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Entries in recipes (568)

Wednesday
Apr032013

The Delicious Tale of Dobos Torte

Dobos torte

He may not have had nine lives, but József C. Dobos left a many-layered legacy that's considered a symbol of Hungary. It's called Dobos Torte, an elegant caramel-coated cake which, when cut into, becomes even better--because once you get past that eloquent exterior, you'll find several (between 7 and 11) layers of delicate sponge cake sandwiched with a luscious chocolate buttercream.

Dobos torte

Sometimes thought of as the Hungarian equivalent to Escoffier, the famous French foodie who was the inventor of, among other dishes, Cherries Jubilee, Dobos was a fancy chef from a long line of fancy chefs. After spending his life in the culinary arts, he settled down in his later years to open a gourmet food shop in Hungary. He created this cake as a pleasurable way to satisfy the need for a dessert that would keep well: refrigeration wasn’t as easy to come by as it is today, and the high ratio of rich frosting to cake ensured that the cake would stay moist for far longer than a plain sponge cake.

Dobos Torte

 But that wasn't the only selling point of the cake: Dobos, a true pastry pilgrim, had discovered buttercream in his travels to France--ooh la la! When he used it in his cake (at a time when most cakes were filled with cooked creams or custards), the sinfully luxuriant, sweet buttercream-filled Dobos Torte stood out. That's right: while the combination of cake with buttercream filling is commonplace today, at the time it was really quite a revolutionary dessert concept! 

Dobos Torte

Mr. Dobos also seemed to be quite the marketing expert for his time: after he grandly introduced his Dobos Torte at the National General Exhibition of Budapest in the 1880s, the cake became a sensation throughout Europe, earning devotees from far and wide. Dobos, like a modern-day pastry rock star, even toured European capitals, introducing the cake to different cities and presenting it in a special, custom-made container. Talk about hyping your brand!
 
Dobos went to the great meringue in the sky in the 1920s, but his very unique cake has lived on: among the many honors bestowed on him and his creation over the decades, my favorite remains the time when  a six-foot-diameter Dobos torte was paraded by pastry chefs through the avenues of Budapest! Dobos torte remains a classic today; look for it when you're traveling the world, visiting fancy hotels, restaurants, and pastry shops.
 

Dobos

When it comes to making Mr. Dobos' creation yourself, don't be daunted by the long list of ingredients and instructions: this is definitely a recipe that requires time and attention, but it's not very difficult to prepare, and once it's served, you'll secure a spot as baking royalty among your family and friends. The crowning glory is the caramel top layer, which, when applied, will undoubtedly make you feel as if you are adding the torch to the Statue of Liberty.

Full disclosure? When I made this cake, I made it slightly wrong. Usually the caramel is cut as triangles and then placed at a rakish angle along the cake's top, like this. I made it as a topping layer. You know what? Still tasty, even if not quite 100% traditional. So I have it that way in my tutorial!

Dobos

Dobos

Dobos Torte (Printable version here!)

Makes one tall 9-inch layer cake (16 servings) 

For the cakes:

  • 9 egg whites
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 8 egg yolks (use the last egg yolk for the buttercream)
  • 1/4 cup milk (whole or 2%)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest, from 1 large lemon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • Confectioners' sugar, for dusting 

For the buttercream:

  • 12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces 

For the caramel:

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons water

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Generously grease and flour the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Have ready two 10-inch cardboard circles.

 To make the cake, put the egg whites in the very clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat the egg whites until frothy, then gradually add the sugar. Continue beating just until soft peaks form. Transfer to a large, wide bowl to make later steps (folding, etc) easier.  

In another bowl, whisk the  8 egg yolks with the milk, lemon zest, vanilla, and salt until well blended. Fold about ¼ of the egg yolk mixture into the egg whites to lighten the mixture; fold in the rest of the yolks in a second addition. This will keep the mixture from deflating. Sift the flour over the egg mixture, and fold in two additions, making sure that the flour has been completely incorporated.  

