These cookies could really be made at any time of year, but they definitely say Christmas to me — whether you call them Mexican wedding cookies, Russian tea cakes or something else.
I have never had any trouble with these before, but the first recipe I tried this year was a little problematic. So as soon as I got the first batch in the oven, I tried again. The second batch was better.
You can use hazelnuts or walnuts or even chestnuts, but I like to use pecans for these cookies. Whatever type of nut you choose, make sure you toast them first.
Then let them cool and chop them (or chop them and let them cool — the order doesn’t matter).
The cookies are supposed to sort of melt in your mouth, so you want to avoid working the dough too much — it will make it tough. But you do need to be able to shape it into balls. So if you can make it into a dough ball before you put it into the fridge, that will help.
Here’s a little secret to making the cookies look pretty: Roll them in sugar twice. The first time should be when they are still a little warm.
Then roll the cookies again after they have cooled. Prepare to have powdered sugar all over yourself! Maybe you can leave some for Santa tonight?
Mexican wedding cookies (from “America’s Test Kitchen Holiday Cookies”)
2 sticks (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cups pecans, toasted and finely chopped
1 cup powdered sugar
If you need to toast the pecans, place them in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Toast in a 350-degree oven for 5-10 minutes, until they smell nutty. Allow to cool before using in recipe.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking sheets.
With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream together butter, granulated sugar, vanilla and salt in a large bowl until very light and fluffy (about three minutes). Reduce speed to low and gradually add flour, mixing until just combined. Add pecans and mix until evenly distributed. Form dough into ball, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour (or up to 2 days).
Roll dough into small (1-inch-ish) balls and place 1 1/2 inches apart on lined baking sheets. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, until edges are light golden, switching and rotating the baking sheets halfway through. Cool about five minutes.
Place half of powdered sugar in a bowl. Roll warm cookies in sugar to coat. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and cool completely. Roll cooled cookies in powdered sugar again.