Friday, December 16, 2011

12 Days of Christmas Confections - Day 3 Pistachio Cherry Mexican Wedding Cakes

Day 3 - Pistachio Cherry Mexican Wedding Cakes

The first batch of Mexican wedding cakes I made was at age 10,  they really weren't that tasty, they were far too dry, which is a common issue I find with these little snowball looking treats. At my young age, I thought the Mexican wedding cakes were so exotic and unique, all to grow up and see them as a quick, easy, very common holiday confection. After shunning these cookies for the dryness factor, I stumbled across a much more sophisticated version and thought it wouldn't hurt to give them another try. The revival of the Mexican wedding cake, with nutty flavors and the sweet chewy addition of dried cherry were moist and heavenly. I kept that recipe and it still remains one of my absolute favorites. Now, I must say, I never know what to call these cookies when people ask, I hear them called Russian Tea cakes, Mexican wedding cakes, snowballs and butterballs. Which one in correct? Russian Tea cakes obviously are from Russia and were used in the 1700's for tea ceremonies. By the 1900's the little cookies appeared in the United States as a holiday and wedding ceremony staple.  How in the world do I know these as Mexican wedding cakes then, if the history is Russian? Well that's not entirely so, they appear as Bizcochitos in Spanish, Mexican Wedding cakes in English, and were made over time by Spanish settlers in New Mexico. They now have the honor of being the official state cookie in New Mexico. The commonality in all of these cookies, what ever you know yours to be, is that they are made from butter, nuts, and powdered sugar. Variations include adding cinnamon and anise or in my case, pistachio and dried cherry. You will be very pleased with the moistness of this recipe, they are very delicate and by adding just the right ingredients to a simple, traditional recipe, it brings the flavors to quite a gourmet level.

Pistachio Cherry Mexican Wedding Cakes
December 2006 Bon Appetit - Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken of Border Grill
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar plus more for coating
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoon almond extract (my addition, not part of the original recipe)
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup shelled unsalted natural pistachios (about 4 ounces), chopped
1 cup dried tart cherries or dried cranberries
3 1/3 cups sifted cake flour
1 2/3 cups sifted all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 3 heavy large baking sheets. Using electric mixer, beat 2 cups butter and 1 cup powdered sugar in large bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla, almond extract and salt, then pistachios and cherries. Using spatula, stir in all flour (do not overmix dough).
Shape dough by generous tablespoonfuls into round balls. Place on prepared sheets, spacing 1 inch apart. Bake cookies, 1 sheet at a time, until bottoms just begin to color, about 16 minutes. Cool cookies on sheets 10 minutes before coating.
Pour generous amount of powdered sugar into medium bowl. Working with 5 or 6 warm cookies at a time, add cookies to bowl of sugar; gently turn to coat thickly. Transfer cookies to sheet of waxed paper. Repeat to coat cookies with sugar again; cool completely.

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