polvorones (mexican wedding cakes). It seems that in recent years (months)(or whatever), polvorones have gained mainstream popularity with our neighbours up north (aka in America). They have been given the lovely nickname of ‘Mexican wedding cakes’ (or cookies) but, unfortunately, the most important part of the recipe has been generally changed. Read on.
Polvorones are one of those things that remind me of my childhood in Mexico. Wrapped in colourful papel de china (thin wrapping paper) and covered in (way too much) powdered sugar, it was my favourite holiday cookie. Heck, they even beat the Dutch counterpart, speculaas (recipe over here).
So this year when I told my mom I wanted to make them and share the recipe over here with you guys and I called them Mexican wedding cakes, she went “Mexican aaaah whaaat?!” (or something like that).
Her response may have been triggered because, to begin with, polvorones are not actually Mexican. Hmmphhh… they are Spanish and have been one of those things which we have simply just adopted as ours. Second, they are traditionally a Christmas treat (so most definitely nothing to do with weddings). Nonetheless, a wonderful nickname for a white and delicious biscuit.
But I was just about to tell you what it is that most mainstream recipes are missing nowadays. The thing that makes polvorones be, well, polvorones. And that is the toasting of the whole wheat flour (no white flour nonsense) and the toasting alike of the almonds or the pecans (pecans are my favourite, but almonds are more traditional).
And if you think this does not make much of a difference, just try it. The moment the dry ingredients are incorporated with the butter (I skip the lard in mine), the distinct aroma of the polvorones emerges (pretty much just like magic).
So if there was one recipe I would urge you to try, it would be this one. My favourite biscuit (or cookie) pretty much ever (and also my mom’s). These polvorones are what you would call a door opener- bring them along to dinner parties, give them away as gifts… et al, and doors will open just like that. Seriously.
Crumbly and full of flavour.
225 g whole wheat pastry flour (it should weigh about 200g after toasting)
67 g pecans (or blanched almonds)
150 g powdered sugar + extra for dusting
170 g butter, softened
2 tsp vanilla extract (preferably Mexican)
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
In a skillet or frying pan toast the flour over ultra low heat, stirring constantly, until it begins to get some colour (about 10-12 minutes). Toast the pecans (or almonds) in a similar manner. Set aside and allow to cool completely.
Place the pecans (or almonds) in a food processor and pulse a few times. Add the powdered sugar (I make mine by running evaporated cane juice through the blender until powdered), and pulse a few more times until a powder emerges. Make sure not to overprocess as you will end up with a butter. Place into a large mixing bowl and set aside to allow to cool (you will notice it warms up a bit during processing).
In a separate bowl, cream the butter with the vanilla extract until light and fluffy. Set aside.
Sieve the toasted flour into the pecan and sugar mixture. Add the cinnamon and salt and whisk thoroughly. Add the creamed butter, and with your hands mix it together creating a crumbly mixture (you will notice the particular ‘scent’ of the polvorones will immediately emerge at this stage). The dough should begin to come together at this stage (you do not want to over-work it), but sometimes a teaspoon or two of milk will be necessary to make it all hold together. Separate into two balls, wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 15 minutes (just enough to get the butter slightly harder, but not to actually turn the dough into stone!).
Preheat oven to 180ºC (350ºF). Working one ball at a time, break off chunks of about 25 g each, form into a ball (will be very crumbly so work with care)(if too crumbly, allow to warm up a bit more to room temperature), press to flatten and place on a baking sheet. Chill for 15 minutes and bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown, turning the sheet around half way through.
Allow to cool completely before rolling in powdered sugar.
makes 2 dozen