Mexican wedding cookies. Of all the requests people had for gluten-free holiday cookies, I think this was the most requested. Finely ground nuts, butter and shortening, gluten-free flours, and powdered sugar. It isn’t much more complicated than that. All that deliciousness and it’s easy too? Sign me up.
Now this cookie, with tiny variations of shape and technique from kitchen to kitchen, can also be Russian Tea Cakes, Viennese Crescents, Snowballs, and even Moldy Mice. (Check out my friend Jessie’s excellent post on the slight differences among them all.)
Still, it’s Mexican wedding cookies that call my name. I love the idea of a wedding celebrated with these float-on-air, light and lovely, sweet-but-not-too-much-so cookies. And if it’s a wedding, there have to be a few nuts, too.
There are a hundred dozen recipes for Mexican wedding cookies out there, including one on the back of the powdered sugar bag. However, if you’re making a delicacy of Mexico, why not go to someone who knows the foods of Mexico with her heart?
Pati Jinich is a wonder. I know here from Twitter (of course), where she dispenses recipes, cooking ideas, and funny stories about her boys. Raised in Mexico in a family filled with people passionate about food, she became a political analyst in the United States, with a master’s degree from Georgetown. However, she kept gravitating back to food, around the edges of her intellectual job. (Hm, this sounds familiar to me.) Urged by her husband, she leapt. She’s now the chef and cooking instructor at the Mexican Cultural Institute in Washington D.C.
One of my goals for 2011 is to finally meet her. Look at the food on her website, Pati’s Mexican Table, and you’ll want to be her friend as well.
Last week, she told me she was working on her recipe for Mexican wedding cakes. I waited, patiently. And then I made these.
Now you can too.
Gracias, Pati. Feliz Navidad.
GLUTEN-FREE MEXICAN WEDDING COOKIES, adapted from Pati Jinich of Pati’s Mexican Table
The real name of these is polvorones, and according to Pati, they are available at nearly every bakery and grocery store in Mexico. “Mexican wedding cakes” is the American version. Still, that’s how we know them here, so I’m calling them that so you can find them.
But let’s say it together, shall we? Polvorones. Or, in other words: a super-flaky cookie that almost disappears as soon as it hits the tongue, lightly sweet with powdered sugar and air pockets that seem impossible in something gluten-free. You’ll be hard pressed to eat just one. These cookies are meant to be a celebration. Go ahead and have another.
1/2 cup pecans
3/4 cup powdered sugar, plus more for dusting the cookies
280 grams gluten-free all-purpose flour mix
1/2 teaspoon psyllium husks
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening
1 large egg, at room temperature
Preparing to bake. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat.
Put the pecans in a food processor (or mortar and pestle, if you want to be authentic) and whirl them up until they are ground fine. Add the powdered sugar and pulse the food processor until the pecans and sugar are combined. Set aside.
Cutting the fats into the flour. Put the flour, psyllium husks, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the chunks of cold butter and vegetable shortening and begin working them into the flour immediately, quickly. We used a pastry cutter, but you could easily use your hands. Work the fats into the flour until you have a coarse, crumbly dough.
Finishing the dough. Add the pecan and sugar mixture to the dough. Work it in with your hands. Crack the egg into the bowl and combine everything together, thoroughly, using your hands. (And be sure to work quickly. You don’t want that butter and shortening to warm up too much.) Work the dough until it comes together as one ball of dough.
Baking the cookies. Make a ball of dough about 1-inch wide. Pat down the dough ball just a bit with your fingertips. Leaving about 1 inch of space between all the dough balls, fill the cookie sheet. Slide the baking sheet into the oven and bake the cookies until they have a golden-brown color, about 12 to 15 minutes.
Pull the baking sheet out of the oven and immediately dust the cookies with powdered sugar. Allow them to cool for 10 minutes, then carefully transfer them to a cooling rack. Eat when there is not a hint of warmth to the cookies.
(I know. Good luck.)
Makes about 30 cookies.
I still miss Gourmet.
I know that it has been gone for more than a year, and I’m supposed to have moved on by now. And frankly, it’s not as if I had time to read every article those last couple of years, or even most of them. With a newborn, who became a toddler, my reading time has diminished to the point of thin sadness. Creating recipes on our own means that I have less time to cook in a leisurely fashion, from magazines cracked open on the counter, food stains on the pages. I should be grateful I have one fewer magazine that I cannot read, right?
I still miss Gourmet.
Everything about it appealed to me. The recipes always worked. The photographs inspired me, over and over again. And the writing? Ay god, the writing was incredible. Actually, I don’t want to talk about it anymore. I’m growing sad.
Thankfully, there’s a bit of Gourmet brightening this holiday season: The Gourmet Cookie Book: The Single Best Recipe from Each Year 1941–2009. This book is not only filled with ridiculously-good-looking cookies (shot in the magazine’s style), but it is a history of American baking from World War II until last year. You can learn a lot here.
Oh heck, who cares about their learning when there are date bars, chocolate meringue biscuits, Brazil nut crescents, and brandy snaps. Plus, these little jam tart cookies, from 1993, called Aunt Sis’s Strawberry Tart Cookies.
They are like little tarts, because you work with cold butter to form the dough, almost like you are making a pie crust. However, it’s a much more forgiving process. All you need is a stand mixer (or good biceps if you are doing this by hand). There are only a few ingredients and the dough takes about 6 minutes to put together. The hardest part is waiting for the dough to chill in the refrigerator. The wait is worth it, however.
(Just as an aside, every single cookie recipe we will be giving you in the next few weeks does well with some time in the refrigerator as a dough. The refrigeration gives the flavors to mix and meld and build fully. When you bake freshly made gluten-free cookie dough, sometimes all you can taste is the starches. Wait overnight and you taste the cinnamon and vanilla again.)
