It's Cookie Time! - Mexican Wedding Cookies
It's cookie time! There's nothing like a good Christmas cookie. Especially a Christmas Cookie that's easy to make. I had to make up a batch of cookies last week for work, so I went on the hunt for an easy cookie that I could make with the ingredients I had in my pantry. I didn't want to have to run off to the store for some fancy ingredients, and I didn't want anything that needed several steps (chocolate coating is tasty, but...oy). I found a recipe for Russian Tea Cookies, a.k.a. Mexican Wedding Cookies (or Polvorones or Viennese Crescents, depending on where you are in the world), on the lovely Smitten Kitchen blog and they turned out to be delicious. If you haven't bookmarked that blog - go and do it now...don't worry, I'll wait...ok, we good? Back to the cookies! There are only a few ingredients that you need to have on hand: pecans, butter, flour, vanilla, and powdered sugar. The twist on this batch is that she adds a bit of cinnamon to the powdered sugar coating, which gives them a nice little hint of Christmas.Since I was feeling lazy (it was a Tuesday night after all), I cheated a bit with the powdered sugar. Most of the recipes call for cooling the cookies and then tossing them in a bowl of powdered sugar, but I used a flour sifter to sift all the sugar onto the cookies while they were sitting on the baking trays. Then I just dumped the whole pile into a bowl and made sure the cookies took a few tumbles. It saved me having to toss a few cookies at a time in a bowl of sugar.Now if you're wondering why this cookie has so many names the LA Times did a little research on this versatile cookie. Since there aren't many mentions of this style of cookie in older Russian cookbooks, it looks like the history probably stems from Mexico:
Noting that the cookies do have a Spanish name, polvorones, Malgieri speculated that they migrated to Mexico with European nuns. "Convents were places where they did a lot of baking in Mexico," he said. "These may be a convent sweet that went public."
It's a plausible theory, and it explains why I've found so many recipes for the cookies made with pecans, which are so common in Mexico, and flavored with either vanilla (also Mexican) or aniseed or cinnamon, which are the designated spices in other cookies below the border.
Still, I came across them in exactly one of my many Mexican cookbooks, and then only as wedding "cookies" rather than cakes. Marge Poore, in "1,000 Mexican Recipes" (Hungry Minds, 2001), says there are several versions of polvorones in different parts of Mexico that are served at weddings and on special occasions. The name, she writes, comes from the word for dust, "because of the light, flaky texture and coating of sugar."
Whatever you want to call them - Mexican Wedding Cookie seems to be their most popular name - they are delicious!
- 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
- 2 cups powdered sugar, divided
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 cup pecans toasted and finely ground
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Using an electric mixer, beat the butter in large bowl until light and fluffy.
- Add in 1/2 cup powdered sugar and the vanilla and beat until well blended. Add in the flour and ground pecans and beat until blended.
- Divide the dough in half and form each half into a ball. Wrap each half in plastic and chill in the refrigerator until cold, about 30 minutes. If you're in a hurry you can throw it in the freezer for 10-15 minutes.
- Before you pull the dough out of the fridge, preheat your oven to 350°F and whisk the remaining 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar and cinnamon together. Set aside.
- Working with one half of the cold dough at a time, roll the dough by 2 teaspoonfuls between your palms into balls. Place the balls on a baking sheet set about 1/2 inch apart. (I like to line the sheets with a silpat or parchment paper.)
- Bake for 18-20 minutes until they're golden brown on the bottom and just starting to turn golden on top.
- Cool the cookies on the sheet for 5-10 minutes.
- Now you can either go traditional or lazy to coat the cookies. Option1: gently toss the cookies in the cinnamon sugar mixture and let them finish cooling on a cookie rack. Option 2: throw your cinnamon sugar mixture into a flour sifter (or a sieve) and give your cookies a nice coating of sugary snow. Throw all the cookies into a bowl with the leftover sugar and give them a shake or two.
- Store cookies in a tupperware and they'll last for a week or so (if you don't eat them all first..). They're quite good as leftovers so you can make them a day or two ahead of time.