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Mucho Gusto

The Cookies with a Million Names

I gazed intently through the glass window of the bakery below our apartment, the way only a child could. My eyes fixated with wonder on the perfect little snowballs in the center of the display case, located at the ideal eye level for my youthful height. The anticipation heightened as I watched the kind baker scoop a dozen of the cookies into the box my dad ordered for our family. My mouth watered as I remembered the last time I tasted the scrumptious powdered sugar and the crisp, crumbly nuttiness of the interior. I couldn’t wait to experience another bite. For the time being, I had to be content with holding the box on my lap during the car ride home, though I didn’t wait for very long. With just one glance, my dad and I decided eating just one wouldn’t hurt; we dug out a couple of the tempting cookies in the car. I sacrificed the festive bow holding the box shut, and finally, we snuck the pillowy yet crunchy cookies into our mouths. With my dad’s iconic oldies music playing in the background, we enjoyed the bliss of these unique, freshly-baked cookies. Evidence of my impatience, the delicate dust of powdered sugar covered my lap and fingers, as it always did. The sandy cookie, however, with its melt-in-your-mouth consistency, made up for this. 

White, round, and smooth on the outside and buttery, crunchy, and nutty on the inside, these blizzard-coated cookies always remind me of a sweet celebration. While they go by many names—Mexican or Italian Wedding Cookies, Russian Tea Cakes or Swedish Tea Cakes, Butterballs, Polvorones, Viennese Sugar Balls, and Snowballs or Snowdrops, to name a few—these cookies are clearly a favorite in many cultures. In my family, no holiday or special event goes by without these tasty, tender treats from our favorite local bakery or my aunt, who is an excellent baker herself. While great for holidays, these addictive, rich cookies are great at any time of year! They are easy to make and require just six ingredients. Enjoy with a warm cup of spiced chai or a dark, hearty cup of coffee this fall—there is nothing more festive or homey at the same time!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened and cut into mid-sized pieces
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ¾ cups powdered sugar, divided into ½ cup and 1 ¼ cup
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup pecans, finely chopped

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 °F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Add the softened butter pieces, salt, and ½ cup powdered sugar to a large mixing bowl and combine with an electric mixer on medium speed. Incorporate the vanilla extract into this mixture. Then, add the flour and stir until the mixture is creamy. Add the chopped pecans. 

Now that the dough is prepared, use an ice cream scooper or tablespoon to form even balls of dough, one at a time. Shape about two tablespoons of dough into balls per cookie, adjust as needed, and place each ball on the cookie sheet. Bake in the oven for about 13 minutes until the cookies are firm and a tan or beige color, like shortbread cookies. Store the extra tray in the refrigerator until ready to bake. Let the cookies cool for about seven minutes. 

Add the remaining 1 ¼ cups powdered sugar to a small mixing bowl and roll the warm cookies until they are completely coated in the white powder (almost like snowballs!). This first layer should not be too thick, as part of the sugar will melt from the heat of the cookie. Let the cookies cool completely before rolling them in the powdered sugar a second time. Now, the cookies are ready to be eaten. Enjoy! 

Adapted from Mexican Wedding Cookies by Cooking Classy

Cover photo courtesy of Tried and Tasty

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