Also, there is jam in the middle.
However, if you want, you can follow Lu’s suggestion and fill the little well with crushed candy canes.
When she and I were in the grocery store, buying the ingredients for the baking extravaganza, she reached for the new display of candy canes hanging down. Last year, she was too little to take any of this in. This December, she recognizes Santa on gift bags. (Wait until she meets Santa tonight, at the island tree lighting ceremony!) So those candy canes called to her, like dangling jewels. I bought a few. And then she dropped one on the floor when we were unloading the bag at home.
No point in throwing it away. Let’s use it.
Good idea, kiddo. These may look a bit janky but they are delicious. The little butter tart cookies that melt in the mouth meet the crackly crunch of candy cane. Sign me up for more. Thank goodness it’s only the first week of December. There is still time to bake more of these jam tart cookies and linger with the goodness that is Gourmet.
Would you like more gluten-free holiday cookies to bake after this one? You are in luck. We’re baking at a hilarious, frantic piece around here. We have plans for you. Make up a batch of the all-purpose mix we published last night and start baking.
We’ll be publishing a new gluten-free baked good every weekday between now and December 23rd!
Friday, December 3, 2010
Jam tart cookies
Monday, December 6th
Tuesday, December 7th
Pistachio cranberry cookies
Wednesday, December 8th
Chocolate roll-up cookies
Thursday, December 9th
Friday, December 10th
Pine nut cookies
Monday, December 13
Tuesday, December 14
Ginger lemon bars
Wednesday, December 15th
(we have a surprise for you this day)
Thursday, December 16th
Friday, December 17th
Saturday, December 18th
Monday, December 20th
Swedish cardamom cookies
Tuesday, December 21st
Russian tea cakes
Wednesday, December 22nd
Coconut spice fudge
Thursday, December 23rd
Round-up of all that we have done, plus a few surprises.
It grows better. We’re giving away a copy of our cookbook on each of those days. It’s the holidays. You’ll need crusty bread for sandwiches and breadcrumbs, curried red lentil dip for party appetizers, fresh pasta for a quick evening meal, and the blue cheese cheesecake with a fig crust for holiday celebrations.
Today, we’re also giving away a copy of The Gourmet Cookie Book: The Single Best Recipe from Each Year 1941–2009. You can use our all-purpose mix for any recipe in the book. Some of them are naturally gluten-free!
If you are interested in winning either of these, leave a comment here about what your favorite filling for these jam tart cookies! Or what you loved about Gourmet. Or why you would like a copy of our cookbook.
Then, start baking!
Winners of the giveaway, chosen at random:
Winner of a copy of our cookbook
Melissa Davlin, who wrote: “Nothing fancy here: I love raspberry jam in the middle of cookies. At the newspaper I work at, we’re running a cookie round-up next Wednesday with a recipe for shortbread cookies with raspberry jam in the middle, drizzled with white chocolate. They look divine.”
Winner of a copy of The Gourmet Cookie Book: The Single Best Recipe from Each Year 1941–2009
Mary Ann Wong, who wrote: “i wonder if it would be possible to make a matcha/black sesame paste to put in the centre of these cookies? nom.
thank you in advance for all those cookie recipes to come. i see a few there that i’ve been struggling to create, hurrah! my spouse will not thank you for the extra inches she’s going to acquire from my experiments, but I will
Gourmet was a part of my childhood, just as Julia Child was. the loss of each of these things hurt my heart. I’m glad for the cookie book, but still wish for the magazine back.
Can you two lovely ladies please send me an email with your name, address, and telephone number to firstname.lastname@example.org? Thank you!
JAM TART COOKIES, GLUTEN-FREE, adapted from The Gourmet Cookie Book: The Single Best Recipe from Each Year 1941–2009
The beauty of these cookies is that you could make them again and again, with a different filling each time. Lemon-rosemary curd. Chocolate ganache. Strawberry jam. We were lucky enough to have Sean Timberlake’s apricot jam with bourbon and nougax. Oh my.
Since there are so few ingredients here, it helps to buy the best version of each that you can. Superfine bakers’ sugar rather than the grainy kind. Good European-style butter, with a higher butterfat content than the regular grocery store type. Organic farmers’ eggs.
If you don’t have access to any of that, however, these cookies are great with what you can find at the store. The point is to bake.
420 grams gluten-free all-purpose flour mix
1 teaspoon psyllium husk
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
345 grams (3 US sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 large egg yolks, beaten lightly
1 cup jam of your choice
Making the dough. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the AP flour, psyllium husk, sugar, and salt until they are well combined. Add the butter bits and turn on the stand mixer, at low speed. Mix the butter and dry ingredients until the mixture looks like coarse meal with pea-shaped pieces of butter. Pour in the egg yolks and mix until combined.
Refrigerating the dough. Take the dough out of the mixing bowl. Wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least two hours, preferably overnight.
Preparing to bake the cookies. Take the dough out of the refrigerator and let it soften a bit. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat.
Baking the cookies. Measure out a teaspoon of dough. Roll it into a ball in the palm of your hands. Put it on the baking sheet and continue until the entire baking sheet is filled. (These cookies will spread just a bit, so leave about 2 inches of room between each cookie.) Make a small indentation in the center of each cookie with your thumb. If the outside edges of the cookie dough start to crack, start over. Do this gently.
Fill each center of the cookie with about 1/4 teaspoon of the jam. (I’ve yet to make one that didn’t spill over the edges in the baking, but I’d rather have more jam than less!) Bake the cookies on the middle rack of the oven until the edges are pale golden, about 12 minutes.
Let the cookies cool for 2 minutes, then transfer them to cookie racks. Let them cool to room temperature before eating.
Makes about 8 dozen cookies.