Friday, August 24, 2012

Pulverize Me!

I'll admit it:  I had my suspicions.

I'd never made a recipe from Saveur before, but the word on the street (so to speak) was that the magazine was more to look at and dream about than to actually use to make something.

And when I launched into this recipe for Mexican-style pecan shortbread cookies from Saveur's recent Mexico issue, I was a little dubious. For example, the ingredients called for 1 1/2 tsp of vanilla "preferably Mexican." I've made a number of baked goods with both Madagascar and Mexican vanilla and defy any blind taster to tell the difference.

I was even more doubtful when I saw the huge imbalance in the wet to dry ratio, only 6 tablespoons of butter for 3 cups of crushed pecans, sugar, and flour. And in fact, when I made the dough as instructed, it failed to "form a ball" in my food processor as promised. However, after adding 2 more tablespoons of butter to make an even stick, the dough came out just fine.

The results, however, have made a Saveur believer out of me.  Called "Polvorones" (which sounds like it should mean "Pulverized thing" to my tin Spanish ear), these earthy cookies have a rich pecan flavor with slight heat from ground "true cinnamon" or canela, which I bought in a Spanish grocery store. If you bake them just right, they're slightly chewy inside with a light powdery glaze on the outside that strikes a sweet high note.

This is definitely an instant classic.

(Mexican Pecan Shortbread Cookies)
Adapted from Saveur Magazine

3/4 cup pecans
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon (if you can find it, get canela bark or "true cinnamon" in a spice store or Mexican market, then grind it right before adding to the dough)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
8 tbsp unsalted butter, slightly softened
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup confectioner's sugar for dusting

1.  In a large food processor (not your mini-chop) process pecans and sugar into a fine meal. Then add the flour, cinnamon, and salt and pulse to combine.

2.  Add butter and vanilla and process until dough comes together (hopefully in a ball). Transfer to lightly floured work surface and form into a disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour.

3.  Line two cookie sheets with parchment.  Press, roll, do what you have to to roll out dough until it is just under 1/2 inch thick. (The dough's a bit crumbly, so you may have to work it with your hands--it doesn't roll out nicely.) Using a 1 1/4" round cutter, cut out cookies and transfer to cookie sheets, about 1 inch apart. Reroll scraps and continue cutting until the dough is finished. Place in fridge to chill for 30 minutes and preheat oven to 350.

4.  Bake until lightly browned and set, about 14 minutes.  Place confectioner's guar in a large bowl and set aside. Let cool for five minutes on sheets, then transfer to wire racks.  You can A) Let them cool completely and then roll in confectioner's sugar for a more powdery coating or B) As they're still warm, roll them in confectioner's sugar for more of a wet glaze. The choice is yours.

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