December 10, 2009

Making Christmas Cookies

A pan of cookies gone wrong!

One of my complaints about sharing my gringo recipes with the cooks is the way that things turn out, often they bear NO resemblance to how they are when I make them, and NOT in a good way. I have some wonderful sweet bread recipes which we used for a brunch here. Cook-with-an-Attitude followed my recipes and I thought they were horrid. The following weekend I made the same bread and it was exactly as I remembered. I don’t know where she went wrong, but I have decided that the first time they try my recipes I need to supervise. It has been a surprise to me in doing so how often I have averted tragedy caused by our mutual language barriers.

This morning after I had a little talk with the devil on my shoulder about losing weight and eating cookies, we started to bake Christmas cookies. I was going to start with biscochitos, a traditional Christmas cookie from New Mexico that uses anise and cinnamon. Since you need cookie cutters which we didn’t have, we put those off to make until tomorrow so we can go buy cookie cutters today. In the meantime I decided we would make Mexican wedding cookies—Esperando's very favorite cookie in the world. The muchachas had never heard of them before, which all goes to show that they must be a mainland thing and not an all of Mexico thing.

New Cook lived for a while in the U.S. and so can read English a little bit. I didn’t translate the recipe but kind of walked her through it. She pointed out that the T for tablespoon could be confusing to Spanish speakers who would think it was a T for taza (cup), and then we almost had a disaster when she wanted to do exactly that—put in a cup instead of a tablespoon of vanilla!

It took a while to get the cookies mixed properly as we had continuing issues with the measures, she would not fill the measuring cups up to the proper mark, undermeasuring a lot of the ingredients (maybe this is how we started to go wrong on other recipes). But finally everything was ready and I left her to roll the cookies into little balls, round I said. She came to show me round, but her round was flat besides. Ah no I said, round like this and demonstrated a little ball. Oh she said—pelotitas (little balls), then she corrected herself—albondigas (meatballs)! She stuck them in the oven and I left—in 15 minutes they called me back—the cookies had melted into one giant flat cookie. Oh no, I said, what went wrong? Since I had copied the recipe off the internet some time ago I didn’t have the source anymore, but figured I would just looked up Mexican wedding cookies and any recipe would reveal where mine was off. Señora, señora—called from the kitchen by New Cook—I know what is wrong, I forgot to put in the flour. We had been so busy getting sugar and vanilla measures mixed up and laughing, me supervising to make sure nothing went wrong, that we both overlooked the flour! These cookies do not brown except on the bottom, so the cook was sure they were underdone when they ready.

The Best Ever Mexican Wedding Cookies
Yields about 3 dozen

2 c flour
2 sticks cold butter, cut into pieces
¼ c powdered sugar
1 T vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
½ c almonds
½ c pecans
1 1/2 c powdered sugar, sifted (to roll baked cookies in)
1 tsp anise seeds (optional)

Preheat oven to 325F. Grind almonds and pecans in food processor, then add butter and continue to grind until smooth. Add 1/4 cup powdered sugar and vanilla, then mix again. Add flour and anise seeds (if using) and grind mixture until blended. After flouring hands, roll the dough into small balls. Place about an inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 15-20 minutes, or until brown on the bottom. Cool for 15 minutes, then roll the still warm cookies in the remaining powdered sugar. Let cool again, then roll again in powdered sugar.

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