When I first heard of Mexican wedding cookies, I immediately pictured a wedding reception in Mexico, full of cheery guests dancing, drinking and laughing, the Mexican Hat Dance playing in the background played by a Mariachi band (I don’t know where I get these images, either) a tray of these cookies sitting on the dessert table, just waiting to be devoured…But then a little more reading and I found out that these cookies originally were called Russian Tea Cakes! The recipe for Mexican Wedding Cakes (another name for these cookies) appeared in American cookbooks around the 1950’s, and food historians have traced its origins all the way to medieval Arab cuisine, from which it was adapted by the Europeans, probably aaaall the way to Russia, and then somehow it made its way to America, where it was re-named “Mexican Wedding Cakes” (or cookies if you prefer) because during the 50’s and 60’s, relations between the US and Russia were strained… And so it goes.
Now that I’ve given you a somewhat slapdash history of the cookie, let’s talk about what it tastes like. They weren’t kidding when I read reviews and they said they had a “melt-in-your-mouth” consistency. Buttery, buttery, buttery and oh-so-rich. I took a recipe I found from the Food Network and tweaked a little bit. I substituted walnuts for pecans (walnuts are a tad more economical and they were all I had in my fridge). And because I didn’t have pastry flour, I used regular, all-purpose flour.
Mexican Wedding Cookies (from Food Network)
- 1 pound soft unsalted butter
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons vanilla
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups finely chopped pecans
- 5 cups sifted pastry flour
- Powdered sugar for dusting
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat butter and powdered sugar in mixer until light and fluffy, about 10-15 minutes. Add vanilla, salt and pecans. Remove from mixer and stir in pastry flour by hand being careful not to overmix. Form into football shapes about the size of small walnuts and place on a buttered cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes or until just beginning to get the slightest bit colored on the bottom. Remove upon the first sign of color and set on a rack to cool. When cool enough to touch place in a bowl with powdered sugar on top and bottom and toss gently. Occasionally toss with sugar while cooling, trying to get as much sugar as possible to stick. When cold, place cookies in airtight container and cover until ready to serve.
When you beat the butter and confectioner’s sugar, make sure it looks like this…
It’s almost like icing when you look at it (I didn’t know butter could reach that consistency when whipped with confectioner’s sugar…)
The dough, after assembly…
I chilled the dough for an hour or so, just to make it easier to work with. I didn’t form football shapes out of the dough — I just made them into little balls — and I didn’t bother with constantly coating with powdered sugar as the cookies cooled, because I thought that one coating was enough, and also because I was lazy. Next time I do these cookies, I’m going to mess with the flavoring and add some almond extract, maybe even put Nutella in the middle. I love that they stayed in shape and didn’t really flatten in the oven, keeping that truffle-like appearance. In fact, next time I might coat them in chocolate. It’s a pretty versatile cookie.
I made these cookies not because I was truly curious about them, but because they were ordered by the August bride. I’m glad she enjoyed the samples that I gave her this week. Out of the four types of cookies I made, I liked these the best. Snickerdoodles failed to impress me, both in technique and in taste. They were good, don’t get me wrong, but not very interesting. I don’t think I will be blogging about them after all.