Tuesday, December 11, 2007
mexican wedding cookies (snowballs)
When I was younger, my grandmother (on my mom's side) was the primary cookie baker in the family. She would make cookies throughout the year, but there were a few varieties she would only make during the holidays, leading me to believe they were extra special. One of these was a bite-size cookie that reminded me of a powder-coated pebble. Grandma called them "snowballs." I can't remember eating the snowballs often, if ever, but I don't think it was because I didn't like them. If my memory serves me correctly, Grandma put rum in her snowballs, and knowing I wasn't old enough to have liquor, I don't think I ever even asked to try one of the cookies. I can, however, remember my dad nibbling on them with glee. The sugar would always get caught in his mustache -- a sight that delighted me endlessly.
When I began my search for new Christmas cookies this year, I naturally turned to my trusty copy of Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook. I stopped on the page with her recipe for Mexican Wedding Cookies because the picture instantly brought Grandma's holiday snowballs to mind. Mexican wedding cookies always look dry to me, so I was delighted to discover that these cookies are anything but dry. In fact, they practically melt in your mouth, just like Martha promises. And they get bonus points for using minimal ingredients and being quick and easy to make. I was actually able to prepare, bake, cool, and package the cookies before I left for work today. This recipe will definitely become part of my standard holiday repertoire. I think I'll even give them a try with rum instead of almond extract next time to see if I can come up with something like Grandma used to make. Either way, I know dad will love them, which means there is certain to be a sugar-frosted mustache to make me smile every time the snowballs appear.
Mexican Wedding Cookies (Snowballs)
Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook
Yields about 5 dozen cookies
1 cup (3 3/4 ounces) pecan halves
2 cups confectioners' sugar
2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a food processor, combine pecans with 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar and pulse until nuts are finely ground. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar/nut mixture, flour, and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and 3/4 cup confectioners' sugar* on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Beat in the vanilla and almond extracts. Add the flour mixture and beat on low until the dough just comes together.
Using a 1" scoop, drop dough about 2 inches apart onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake until cookies are pale and just beginning to get tiny cracks on top, 10-12 minutes. Leave cookies on the baking sheet until firm enough to move, 1-2 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.
Place remaining 1 cup confectioners' sugar in a shallow bowl and roll cookies in it to coat completely. Cookies should be kept in an airtight container layered between sheets of waxed or parchment paper. Martha says they can be kept 4 days, but I suspect they'll last longer. I'll edit this when I find out.
* I went ahead and sifted this portion of the sugar. I've combined butter and confectioners' sugar enough (for frostings) to know how lumpy the mixture can be if you don't sift the sugar.
Labels: Cookies and Bars