Measure about 1 cup batter into the prepared pan, then spread and level it, using an offset or rubber spatula. Bake for about 4 to 7 minutes, or until lightly browned on the edges, with a dull finish on top, and the cake has begun to pull away from the edges of the pan slightly. Remove the cake from the oven, and let sit for a 3 to 4 minutes before removing the layer from the pan with a metal spatula. Dust the cake lightly with confectioners' sugar (this will keep the layers from sticking), and place on a rack to cool.

Clean and grease the pan; repeat this process until all of the batter is used, about 6 times more. As you bake, stack the layers between waxed or parchment paper, and cover with a clean towel. Refrigerate the layers until completely cold, about 2 hours.

To make the buttercream, start by melting the chocolate in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat, or in the top of a double boiler. Stir slowly and constantly until the chocolate melts. Set aside.

Using an electric mixer, whisk the eggs and egg yolk on medium-high speed until they reach the ribbon stage (“ribbons” will drip when you hold up a whisk, rather than just drips). Turn off the mixer, but leave the egg mixture in the bowl.

In a small saucepan combine the sugar and water, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Stop stirring and let the mixture come to a boil; cook to 240 degrees (the soft-ball stage) on a candy thermometer Take pan off the heat.  

Return to the egg mixture. Whisk on low speed,and pour the hot syrup into the egg mixture in a slow but steady stream. Increase the mixing speed and whip the mixture until it is roughly the texture of whipped cream and has cooled to room temperature (the mixing bowl may still feel slightly warm). Add the butter in 3 parts, stirring so that it gets mixed in. Then add the melted chocolate (it should be just slightly warm). Continue to whip until smooth and well blended.

To assemble the cake, start with one layer of cake; set it on one of the 10-inch rounds; cover the top surface with some buttercream ( a slightly overflowing 1/3cup), and then press down with another layer to make a good seal. Repeat this with all but one of the cake layers. Wrap the torte in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 6 hours; also wrap and chill the remaining buttercream (you should have about 2 cups left). Place a sheet of parchment paper on top of the other cardboard round, and place the last layer on it; wrap and refrigerate.

To make the caramel topping, in a medium saucepan, cook the sugar and water over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until an amber caramel forms, about 5 minutes.

Unwrap the single cake layer. Carefully pour the caramel over the cake layer and spread it thinly, using a small offset spatula. Don't worry if some of it drips off of the cake while you spread it. Working quickly, use an oiled or buttered sharp knife to indent the top of the caramel into 16 wedges (this will ensure that the caramel doesn't crack when you cut slices). Allow to cool slightly, and then retouch the indents with the knife again. Place the layer onto a countertop dusted with confectioners'sugar, and allow the caramel to cool completely.

Place more buttercream on top of the chilled torte, and top with the caramel round. Frost the sides with the remaining buttercream. Cover loosely, and chill the torte for about an hour before serving; let come to room temperature before serving.

Store, loosely covered, in the refrigerator, for up to 3 days. 

Wednesday
Mar272013

Easter Candy Pie Recipe

Candy Pie

It's hard to choose a favorite Easter candy. They're all just so festive and sweet! Bunnies made of chocolate, rainbow arrays of jelly beans, adorably speckled robin's eggs, pretty pastel Easter corn, and of course, Cadbury treats, both small (mini eggs!) and large (Cadbury Creme Eggs!).

But instead of trying to pick a favorite, I decided this year that they're all good enough to share real estate in my mouth. I did this, of course, by putting them ALL into an Easter Candy Pie.

Easter Candy Pie

This may beg a simple question: What happens when you put all of your Easter candy in a pie shell and bake it up?

I won't beat around the bush. Here's what happens.

BEFORE AFTER

It's surprising that it took me so long to do this, what with the success I had doing something similar with Halloween candy. But seriously--Easter candy is so much more fun! So many more textures, flavors, and colors.

Plus (this is an aside) did you know that Russell Stover makes a Red Velvet chocolate covered Easter Egg candy?

Easter candy pie

So monstrous when it all melts together. So fascinating to watch the festive candies melt and become gnarled and scary. So gratifying to eat the gooey mound of what was once Easter candy. Together in your mouth, there is a beautiful fusion of sweet textures and tastes: jelly texture from the 'beans, toastiness from the scorched marhmallow chocolates. Is that a bit of coconut you taste, or shrapnel from the shell of a candy egg? Probably both, fused together with melty fondant from the nearby Cadbury creme egg.

