Chile-Spiked Mexican Wedding Cakes

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This is an amped up version of Mexican Wedding Cake Cookies by Sally’s mother, Ricki.

What the daughter of Italian mining immigrants in Ely, Minnesota was doing with a Mexican cookie in her arsenal remains a mystery. The story Ricki told is that these were actually classic Russian sweets, and “when things started going south with the Soviets,” they started calling them Mexican Wedding Cakes. Wacky? Well, so was she.

Wine: Arguments have broken out around the table as to whether light and effervescent Moscato d’Asti or a soft and rich late harvest wine offer a better pairing. These are very different, but both wonderfully flattering with the cookies, which should assure you that any sweet wine will work well. Here’s to further study.

Dough can be made 2 to 3 days ahead and refrigerated. Finished cookies keep 1 week in a cool place, or frozen for up to 6 months.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup pecan pieces, lightly toasted
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
Instructions

1. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the pecans until coarsely ground. Add the butter and pulse until combined. Mix in the sugar and vanilla. Add the flour, salt, cayenne and cinnamon and pulse just to combine.

2. Gather the dough into a ball and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours and preferably overnight.

3. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line two 2 baking sheets with parchment.

4. When ready to bake, let the dough warm to room temperature so that it is pliable but still cold. Using about 1 tablespoon of dough per cookie, roll the dough into like-size balls. Place them on the baking sheet about 1 inch apart and flatten slightly with the palm of your hand or the bottom of a glass to keep them from rolling.

5. Bake until slightly browned on the bottom, about 12 minutes. Let them cool completely. Sift the confectioners’ sugar over the cooled cookies and dust with additional spices if desired.

From The Splendid Table®'s How to Eat Weekends by Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift (Clarkson Potter, 2011), © copyright 2011 American Public Media.

Prep time: 
10 minutes prep time; 2 hours to overnight rest in refrigerator
Cook time: 
12 minutes
Total time: 
22 minutes
Yield: 
24 to 30 cookies

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