As promised, seasonally appropriate cookies. Well, I say “seasonally appropriate” but of course here in Australia it’s 2000 degrees and everyone is more or less running around naked. Not exactly mulled wine and gingerbread weather, but I’ll make do. Starting with a cookie that was one of my favorites growing up.
I didn’t know anything about this cookie until I looked up how to make it. Apparently it has about six different names (including Russian Tea Cake and Povlorón) and no one knows why, or what its true origin is. All I know is that one of my neighbors back when I lived in Palo Alto used to give us a box every Christmas and I loved them. I’d never eaten them before and I loved the flavor and the unreasonable quantities of powdered sugar. I haven’t had these for years, and since no one here in Australia seems to have ever had them at all, I thought I should share.
Mexican Wedding Cakes
(Adapted from Epicurious)
1 cup (8 ounces or 226 grams) butter, room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 cup pecans, toasted, coarsely ground*
pinch ground cinnamon
*I ground mine by hand with my mortar and pestle, which gave me a bit extra crunch and a nice rustic unevenness, if you’re into that sort of thing. A food processor will get them finer and more uniform, but I hear you have to be careful not to turn your nuts into nut butter.
1. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter until light and fluffy.
2. Add 1/2 cup of powdered sugar and beat until well combined. Beat in the vanilla.
3. Mix in the flour, then the pecans. Don’t overmix it, but make sure you have a fairly homogenous dough.
4. Separate the dough into two balls. Wrap each in clingfilm and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. (This is so the second half of the dough stays cold while you bake the first half. If you’re lazy, or if, like me, you live in a house with no cling film, you can just wrap the whole bowl and refrigerate it all together – you’ll just need to be more careful about keeping the dough cold. I still recommend splitting it into two balls, as it will chill more quickly with the extra surface area. Science!)
5. When your dough is ready or nearly ready to bake, preheat your oven to 175 Celsius (350 Fahrenheit). Line a cookie sheet or two with baking parchment. While the oven heats up, whisk the remaining 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar and the cinnamon together in a pie tin (or any other wide, shallow dish). Set aside.
6. Take one ball of dough out of the fridge and begin forming small balls (Epicurious says 2 teaspoons of dough, which sounds about right). Space them on a cookie sheet about 1/2 an inch apart – these hardly spread at all. Bake until just golden on top and golden brown on the bottoms, about 18 minutes.
7. Cool cookies on trays for about 5 minutes, then toss in the powdered sugar and cinnamon mixture. Move to racks to cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough.
8. Sift the remaining sugar mixture over cookies to serve – you want these guys buried in powdered sugar. Seriously. If you’re giving them as a gift, or say, bringing a box in for your coworkers, package them with the sifted powdered sugar.