I usually associate these nutty, round, powdered-sugar dusted cookies with Christmas because my grandmother made them every year of my childhood. We called them Mexican Wedding Cakes, but they're also known by many names like Russian Tea Cakes and Snowballs. Why Mexican? The story goes that they were originally brought by Arabs occupying Spain, and then by the Spaniards to Mexico.
Traditionally a light, buttery shortbread, formed into a ball and rolled in confectioners' sugar, my version of the Mexican Wedding Cookie is spicier, rolled and sliced into a two-inch disks, and just dusted across the top.
I served these recently at a Mexican-themed dinner topped with a scoop of homemade lemon ice cream. You could also serve them with some rum-spiked whipped cream and berries, or a cup of Mexican hot chocolate.
Spiced Mexican Wedding CookiesMakes 12
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup ground almonds, pecans or walnuts
Preheat oven to 350° F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Cream the butter and 1 cup powdered sugar until smooth. Beat in the vanilla. Gradually add the flour, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and salt. Add the ground nuts and stir until well-blended. Form dough into a 2"-wide log, wrap tightly with plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator until firm, about 30 minutes.
In a small bowl combine remaining 2 tablespoons powdered sugar and remaining 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon. Set aside.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and slice into twelve equal disks, smoothing out edges into an even circle if needed before placing on parchment, 2 inches apart. Bake for 15 minutes or until just beginning to brown. Remove from oven and set on cooling rack until cool enough to handle, but still warm. Using a small sieve, dust the tops with the cinnamon sugar mixture.
Cookies will keep in an air-tight container for 2-3 days.