Yield
Makes about 36 cookies, after you’ve eaten a bit of the cookie dough

After the chocolate chip cookie, polvorónes might be my second favorite type of cookie. They’re a crumbly Spanish shortbread most popularly known as Mexican wedding cookies or Russian tea cakes. There are many variations, but ideally a polvorón is crumbly, not cloyingly sweet, and always mixed with some type of nut, traditionally pecans or walnuts. The cookie also needs a good balance of texture and flavor. Most important, it should crumble when you bite into it—this is one of the major signs that you’ve made a good polvorón.

  • 1 cup/120 g all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup/120 g whole-wheat pastry flour (see Note) 
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon 
  • 1/4 tsp fine-grain sea salt 
  • 1 cup/225 g unsalted butter, at room temperature 
  • 2 1/4 cups/225 g confectioners’ sugar 
  • 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract 
  • 1/2 tsp pure almond extract 
  • 3/4 cup/95 g shelled unsalted dry-roasted pistachios (see Note), half roughly chopped and half coarsely ground 
  • 1/4 cup/20 g almond meal

In a large bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, pastry flour, cinnamon, and salt.

In a large bowl using a handheld mixer or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed for about 2 minutes, until fluffy. Turn off the mixer, add 3/4 cup/75 g of the confectioners’ sugar, and beat on medium-low speed, until the mixture is pale and fluffy, about 1 minute more. Turn off the mixer and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. On medium speed, mix in the vanilla and almond extract until just combined.

On low speed (or using a sturdy wooden spoon or silicone spatula), slowly add the flour mixture until just combined. All at once, briefly mix in the pistachios and almond meal. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Put the dough in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, or until it is firm.

Position a rack in the upper third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Roll the dough into 1-Tbsp rounds and coat each round well with some of the remaining 1 1/2 cups/ 150 g confectioners’ sugar (you definitely will not use all of it in this step, but you will need the remainder later, so don’t throw it away). Put each round on the prepared baking sheet 1 in/2.5 cm apart and put it in the freezer for about 15 minutes, until the dough rounds are firm.

Bake, rotating the baking sheet halfway through, until the cookies are cracked and lightly blushed with gold all around the edges, 18 to 22 minutes.

Allow the cookies to sit on the baking sheet for 10 minutes, then carefully transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. Once thoroughly cooled, roll each cookie in the remaining confectioners’ sugar, being sure to shake off any excess. The cookies will keep in an airtight container in a cool place for up to 5 days.

Notes

No whole-wheat pastry flour? You can easily substitute it with an equal amount of all-purpose flour. I simply like to use a combination of all-purpose flour and whole-wheat pastry flour because the latter enhances the nuttiness of the cookies.

If you can’t find unsalted dry-roasted pistachios (unshelled, of course), I wouldn’t worry; simply reduce the amount of salt to 1/8 tsp, and all should be well!

Variation

I take some liberties with the concept of these polvorónes, nodding to the suspected Levantine origins of these Latin cookies by using a mixture of pistachio nuts and almond meal instead of the traditional pecans or walnuts. An equal amount of lightly toasted pecans or walnuts or, if you prefer, more almond meal, should work well in place of the pistachios.

Kamran Siddiqi, Hand Made Baking: Recipes to Warm the Heart, Chronicle Books (2014).