PATI'S MEXICAN TABLE

December 19, 2010 8:00 PM
You Say Mexican Wedding Cookies, I Say Polvorones


I had never heard the name Mexican Wedding Cookies.

Ever.

I was born and raised in Mexico City. I lived there all my life until I married my husband, another Mexican, and moved to the U.S.

There were no Mexican Wedding Cookies at our Mexican wedding (though there were a ton of roosters doing their Cock a Doodle Do thing next door, which made it hard for us to say our vows real loud...). Nor were there any of those cookies, at any wedding in Mexico that I have ever attended. None.

The first time I heard the name Mexican Wedding Cookie was once we moved to Washington D.C. Since then, I have been asked about them continuously. What's more, once I started my blog, I began to receive a lot of requests, via lovely emails, for their recipe.

It took me a while to realize that those Mexican Wedding Cookies, so liked this side of the border, are what I love and know as Polvorones. One of Mexico's most popular treats, consumed on an every day basis, and found in just about every Panadería (bakery) and any grocery store throughout the whole country.


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The name Polvorón seems to come from the word Polvo, which translates to dust or powder. Maybe because these cookies break into the finest of crumbs the moment they touch your mouth. And as you take a bite, they seem to melt and disappear.

They come in many flavors: plain, pecan, peanut, vanilla, cinnamon and even chocolate, to name some. I go for pecans.


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Since the cookie is so light, pecans add a nice and nutty depth of flavor, as well as an extra crunch.

Just grind the pecans using a food processor or blender. You can also chop them finely. My mother has an old fashioned nut grinder, which looks like a small mill or molino. It is a real find. I should have convinced her to give it to me as a wedding gift, now that we are talking about weddings....
 
Whichever way you decide to finely chop or grind them, mix them with the confectioners's sugar.


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It is the addition of this kind of sugar which gives these cookies that airy quality and that peculiar light sweet taste.

They are similar to shortbread cookies, and as such, can be made in a bowl and mixed with your hands. Aside from being a quick and fun method, it is practical in a busy kitchen. Very few things to wash...

So grab a large mixing bowl and stir in the flour and salt. Cut your cold butter into small chunks and spoon in the vegetable shortening in teaspoon amounts.


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Dive in with your hands, and work in the butter and vegetable shortening into the flour with your fingers.


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Its therapeutic.

In no time, you will get this nice flaky crumbly dough.


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Add in the sugar and pecan mixture. Work it in...


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Crack an egg. Mix it in. It will help the dough come together.


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Knead the dough until you can turn it into a ball. Don't overwork the dough. You know that you need to stop as soon as you can turn it into a ball. No need to refrigerate if you stopped in time.

You know you overworked the dough if it becomes very, very greasy. The warmth of your hands will do that if work the dough for too long. 
 

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Start making the cookies by grabbing small amounts of the dough and making 1 to 1 1/2" balls. If you over worked the dough, your hands will be too greasy and it will be hard to make the balls. If that is the case, just place the dough in the refrigerator, covered, for 15 minutes... No worries, that will fix it.


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Place the balls on a buttered baking sheet, and gently tap each ball as you lay them out.

Super easy! Kids can do this with you.


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Once you are done rolling out enough  cookies to fill a baking sheet or tray, place them into the oven for about 15 minutes.


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They will come out all golden and delicious. 

See that one that looks a bit burned and not so happy?  That's because I overworked the dough in that single ball to show you what it would look like.

That's why its good to know when to stop...


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Once out, dust them with extra confectioners' sugar. The more, the better. Go ahead, go wild and dust until you have had enough... These cookies can take it because the dough is barely sweet and they are meant to be showered in that extra sugar.


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In Mexico, you can find them as the original Spanish cookies (Spaniards are to blame you know, they are the ones who brought them to Mexico), which are flatter, bigger and wider. But you can also find them in some small artisanal shops, in that smaller ball shape all wrapped in beautiful thin colored wrapping paper, with the ends twisted. As if they were little candies, or gifts, to unwrap.

Polvorones are deceiving.  They look hard on the outside. But go ahead and take a bite.

You may understand, like I recently did, why they have been called Mexican Wedding Cookies here in the U.S.

That's how special they are.



MEXICAN WEDDING COOKIES
Polvorones
Makes about 30

INGREDIENTS
2 cups all purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup pecans, grounded or finely chopped
3/4 cup confectioners sugar, plus more to dust
1 egg

TO PREPARE
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Using a food processor, blender, nut mill or knife, finely chop the pecans. Add the powdered sugar to the processor or blender (if that's what you used) and grind or chop. If done by hand, just mix together.

Mix the flour and salt together in a large mixing bowl. Drop in the chunks of butter and the vegetable shortening in teaspoon amounts. Begin to mix with your hands, until the butter and vegetable shortening are mixed in with the flour and salt. The mixture will turn into a coarse dough, with chunks of butter and shortening mixed throughout.

Add in the sugar and pecan mixture and work it all in. Crack the egg into the mixture thoroughly combine, using your hands. In less than a minute, the dough should be soft and malleable enough to be turned into a ball. Don't knead more than necessary, you just want it to come together into a homogeneous mass.

Butter a large cookie sheet. One by one, make small balls of dough with the palms of your hands. The dough ball should be between 1 and 1 1/2 inches wide. Place them on a baking sheet with about 1 inch in between the dough balls. Bake them for about 15 to 16 minutes, until they have a golden brown color.

Dust extra confectioners sugar over the top of the cookies and eat and serve.