When the baking urge strikes (or the bake sale looms), and you tackle the delicious task of deciding what to make, certain recipes always swim to the top of your mind, don't they?
For me, it's brownies for bake sales. Doughnut muffins for breakfast. My mom's almond puff loaf for brunch. Blitz bread for a hurry-up dinner. And my favorite pizza crust, topped with whatever the season or occasion demands, is my go-to, all-around crowd-pleasing supper.
These tried-and-true treats are imprinted in my mind with laser-like clarity – if not the recipe itself, at least the result. I can feel the heft of one of those big, dense, moist brownie-slabs in my hand. See the golden, flaky layers of the puff loaf. And smell the aroma of hot bread, bottom crust sizzling in olive oil.
Other recipes occupy a middle layer in my brain, a kind of netherworld that's equal parts vague childhood memory, and recipes torn from women's magazines, mentally marked "I should make these sometime."
Mexican Wedding Cookies – or Russian Teacakes, or Mexican Teacakes, or Russian Wedding Cookies, or just plain Snowballs or Butterballs – are just such a recipe.
These cookies were popular back in the day ("the day" being, for us Boomers, the ’50s and ’60s). They usually showed up during the holidays, appearing in their bright-white splendor on cookie gift plates and dessert buffets.
And eliciting advice from my mother to avoid them: “You won't like them. They're not chocolate. What did I tell you, watch out – you're getting sugar all over everything!”
Maybe that was their allure: they were the forbidden fruit of cookiedom, and therefore oh-so-tempting.
A recent occasion (actually, the need for a photograph of a plain-looking cookie) inspired me to finally, after all these years, try this recipe. And the cookies met expectations: tender, crumbly, full of ground almonds, covered with a blizzard of confectioners' sugar, and just plain yummy.
Wedding Cookies may go by many names. But two things are constant – their melt-in-your-mouth texture; and distinctive, attractive appearance: round and white as a cumulus cloud.
Let's revisit the 1950s, when this classic cookie made its first foray into popular print: Clementine Paddleford's Los Angeles Times column from April 29, 1951 – just about 60 years ago.
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets.
Put the following in a large bowl:
If you use salted butter, reduce the amount of salt to 1/2 teaspoon.
Beat everything together until smooth.
Add 3/4 cup almond flour or 3/4 cup blanched almonds, finely ground.
Beat until well combined.
Add 2 1/4 cups (9 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour.
Beat to incorporate; you'll have a fairly stiff dough.
Scoop chestnut-sized (1") pieces of dough, and roll them into balls. A level teaspoon cookie scoop will give you just the right amount of dough.
What happens if you don't bother to roll the scooped dough into balls? We shall see...
Place the balls on the prepared baking sheets, leaving 1" between them.
Bake the cookies for 15 to 20 minutes, until they feel set on top.
Some of them will be MAYBE beginning to barely brown around the edges.
And here's the difference between rounding the scooped dough into balls (left), or not (right). For perfectly round cookies, take the time to shape the dough into smooth balls before baking.
While the cookies are baking, put 1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar in a shallow bowl.
Remove the cookies from the oven and transfer them, 5 or 6 at a time, to the bowl.
Roll them in the sugar to coat...
...then transfer them to a rack to cool.
They should be fairly well coated with sugar. But, as they cool, some of the sugar will melt, making them look a bit naked.
When the cookies are cool, roll them in the sugar again; this time, they should be thoroughly coated and snowy white. If they're not, give them a third trip through the sugar.
And tasty, too. These cookies almost literally melt in your mouth, they're that tender/crumbly. It's the almond flour that does the trick.
Store cookies airtight at room temperature, where they'll last quite awhile – unless someone finds them first...
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