I had never heard the name Mexican wedding cookies. Ever. I was born and raised in Mexico and lived there all my life until I moved to the US. There were no Mexican wedding cookies at my Mexican wedding or at any other wedding in Mexico that I ever attended. I heard the name once we moved to Washington D.C. Since then, I have been asked about them continuously. It took me a while to realise that Mexican wedding cookies are what I love and know as polvorones. They are one of Mexico’s most popular treats, consumed on an everyday basis and found in just about every panadería (bakery) and grocery store throughout the country.
They come in many flavours, from plain, pecan and peanut to vanilla and cinnamon – even chocolate. I go for pecans. The name polvorón seems to come from the word polvo, which translates to dust or powder. Maybe because these cookies break into the finest of crumbs the moment they touch your mouth.
- 60 g (½ cup) pecans
- 120 g (¾ cup) icing (confectioner’s) sugar, plus extra, for dusting
- 300 g (2 cups) plain (all-purpose) flour
- ⅛ tsp salt
- 125 g cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
- 125 g vegetable shortening
- 1 egg
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Preheat the oven to 180˚C.
Using a food processor, blender or knife, finely chop the pecans. Add the sugar to the food processor and process until ground. If done by hand, just mix together.
Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. Add the chunks of butter and teaspoons of vegetable shortening and dive in with your hands and work the butter and vegetable shortening into the flour – the mixture will turn into a coarse dough with chunks of butter and shortening throughout.
Add the pecan mixture and work it all in. Crack the egg into the mixture and thoroughly combine using your hands. In less than a minute, the dough should be soft and malleable enough to be shaped into a ball. Don't knead more than necessary (you will know you overworked the dough if it becomes very, very greasy from the warmth of your hands).
Grease a large baking tray. One by one, make small balls of dough with the palms of your hands – each dough ball should be 2.5 cm – 4 cm wide. Place on baking tray with about 3 cm between the balls. Bake for 15–16 minutes or until golden brown.
Once out, dust with extra icing sugar – the more, the better. Go ahead, go wild! The cookies can take it because the dough is barely sweet and they are meant to be showered in extra sugar. Serve.
Recipe and photographs from Pati’s Mexican Table by Pati Jinich.