Making holiday cookies is really not that complicated to understand or do. It might seem difficult because there might be a food processor or a stove but making cookies, a small nugget of sugary goodness, is so simple. So divinely simple…and fun. Simply simple.
I’ve been invited annually to a cookie exchange party for the past three years. The party, now in its fourth year, was the first time that I was able to go. To make up for the past three years, I made three different kinds of cookies because I couldn’t figure out which to bring. (Ultimately, I only brought two.) I discovered one of the recipes from Real Simple Magazine which has quickly become one of my favorite publications when it comes to food. (I could do without the makeup tips though.)
The magazine recipe for Cornmeal, Fig and Thyme was delicious but the Mexican Wedding Cookies is truly one of my favorite for the holidays and everyday. Apparently it has many names around the globe such as Russian Tea Cakes, Italian Wedding Cakes, “biscochitos” (Mexico), “polvornes” in Spain, Swedish teacakes (to be confused with the Russian), Moldy Mice, Pecan Sandies, Danish Almond Cookies, Finnish Butter Strips, Napoleon Hats, Melting Moments, Butter balls and…the hipster version, “Yeti Balls”. (Oh, the Iceman cometh…). All are made with the same method (flour, sugar, vanilla and butter) but with different shapes such as crescent, balls or strips…sometimes they use different nuts such as hazelnuts (filberts) or pecans in different European areas.
You can research why it’s called the Mexican Wedding Cookie/Cake, Russian Doll Goes to Mall…whatever, but I’m calling it the “Auntie Mame”. Not only is it sugary and sweet like the Lucille Ball musical version (“We Need A Little Christmas“) of Mame, but it’s well-traveled and glamourous as if Rosalind Russell dusted it with white. It’s also smart, sort of like the casting of Angela Lansbury in the Broadway musical.
And as I said, it’s simple. Really, really simple…and very holiday-like.
Let’s make these puppies: “Auntie Mame”
1 cup (2 sticks) of softened (room temperature) unsalted butter
3 cups sifted powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 cup very finely chopped toasted nuts (Note: Toast nuts at a low temp of 325 for about 20 minutes or until fragrant on a cookie sheet. Then place in a food processor to a mince.)
1. Heat the oven to 325 degrees.
2. Combine the butter, 3/4 cup powdered sugar, salt and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until creamy. Beat in the flour and nuts. Chill the dough 30 to 60 minutes.
3. Shape the dough into balls about 1 inch in diameter and try to make them them the same size. You want them to cook evenly. Arrange them on parchment paper, squishing them down to flatten the bottoms so they don’t roll around, about an inch apart. Bake on the center rack of the oven until the cookies are set and seem to be a golden. Roughly 18 to 20 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through cooking
4. Transfer the cookies to a rack or a plate. Then using the sifter, immediately dust heavily with about a cup of the powdered sugar. Once they cool, place the remaining confectioners sugar into a bowl and roll the suckers coating them entirely. Sometimes, before serving, I like to sift some sugar on top to make it look pretty.