Peep's thoughts

Friends, I realize that you might not want to take my word for it and might desire--nay, need--to try this for yourself. And in that case, I am happy to share my recipe with you.

I'm busy now.

Easter Candy Pie

Serves between 1 and 8, depending on how hungry you are.

Ingredients


  • One unbaked pie shell

  • Three generous handfuls of Easter Candy (I used a melange of jelly beans, robin's eggs, Russell Stover Easter egg chocolates, and a few other treats)


Procedure

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

  2. Take your unbaked pie shell and look at it for a moment. Are you sure you want to do this? Yes, you are.

  3. Fill the mofo with that Easter candy. You want it to be full, but level (don't get greedy and mound it above the top height of the pie crust. It will get messy).

  4. Bake at 400 degrees for oh, 20 to 30 minutes. (Note: I did the Halloween candy pie at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes. You could do that too, but I was hungry, so I did it this way this time. Don't judge me).


Easter Candy Pie

Tuesday
Mar262013

Chocolate Peanut Butter Eggs for Peanut Butter and Co.

Easter Candy has come a long way. When I was young, it seemed as if it was a matter of chocolate bunnies, jelly beans, and your choice of creme eggs or mini eggs in terms of treats. Then…along came the peanut butter egg. A delectable nugget of sweetened peanut butter coated in rich chocolate, it rocked my Easter basket and my world. Here’s a homemade version of a store-bought treat, made yet awesomer by incorporating peanut butter in the filling and the topping.

A word of advice? If you’re creating these confections for a crowd, please make a double batch. They’re seriously that simple, that addictive, and that good.

For the recipe, visit Peanut Butter and Company!

Monday
Mar252013

Cadbury Creme Scotch Eggs

Let's take a moment to discuss what constitutes a "proper" Scotch Egg. This decidedly non heart-healthy delicacy starts with a hard-boiled egg, which is then wrapped in sausage meat, coated in breadcrumbs, and deep-fried.

But around Easter-time, I prefer to make mine sweet rather than savory, with Cadbury Creme Eggs.

The Cadbury Creme Scotch Egg is coated with a thick cocoa-kissed batter, then coated in cookie crumbs and deep-fried. When eaten warm, the taste calls to mind that of a deep-fried candy bars that one can find at state fairs. Though in my opinion, these have slightly more complex flavor thanks to the cocoa in the batter and the vanilla cookie crumbs. Speaking of the crumbs, they also give the treat a pleasing crunch, which acts as a nice texture contrast to the cakey batter and soft, gooey chocolate and sugar-filled interior.

It's the perfect dessert counterpart to the classic Scotch Egg: similar visually, and every bit as decadent. Happy Easter indeed.

For the full entry, visit Serious Eats! And possibly also of interest: Cadbury Creme Eggs Benedict (from my book, CakeSpy Presents Sweet Treats for a Sugar-Filled Life), Cadbury Creme Egg Salad Sandwiches, Cadbury Creme Egg Foo Young, and Cadbury Creme Deviled Eggs.

Sunday
Mar242013

CakeSpy's Favorite Buttercream Frosting

Cupcakes by Mama Cakespy

Dear SpyReaders,

A gift, from me to you. This is a very basic American style buttercream. It's simple--I won't say it's impossible to mess up, but you'd really have to try hard to do so with this recipe. I know this recipe has been posted as part of several cake recipes, but really, I'd like to keep it as a separate recipe so it can be easily referred to and shared as a basic building block of deliciousness. 

Keep this one on hand, and use whenever necessary. 

Love, CakeSpy

CakeSpy's Favorite Buttercream Frosting (Printable version here)

For use on birthday cakes, cakes for any other day of the year, sugar cookies, or quite tasty by the spoonful, too. This will frost about 24 cupcakes or one 2-layer 8 or 9-inch cake. Technically, you can tint it any color (or not tint it at all), but I firmly believe that pink tastes best. This frosting will also take well to different flavorings--peppermint extract or almond extract, for instance, could be substituted for the vanilla.

