This year’s December issue of Bon Appetit got me really excited – while I am more a of pie or tart person, their ideas for 25 days of Christmas, each with a different cookie got me really excited about baking cookies. And even though I did not end up using any of their 2015 recipes (instead using one in their 2003 edition), I ended up settling on Mexican wedding cookies – butter-rich confections, that are often confused with Russian tea cakes. Unlike Russian tea cakes, which are made with walnuts or hazelnuts, Mexican wedding cookies use pecans. They are tender, buttery, crumbly, full of coarsely ground pecans, that are finally dusted with confectioners’ sugar. Too late to try them for you Christmas cookie exchange? Bake them anyway for the holidays – these are not sweet, which means that it’s easy to wipe them out post-dinner!
The main thing to watch out for in this recipe is the temperature of the butter. When beating the butter at the beginning, make sure it is at room temperature, otherwise it will not mix properly. On the other hand, if the butter is too warm, it may start separating and may not become fluffy. For mixing and creaming, butter should be about 65 degrees F. The best way to get frozen or refrigerated butter ready for creaming is to cut it into chunks. Avoid using the microwave. When the butter is still cold, but takes the imprint of a finger when gently pressed, it is ready to be creamed.
Further, once the dough is prepared, make sure to chill the dough. This will ensure that the cookie does not start separating and/or spreading once in the oven. If the butter is cold, the cookies will hold their fairly circular texture.
Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit (May 2003 issue)
Makes around 3 dozen cookies
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 and 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 cup pecans, toasted, coarsely ground
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- Using a mixer, beat butter in large bowl until light and fluffy.
- Add 1/2 cup powdered sugar and vanilla; beat until well blended. Beat in flour, then pecans.
- Divide dough in half; form each half into ball. Wrap separately in plastic; chill until cold, about 30 minutes to an hour.
- Preheat oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Working with half of the chilled dough, roll dough by 2 teaspoonfuls between palms into balls (I used a melon baller). Arrange balls on heavy large baking sheet, spacing 1/2 inch apart.
- Bake cookies until golden brown on bottom and just pale golden on top, about 14 minutes.
- Transfer cookies to a wire rack and let them cool 15-20 minutes. Repeat procedure with remaining half of dough.
- Once cooled, gently toss cookies in remaining powdered sugar to coat completely. You may need to dip the cookies in the powdered sugar again before serving!
What are your favorite cookies to bake for Christmas cookie exchanges?