We’ve grown quite addicted lately to these little nutty cookies bathed in snowy powdered sugar. In the US, they are commonly known as Mexican wedding cookies. But turns out that they are the same as Spanish wedding cookies, or Austrian kipferin, or Russian tea cakes. My Mexican-American friend Bertha approved of them as being Mexican, but also added that once, after her German friend sampled a similar cookie somewhere, she declared that it was utterly German. So, turns out they are quite universal, these cookies, which is great! It means you will all love them. Enjoy! And Happy Holidays!
Mexican Wedding Cookies
Barely adapted from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Baking
Makes 18 cookies
Note: Make sure you use exactly 3/4 cup ground nuts. You will need a little less amount of whole nuts to obtain this much ground.
1 cup (5 oz/155 g) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (4 oz/125 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup (3 oz/90 g) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup (3 oz/90 g) toasted, skinned, and ground hazelnuts * or toasted and ground almonds (no need to skin them) **
1/2 cup (2 oz/60 g) confectioners’ (powdered/icing) sugar
Position a rack in the middle of the oven, and preheat to 325F (165C). Line a rimless baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a bowl, sift together the flour and salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the butter, granulated sugar, and vanilla. Beat on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the ground almonds of hazelnuts and beat on low speed until blended. Add the dry ingredients and beat until the soft dough comes together in large clumps.
To form each cookie, roll a level tablespoon of dough between your palms into a 1-inch (2.5-cm) ball. Place the balls 1 inch (2.5 cm) apart on the prepared baking sheet.
Bake the cookies until the bottoms are light brown and the tops are only very lightly colored (they will remain almost the same), about 20-25 minutes. Take care not to overbake or the cookies will be too hard to bite. Le the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Sift the confectioners’ sugar into a bowl. Gently roll the cookies in the sugar to coat them evenly. You will not use all of the confectioners’ sugar. For a dramatic “snowy” effect, once you arrange the cookies on a serving plate, sift the remaining powdered sugar on top of the cookies to coat them. Store the cookies in an airtight container. The cookies become surprisingly softer the second day - make sure you cover them nicely when storing.
* To toast and skin the hazelnuts: Preheat the oven to 325F (165C). Spread nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast, stirring occasionally for even browning, until fragrant and the color deepens. Remove from the oven, pour the still-warm nuts into a kitchen towel and rub the nuts firmly to peel the skins off. Grind the nuts. You can also toast the hazelnuts on a frying pan set over medium heat on a stovetop. Toast them, stirring frequently.
** To toast the almonds: Toast the almonds in the oven as directed above. Do not skin. Grind and use.