J.D. and Sara got married last weekend. I was so excited I made a giant batch of Mexican Wedding Cookies to celebrate. Of course I should preface this by saying I was not invited to the wedding. Since the groom and I haven’t seen each other for thirty-five years and I have never met the bride it’s about what one would expect. I was just so tickled having watched the relationship unfold on facebook that I wanted to wish them well from my kitchen.
I knew the groom in high school. He was a year younger than me, very smart and sardonic, in a Dorothy Parker sort of way, and it was clear to most of us, even back then, he was going to be a writer. He had an impish smile, a ready (if snarky) wit, and had a headful of hair. But soon after I left for college we lost touch.
That was until my classmate Jerry Eisner decided our class should have two 30th high school reunions – one in our old stomping grounds of central New York and another online via Facebook. The physical reunion was a whirlwind of fun. Forty-eight hours of eating, drinking, pulling out pictures of kids (and in some cases grandkids), catching up with each other’s lives and life paths. It was difficult to see everyone in such a compressed space of time, and many of our classmates were unable to attend for one reason or another. In comparison the virtual reunion (as I think of facebook) has been quietly going on now for six years. It includes a much broader group – people who were a year ahead or behind of our graduating class, siblings of friends, friends of siblings, folks who moved before graduating. A true reunion. It’s a smörgåsbord of life stories and pictures (some of which I maybe didn’t want to know, but hey) and better than the annual holiday card. It was through this virtual reunion that J.D. and I reconnected.
Turns out he has written some books, is into yoga, plays the guitar, and has a lot more face than in the old days. Along the way he met Sara and I watched as his status updates moved them from “in a relationship” to “engaged” and finally to “married” this past weekend. So Mozel tov to you both, I wish you a very happy marriage.
This recipe is from the inimitable Nancy Baggott‘s book The International Cookie Cookbook. Nancy suggests using pecans, but I’ve used walnuts when I didn’t have pecans on hand and the cookies are just as delicious. I’ve also come across variations which used almonds and were called Russian Tea Cakes. I will put out a warning that these cookies are so buttery they almost crumble in your hand, plus the powdered sugar gets all over everything. Unless you’re wearing black you won’t care about the powdered sugar as you reach for another.
Mazel Tov Mexican Wedding Cookies
1 2/3 cup pecans or walnuts
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter (use really good butter)
2/3 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 cups flour
2-3 cups more powdered sugar for coating
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Spread the nuts onto a jelly roll pan and bake 7-10 minutes, shaking the pan every so often. Take out and cool before grinding. You may not want to do this step (or you may forget) but trust me you will like the cookies made with toasted nuts sooooo much more. They have a nutty flavor that hits your taste buds in all the right places.
If you’re good at multi-tasking cream the butter while the nuts are toasting. You can do this with a mixer. The batch I made for Sara & J.D. I creamed by hand and those cookies were especially wonderful. So consider skipping your trip to the gym and beating the butter by hand. When the nuts are cool pop them into a small food processor along with the powdered sugar or some of the flour. You want to grind them into a powder without turning them into toasted nut butter. The sugar (or flour) helps keep them nuts. Cream whatever sugar you didn’t use in with the butter, then add the vanilla. If you ground your nuts with the sugar mix that into the butter. Fold in the flour and salt.
Roll the dough into 1″ balls and place on a parchment paper covered cookie sheet. Adjust your oven rack so it is in the top third of your oven. Bake the cookies 10-12 minutes, swiveling the baking sheet 180º mid way through. The cookies don’t brown too much, but may have some color along the bottom edge.
When you take them out of the oven let them sit for a minute then carefully move them from the cookie sheet to a cooling rack. Let cool for 5 minutes. In order for the powdered sugar to stick to the cookies you need to put it on while they are still warm. The problem is if you put the cookies in powdered sugar too soon they will melt it. So warm, not hot and not cold.
I sift a layer of powdered sugar into a small lasagna pan and gently place the cookies in. Then I make it “snow” powdered sugar. I take them out and let them finish cooling on a rack. When they are all cooled I put a thin layer of powdered sugar into the box I’m keeping them in and sift a bit more on top.
P.S. to J.D. & Sara – These cookies aren’t the best travelers since they are so buttery and crumbly but if you two want to taste them email me your address and I’ll pop a box of them in the mail ♥