This year’s recipe “gift” is for a cookie that I have only just recently added to my holiday repertoire. It has been received with great success and everyone who tries them becomes instantly addicted. Is it because they are 95% butter? Is it the salty sweetness? Whatever the reason, these are sure to delight you and your friends and family.
The cookie is called Polvorones and it hails from Mexico. Traditionally it is served at weddings and christenings, hence the American name for them, “Mexican Wedding Cakes”. Some might also know them as Russian Tea cakes, which are very similar, but don’t confuse them with the German Pfeffernüsse! The difference is that Polvorones use finely ground pecans, Russian Tea cakes are made with walnuts, while Pfeffernüsse are made with white pepper, almond meal and a German gingerbread spice called lebkuchengewuerz.
The recipe is courtesy of Rick Bayless, the American chef and restaurateur who specializes in traditional Mexican cuisine. He is widely known for his PBS series Mexico: One Plate at a Time, appearing on TOP CHEF and his award winning restaurant Frontera.
These little nuggets of happiness are perfect for the holiday season, they look just like little snowballs and they are great with a spicy hot chocolate while sitting around the tree, or at the end of a meal with a nice glass of bubbly or Vin Santo.
Servings: 41/2 dozen cookies
6 ounces whole pecan halves
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 3/4 sticks (11 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
About 1 cup powdered sugar to decorate the cookies
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Spread the pecan halves in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Place the pecans in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly toasted. Remove from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees.
After the pecans have cooled to room temperature, place them in a food processor and pulse until the pecans are finely ground. Scoop them into a large bowl and add the flour, salt and cinnamon. Stir to combine.
In a mixer, cream together the butter and 1 cup sugar. Add the vanilla and the flour mixture and mix until well blended.
Use a tablespoon measuring spoon to portion out the dough per cookie and roll into small balls. Place the balls on an ungreased cookie sheet (2 inches apart) and bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until lightly brown. Once the cookies have cooled completely, roll them in the powdered sugar.
Baking these cookies has become a way for me to cherish my U.S. traditions as well as share them with my new friends here.