Gluten-Free Mexican Wedding Cookies

There are many cookies that taste like the holidays. Thick roll-out sugar cookies with frosting and sprinkles. Candied pecan cookies. Ginger-molasses cookies.

But these cookies, with finely ground nuts, butter and shortening, gluten-free flours, and powdered sugar, really taste like the holidays to me. Plus, these cookies are easy to make.

There are dozens of variations of these cookies. Some call them Russian Tea Cakes, Viennese Crescents, Snowballs, or even Moldy Mice.(That one doesn’t sound too appetizing to me.) These are known as Mexican wedding cookies and we adapted this recipe from Pati Jinich, head chef at the Mexican Cultural Center in Washington D.C. Her website, Pati’s Mexican Table, is a treasure trove of authentic Mexican cuisine.

And she gave us these cookies. Gracias, Pati!

GLUTEN-FREE MEXICAN WEDDING COOKIES, adapted from Pati Jinich of Pati’s Mexican Table

The real name of these is polvorones, and according to Pati, they are available at nearly every bakery and grocery store in Mexico. “Mexican wedding cookies” is the American version. In other words, a super-flaky cookie that almost disappears as soon as it hits the tongue, lightly sweet with powdered sugar and air pockets that seem impossible in something gluten-free. You’ll be hard pressed to eat just one. These cookies are meant to be a celebration. Go ahead and have another.

1/2 cup pecans
3/4 cup powdered sugar, plus more for dusting the cookies
280 grams Aherns’ all-purpose gluten-free flour mix
1/2 teaspoon psyllium husk
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening
1 large egg, at room temperature

Preparing to bake. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat.

Put the pecans in a food processor (or mortar and pestle, if you want to be authentic) and whirl them up until they are ground fine. Add the powdered sugar and pulse the food processor until the pecans and sugar are combined. Set aside.

Cutting the fats into the flour. Put the flour, psyllium husk, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the chunks of cold butter and vegetable shortening and begin working them into the flour immediately, quickly. We used a pastry cutter, but you could easily use your hands. Work the fats into the flour until you have a coarse, crumbly dough.

Finishing the dough. Add the pecan and sugar mixture to the dough. Work it in with your hands. Crack the egg into the bowl and combine everything together, thoroughly, using your hands. (And be sure to work quickly. You don’t want that butter and shortening to warm up too much.) Work the dough until it comes together as one ball of dough.

Baking the cookies. Make a ball of dough about 1-inch wide. Pat down the dough ball just a bit with your fingertips. Leaving about 1 inch of space between all the dough balls, fill the cookie sheet. Slide the baking sheet into the oven and bake the cookies until they have a golden-brown color, about 12 to 15 minutes.

Pull the baking sheet out of the oven and immediately dust the cookies with powdered sugar. Allow them to cool for 10 minutes, then carefully transfer them to a cooling rack. Eat when there is not a hint of warmth to the cookies.

(I know. Good luck.)

Makes about 30 cookies.

You can find more of Shauna and Danny’s recipes, essays, photographs and words of comfort about living gluten-free at Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef. Shauna shares food ideas and answers questions on Twitter. She also pins photographs and recipes on Pinterest and Foodily. There’s a great community at the Facebook fan page for Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef.

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