These truly are one of the best options for holiday cookies unless you have a nut allergy. Not only do they look like little snowballs but they disappear and melt in your mouth just the same. These are from the new cookbook Chicano Bakes by my husband Esteban where he implements three tricks to get that nutty flavor to carry throughout the cookie:
- Browning the butter, an obvious choice
- Actually toasting the nuts. You can use whatever kind of nut you want for the cookie, but most nuts you buy in the store haven’t been toasted/roasted yet so doing that before chopping them finely ensures the delicious flavor carries throughout.
- and last thing is a kiss of alcohol in the form of hazelnut liquor. We always have frangelico in the cabinet to use in desserts to add an extra level of flavor and it absolutely works in this recipe.
Mexican Wedding Cookies
From Chicano Bakes: Recipes for Mexican Pan Dulce, Tamales, and My Favorite Desserts
1 cup (227 g) unsalted butter
1 cup (106) pecans*
1 2/3 (207 g) cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/2 cup (150 g) powdered sugar, divided
1 tablespoon hazelnut liquor or milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt or 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
*Feel free to use any nut in these cookies. I went with pecans for the classic route but pistachios, walnuts, cashews, almonds etc would all work. If they’re already toasted/roasted when you purchase them then skip the toasting step of the nuts in the recipe.
Start by browning the butter for the cookies. Place the butter in a medium stainless steel saucepan or skillet and set it over medium heat. Melt the butter down and wait for it to start fizzling and foaming, stirring occasionally with a silicone spatula to make sure nothing burns or sticks to the bottom of the pan. As the butter fizzles the milk solids toast/brown, giving the finished product a hint of toffee flavor. Once the fizzling stops it’s time to start checking for doneness. You want the melted liquid to be a golden color and there to be golden brown toasted milk solids on the bottom of the pan, from butter in the pan start to browned butter finish this should take about 12 minutes. Once you’ve acheived this place the brown butter in a heat safe measuring cup, making sure to scrape all the flavorful browned bits off the bottom of the pan along with it. You should be left with just over 3/4 cup of liquid browned butter. Set this in the refrigerator for about an hour or so to firm up to what you would normally have with room temperature butter.
*If you’re impatient like me (Billy) you can add the browned butter to a large bowl and place it over another bowl filled with ice. Constantly stir or whisk to make sure nothing gets too hard and freezes to the bottom of the bowl. Once the butter has come to a room temperature consistency, set the bowl aside and let it hang out while you toast the pecans and let them cool.
Once the butter has firmed up, preheat the oven to 350ºF. Once the oven is preheated, place the pecans on a small baking sheet and toast them in the oven for 7-8 minutes, carefully shaking the pan at about the 4 minute mark to make sure they don’t burn. Once they’re toasted add them to a large plate to cool for a few minutes, leave the oven on.
Once the pecans and the browned butter are ready, we can make the cookie dough. Finely chop the pecans in a food processor or with a knife and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, 1/2 cup (50 g) of the powdered sugar, hazelnut liquor or milk, vanilla and salt together for a full 2 minutes. The full time is important because all that air whipped into the cookies helps give you the melt in your mouth texture. You should see the mixture go from a tan color to an almost white color and it will have grown in volume too.
With the mixer on low, add the flour and pecans and mix until the dough comes together. It will look dry and crumbly at first but after mixing for about 30 seconds it should form a cohesive batter.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and roll out tablespoon sized balls of dough and place on the baking sheet, These don’t spread very much so you can place them about an inch apart to bake.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, just until the bottoms of the cookies are barely golden brown then remove the cookies from the oven and let them cool completely on the baking sheet.
Once the cookies are cool, carefully roll them around in the remaining 1 cup (100 g) of powdered sugar until fully coated and serve. Store cookies at room temperature in a sealed container for up to 5 days.