Esteban’s Mexican Wedding Cookies

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:

  1. Browning the butter, an obvious choice
  2. 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.
  3. 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
Makes 35

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.

Definitely Fruity Cookies

This is the quintessential holiday cookie for those of you that don’t love the peppermint etc train.

Definitely Fruity Cookies
Makes 19 large cookies

2 3/4 cups (344 g) all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt or 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/2 cups (312g) light brown sugar
1/3 cup (67g) white granulated sugar
zest from 1 small navel orange
zest from 1 small lemon
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
1 cup white chocolate chips, but semisweet or bittersweet would also work great if that’s more your speed
2/3 cup (100 g) macadamia nuts, chopped
1 cup dried chopped fruit, I used dried sweetened cranberries, but dried cherries or apricots would also work great

Preheat your oven to 350ºF and line a couple baking sheets with parchment paper.

Start by whisking the 2 3/4 cups (344 g) all purpose flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 1 teaspoon Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt or 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt in a medium sized bowl and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, add the 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, 1 1/2 cups (312g) light brown sugar, 1/3 cup (67g) white granulated sugar, zest from 1 small navel orange, zest from 1 small lemon, and 1 tablespoon vanilla extract. Cream together the mixture until light and fluffy then add the egg and egg yolk and mix to combine. Add the flour mixture in batches on low speed just until combined then add the 1 cup chocolate, 2/3 cup (100 g) macadamia nuts, and 1 cup dried fruit and mix on low speed just until combined.

Portion the dough into 3 tablespoon sized balls of dough (I like to use a medium sized cookie scoop to portion the dough then combine two balls of dough to make the 3 tablespoon portion) and roll into a smooth ball.

Place 6 balls of dough onto a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 13-14 minutes in the preheated oven, until the cookies are spread and are just barely golden brown on the surface. They’ll look a little raw still but they’ll continue to cook on the baking sheet and once cool this will ensure they’ll stay nice and chewy.

Let the cookies sit on the baking sheet for 5 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. Keep at room temperature in a well sealed container for up to 3 days.

Strawberry, Grapefruit and Poppy Seed Pie Bars

Testing Testing Hello it is me I have not been lost.

We can pretend that I’ve just been away forever so that I could develop these pie bars for you even thought it’s just a riff on a good old standby.

Here in Fresno we’ve got great strawberries already so I bought a flat and went to town. I ended up developing these (with plenty of leftover strawberries that I need to figure out how to use up) and couldn’t be happier with the results.

I love strawberries, I love grapefruit, I love the floral flavor of poppyseeds.

They all play so well off of each other, the strawberry and grapefruit come together to give almost a fruit punch flavor? and then the poppy seeds are not only there to get stuck in your teeth but they’ve got that light floral flavor that hits your tongue every few crunches and it’s like 3 best friend flavors hanging out and gossiping about all the good shit.

These come together so quickly, the only wait time is the cooling process, which is not only important for the infrastructure of the dessert but also allows time for the flavors to mellow and settle down and stretch before the big dance number on your tongue.

Go out and buy some strawberries, local if you can (riverpark farmers market vendors in Fresno have some of my favorites rn) and make yourself a batch of these, you won’t be disappointed.

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Chocolate Espresso Snickerdoodles

And here it is, after 5 long years of being in the wild in the Whip it Up(!) cookbook, Vis-à-vis on the wit and vinegar dot com.

This recipe is one of the few recipes that I still make every year around this time and every year I’ve said hey I need to definitely reshoot and post on the site because it’s kind of perfect?

I don’t want to toot my own horn and I don’t want to diminish what the regular snickerdoodle has done for generations and bringing families together but this cookie? She’s the cool cousin that comes every holiday that you’re like okay bitch your vibe intimidates me but I’m curious.

We’re staying in the snickerdoodle lane with the cream of tartar and cinnamon sugar coating but where we usually just have a collectively beautiful vanilla dough we’re swerving into another lane with cocoa and instant espresso powder.

The outcome is a chewy, slightly fudgy/tangy, deep chocolate cookie and a crispy cinnamon coating made with cane sugar for a slightly higher level of gloss and sparkle.

These cookies come together fairly easily and are even better if you make the dough the day ahead of time so you can ***plan ahead*** by a day for the cookie cravings.

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Eggnog Panna Cotta with Mango Coulis

Eggnog Panna Cotta with Mango Coulis

Special shout out to the National Mango Board for sponsoring this post and helping keep this site/me moving/shaking/twisting.

One of my favorite things about working with the National Mango Board this year was learning about all the varieties of mangos and how they’re available year-round thanks to staggered growing seasons.

This was a sigh of relief for me too when I realized I could incorporate them into holiday recipes. It’s already been fun experimenting with new ways to leverage their sweet, tropical taste when pairing with traditional Christmas flavors and menus, so it was a relief knowing I’d have a few varieties available in-stores to choose from.

Now, I know you’re probably thinking:

“Eggnog and mango? Are you okay?!”

The answer is yes, yes I am okay, thank you for asking.

It’s a weird combo, I’ll admit I was a little skeptical when I first thought of it, but the flavor profile of the mango with the fruitiness of the nutmeg pair so so well together and it’s a welcome detour from the super sweet flavors that usually adorn the dessert table.

Panna cotta is also one of the easiest things to make. A lot of recipes will usually have you heat everything up and add the gelatin to that, but for me I shortcut it by only heating up a little of the liquid to melt the gelatin. This makes it easier to work with and make sure the gelatin has actually all dissolved and it helps it set much faster because you’re adding a little hot milk to double the amount of cold eggnog. It comes together in 15 minutes, you can pour it into some cute glasses like I’ve got here, or little bowls. You could even make one giant one in a baking dish and just scoop it out to serve. Not as pretty but equally delicious.

For the mango portion, it’s a simple way to enjoy the fruit in a dessert: a coulis.

A coulis is just a slightly juiced up sweetened fruit puree. Most fruit purees are too thick for things like this, you’d just have lumps and bumps and you’d have to work on really spreading it out carefully. A coulis adds some water and sugar, if necessary, to make a puree that’s extra smooth when strained, and loose enough to cover something like this perfectly.

Added bonus? Saying something is a coulis is a good way to make people think you either a) know how to speak French or b) really know what you’re talking about when it comes to desserts.

Either one is fine with me.

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Parrot Punch for a National Mango Board Friendsgiving

Special shout out to the National Mango Board for sponsoring this post and helping keep this site/me moving/shaking/twisting.

This year we’re kicking off thanksgiving festivities with a Mango Friendsgiving.

A bunch of bloggers working with the Mango Board are virtually gathering to have some fun and show how versatile the mango is. A bonus is that it’s also available year round through different varieties, so even in the winter you taste a little sunshine.

I was tasked with bringing the cocktail, which, no problem there, that’s a task I welcome anytime.

I knew I wanted to incorporate bourbon somehow because it’s a great fall and winter spirit and has no issue pairing well with any thanksgiving dish, including dessert. The drink itself sort of just happened with trial and error, with the mang leading the way with the bourbon riding in the passenger seat.

I wanted to brighten up the cocktail so I went ahead and added some lime juice along with some cranberry and sparkling water to make the cocktail pair even better with heavier dishes that might be served for the holidays.

The parrot part comes into play with the combo of the green lime, the red cranberry, and the bright yellow mango, all of it coming together to actually make a beautiful golden color.

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