Polvorones are among my all-time favorite cookies. But I get a particular yen for these melt-in-mouth pecan treats in autumn when the air takes on a crispness that makes you willing to turn on the oven again after surviving the heat of a Washington summer. With the leaves outside turning fiery reds and golds, these lacy, understated cookies even go with the scenery.
Officially, “Polvorones de Novia,” or Mexican Wedding Cakes in their many US iterations, they are (rather mysteriously) called Russian Tea Cakes, as well. Though whether Russian or Mexican, in my view, they are entirely too pequeñitas qualify as “cakes.”
Any ideas as to the origins of the wedding cake label? Like the Italian Wedding Soup, the Mediterranean version of chicken soup, are polvorones actually the official nuptial postre? I love the anthropological aspects of cuisine and agree thoroughly with chef Patti Jinich, who in “El Arte de la Cocina” so eloquently discusses how the stories behind a cuisine make the dishes delectable to both boca y alma.
Since you’re probably more interested in the recipe than a dissertation on the polvoron, suffice it to say these cookies are sooo very mmm, mmm that there are a ton of recipes, websites and YouTube videos dedicated to their making. This site even has the frightening calorie count and nutritional information. I’m old school though, and have my own ancient magazine clipping – increasingly yellowed and wrinkly – that adapts a recipe by desert chef Alice Medrich. Continue to the recipe.
- 1 1/2 cups pecans
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 tspn salt
- 2 cups of butter cut into small pieces and allowed to come to room temperature
- 2 tspns vanilla
- 1 egg yolk
- powdered sugar, for sprinkling
Pulse the nuts in a food processor fitted with a steel blade until half of them look finely chopped and the rest are pulverized. Transfer to another bowl, set aside + wipe the food processor. Add the granulated sugar to the bowl and process until the sugar becomes powdery. Add the flour and salt and pulse a few times to mix. Add the butter chunks, vanilla and egg yolk and pulse until the mixture forms a dough. Pour in the nuts and pulse just until combined. Refrigerate for a couple of hours or overnight (the dough will keep up to a few days.)
When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 325. Shape dough into small balls. I use a couple of teaspoons to scoop out just the right amount of dough. The balls should be about 1 inch in diameter. Place the 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 22- 24 minutes or until they are just a tad bit tanned on top and golden brown on the bottom. Rotate the cookie sheets at least once to ensure even baking. When done, let them cool for 5 minutes, then use a wire sieve to sprinkle the powdered sugar on top. Cool completely on a rack before storing. You can sieve more powdered sugar on top just before serving.
Makes about 4-dozen cookies.