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 6 to 8 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk or cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • several drops of food coloring (I favor red, for pink frosting)
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter until light, about 3 minutes on medium speed. 
  2. Add 4 cups of the sugar and then the milk and vanilla. 
  3. On the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat until smooth and creamy, 3 to 5 minutes.
  4. Gradually add the remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition (about 2 minutes), until the frosting is thick enough to be of good spreading consistency. You may not add all of the sugar.
  5. Add a few drops of red food coloring and mix thoroughly til it's a desired shade of pink. Keep at room temperature til you frost, ok? It will set if you chill it.
Friday
Mar222013

Easter Baking Experiment: Chick-A-Dee Sugar Cookie Bars

Yum

While recently wandering aimlessly in the candy aisle in the drug store, I noticed an item that was on extreme sale: the Palmer Chick-a-Dee chocolate crispie candy. Like seriously--they were 39 cents each or something.

Needless to say, I bought a bushel of these sweet chicks, and maybe one or two more items.

Easter Candy

On the way home, I pondered how they might taste all melted on top of a layer of sugar cookie bars. Would the faces melt off of the chicks? Would it all melt into a layer of chocolatey goo on top? Either way, it sounded tasty, so I set myself to this delicious task.

Ingredients

To hasten the process, I used Betty Crocker Sugar Cookie Mix. I mixed it according to the instructions, adding a stick of butter and an egg to the mix, and stirring it until it was a soft, sticky dough.

Then I pressed it into a well greased pie plate (because I couldn't find a square pan). 

And then on top of that, I placed several of the Chick-A-Dee candies. And, for fun and visual appeal, I dotted the negative space areas (can you tell I went to art school?) with Robin's Egg candies. Why not?

Then I put it in the oven. Goodnight, sweet chicks.

Chick A Dee Sugar Cookie Bars

Now, to bake the cookies according to the package instructions, you bake them 5-7 minutes. But since I was baking bars, I set the timer for 12 minutes. At 12 minutes here's what I saw:

Cookie bars

So I kept 'em in for 20 minutes or so. At that point I felt confident that they'd baked through, and the edges were golden. 

Chick A Dee Sugar Cookie Bars

Weirdly, the chocolate candies never actually...melted. They just kind of got melt-y. I guess that's not so different from what happens to chocolate chips while baking in cookies. But still--the baking process altered them just enough to be sort of strange and pockmarked looking. 

But they were still highly delicious. Those little crispies tasted great against the melty chocolate and sugar cookie mixture. I went ahead and ate it with a spoon because let's be honest, this wasn't what I'd call a high-class baking experiment. 

Eating it

And oh, how satisfying it was. 

Hoppy Easter, friends. If you want to do this at home, it's easy: just prepare a batch of Betty Crocker sugar cookie mix per the instructions on the bag, press it into a greased pan, top with the chocolate Easter candies of your choice, and bake at 375 til nice and toasty around the edges and set in the middle (20 minutes or so). 

Enjoy!

Thursday
Mar212013

Rolling in the Dough: Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes Recipe

Harvard Sweet Boutique

You know what I love? A good cupcake. But you know what reliably makes a cupcake better, every single time? Cookie dough, of course. 

This is a fact that has been proven time and time again with cupcakes. And I must say, Harvard Sweet Boutique offers a particularly pleasant version of this always-delicious combo. In case you're not familiar with them, Harvard Sweet Boutique is (per their website) "a gourmet baking company that specializes in handmade and decadent cookies, brownies and toffee made with the finest ingredients, including rich European chocolate, pure double-strength vanilla extracts, premium grade nuts and fresh Grade A butter." They also offer gluten-free, as well as low-carb treats (I guess frosting is low-carb, right?). Oh, and they also have a Sweet-of-the-Month Club. I love that!

Harvard Sweet Boutique

The chocolate chip cookie dough cupcake is neither gluten-free nor low-carb, but it is highly delicious. It's not something they sell on their site, but it's something you could make with their cookies fo' sho'! If it makes you curious about Harvard Sweet Boutique, check 'em out here.

