- For the cookie dough, cream together butter and sugar in a mixer bowl with the paddle attachment on medium speed until smooth and light, 1 to 2 minutes. Gradually incorporate egg and vanilla, stopping mixer and scraping bowl as necessary.
- Add flour and mix on low speed until just blended, about 30 seconds. Do not over-mix.
- Place dough onto parchment paper or a lightly floured surface and shape into a flat square. Wrap dough well with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least an hour.
- Preheat oven to 350°F and line the bottom of a 15-inch by 10-inch baking sheet with parchment.
- Roll dough out to a rectangle 17 inches by 12 inches by 1⁄8-inch thick. Transfer the rolled dough to the baking pan, gently pressing it to the pan. Trim the edges with a paring knife, and prick the bottom of the dough with the prongs of a fork to prevent bubbling during baking.
- Bake until dough is firm but has no color, about 10 to 12 minutes. Cool dough while you make the filling.
- For the pecan filling, place the butter, sugars, honey, and cream into a heavy-bottom saucepot. Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring constantly, until it reaches 240 degrees F on a candy thermometer. Remove pot from the heat, add pecans, and stir until fully incorporated. Immediately pour into the pre-baked crust and spread into an even layer.
- Bake in 350°F oven until the filling bubbles evenly across the surface and the crust is golden brown, about 40 minutes. Cool thoroughly before cutting.
- Remove from pan using a knife to release the edges and invert the slab onto the back of a sheet pan. Transfer to a cutting board by flipping it over so it is right side up. Trim off the edges and cut into 1-inch or 2-inch diamonds.
- The bars store well at room temperature, but can also be refrigerated or frozen as long as wrapped airtight.