Sunday, January 4, 2009

Mexican Wedding Cakes

I've been meaning to make Mexican Wedding Cakes for a couple years now. Lately, I get almost all my baking recipes from baking blogs and there seemed to be a million slightly-different versions for these simple little cookies. After fiddling around with some, I took what I believed to be the best aspects of each and created the recipe below.

There are three secrets that make these cookies better than the rest: High quality vanilla, high quality butter and salt in the coating. Also, a few recipes out there don't call for toasting the pecans- but you MUST! It takes all of 10 minutes but it makes a HUGE difference.

Vanilla: Do NOT use imitation vanilla. Get the real stuff. I buy vanilla extract anytime I'm in Mexico because it's so much cheaper there. If you happen to have a friend going to Tahiti- that would be an awesome thing to bring back. I bought some tahitian vanilla in Hawaii and it's to die for.

Butter: Unsalted grade AAA butter is the only thing I can recommend. Look on the front of the package. With so few ingredients, you've really got to use the good stuff to make your cookies special.

Salt: I know it's going to look like a mistake when I tell you to put salt into the powdered sugar used to coat the cookies. It is NOT a mistake. Do it. Salt brings out the flavor of anything you're making and in this case in particular, brings out the nutty flavor of the cookies. If you don't believe me, roll some cookies in just the sugar and then add some salt and roll others. You'll see.

Mexican Wedding Cakes
2/3 cup toasted pecans
1 cup quality butter (room temp.)
1 & 1/4 cup powdered sugar (divided)
1 tsp quality vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt (divided)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On a baking sheet, lay out pecans in single layer. Toast in oven for 8 - 10 minutes, or until lightly browned and smelling of all their nutty goodness.

After pecans cool, chop them up. Some people grind them in a food processor until they are kind of a nut-flour but I prefer little tiny bits of nuts in the cookies. Your choice.

Beat butter, vanilla and 1/4 cup powdered sugar until light and fluffy.

In a separate bowl, combine flour and 1/4 tsp salt until well mixed.

Beat flour mixture into butter mixture. Fold in nuts. Cover batter and chill for approximately 1 hour.

Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll batter into 1 inch balls and place on prepared sheets 2 inches apart. Bake for 12 - 15 minutes, or until edges just start to brown.

Sift remaining powdered sugar and salt together a couple times to make sure they are well combined. While cookies are still quite warm, roll them in the mixture. Let cookies cool completely, then roll them again to give a nice powdery finish. (Unless, of course, you've eaten them already!)

I love these cookies. They are simple and I almost always have all the ingredients on-hand, so they're prefect for a quick treat to go with tea or cocoa. Enjoy!

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