Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Pecan Butterballs (or Mexican Wedding Cookies)

I first had a version of these cookies during a frosty NYC Christmas when I went to a friend's mother's Upper East Side home for the holiday. They were a family of unbelievably good bakers and cooks, so I eagerly accepted every invitation they proffered me. That year, I was greeted at the door with a plate of these little, round cookies that melted in my mouth immediately upon contact. I'd never really had anything quite like them--delicate, shattering wisps of butter, punctuated with bits of crunchy pecans, and topped with a sheer dusting of white powdered sugar. They dissolved into air like magic as soon as I bit into them, and I was smitten. I promptly asked for the recipe but was given an elusive "just a little bit of that and a little bit of this" answer, and so I resorted to Googling "Mexican Wedding Cookies," the name of them being the only solid bit of information I was able to glean.

Four years later, I'm still playing around with the various recipes I've discovered (some called Pecan Butterballs, some Mexican Wedding Cookies), trying to perfect the cookies. I've come pretty darn close with this version. xo

Pecan Butterballs (or Mexican Wedding Cookies)
1 stick unsalted butter
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar, plus extra for dusting
1⁄2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup finely ground pecans
Pinch of fine salt 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter until fluffy. Add confectioners' sugar and vanilla. Beat for 1–2 minutes. Gradually beat in flour. Stir in nuts.

Shape dough into 1" balls, using about 1 tablespoon of dough for each. Place 1" apart on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake 20 minutes, turning sheet so that cookies bake lightly and evenly. When they're nearly cool, roll in confectioners' sugar. Use any extra sugar for dusting over the cookies.