 Chocolate cupcakes, filled with chocolate chip cookie dough (minus the eggs!), topped with vanilla buttercream and a homemade chocolate chip cookie!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes (Printable version here!)

(from Sue George, owner of Harvard Sweet Boutique)

Yields: 13 cupcakes

 Components:

-          Chocolate Cupcakes

-          Vanilla Buttercream       

-          Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Filling

-          Chocolate Chip Cookies (use your favorite recipe)

Chocolate Cupcakes

Ingredients:

1/2 cup European cocoa powder

1/2 tablespoon instant espresso powder

1 cup boiling water

1/3 cup flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 cup white sugar

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

Directions:

  1. Add cocoa powder and espresso powder to boiling water and leave to cool
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and salt together
  3. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar with a stationary mixer or wooden spoon
  4. Add eggs, dry ingredients, and cocoa power/water mixture to the butter/sugar mixture and mix to combine
  5. Fill cupcake pans 3/4 of the way full and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 10 to 15 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean
  6. Cool completely on cooling rack

Vanilla Buttercream

Ingredients:

1/2 pound unsalted butter, softened

1 lb. confectioners’ sugar, sifted

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in mixing bowl and cream until smooth

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Filling

Ingredients:

1 cup of all-purpose flour

1/2 cup butter (softened and cut into cubes)

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

A pinch of salt

1/4 cup chocolate chips

1 tablespoon vanilla buttercream (see recipe above) or more as needed 

Directions:

  1. Combine flour, softened and cubed butter, dark brown sugar, vanilla extract and salt in a stationary mixer and mix until dough forms
  2. Add chocolate chips and buttercream to the dough and combine just until mixture holds together 

 Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes Assembly

Core each cupcake by scooping out about one tablespoon of the cupcake using a paring knife, or a cupcake corer. Put the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Filling into a pastry bag and cut 1/2-inch off the tip. Fill each cupcake with approximately 1 tablespoon of filling.

Fill another pastry bag with the Vanilla Buttercream and attach a decorating tip of your choice (I recommend the star tip) and pipe a generous amount of icing on top of the cupcake. 

Garnish the cupcakes with a wedge of your favorite homemade chocolate chip cookie and enjoy! 

Tuesday
Mar192013

2 Ingredient Chocolate Banana Pudding Recipe

Chocolate Banana Pudding

Two ingredients, suckah! Well, OK, three if you include the optional garnish.

But wait. Let me back up and explain. 

If I were to make a list of "Highly Likely Places to Discover a Tasty Dessert", wellness blogs would probably not make the list. Nothing against wellness. But you know, those people who are dedicated to wellness frequently are not dedicated dessert-ers. 

Chocolate Banana Pudding

But I'll tell the truth, when I saw a recipe for Chocolate Banana Pudding on the Pacific Science Center's Wellbody Blog, I was curious. Especially since they advertised it as having 2 ingredients, and coming together in less than 2 minutes. Well, that sounded easy enough.

Chocolate Banana Pudding

So, I grabbed a banana and put it in a blender with some cocoa powder I received as a sample (and P.S., I know my nails look terrible!). Chocolate Banana Pudding

It's OK if the picture makes you titter. I blended til nice and combined and smooth. I put it in a cup. I added a few walnuts on top. And wouldn't you know...this stuff was really quite tasty. So, wellness blog, kudos! I'm happy to spread the word about this delicious and simple dessert which just so happens to be vegan and gluten-free.

Chocolate Banana Pudding

But don't be scared off by that, non vegans and gluten-lovers. This is tasty stuff. And you could always add ice cream if it seems too virtuous. 

2 Ingredient Banana Chocolate Pudding

  • 1 banana (ripe)
  • 1 tablespoon to 1/4 cup (whatever amount suits your taste) unsweetened cocoa powder, minimally processed

Mash the ingredients together until smooth. You can do this by hand, or (quicker) in a blender or food processor. If desired, garnish with nuts, fruit, or chocolate chips. Enjoy immediately.

Monday
Mar182013

Unusual Sweet from Wisconsin: Wild Rice Dessert Topping

Wild Rice Dessert Topping

Recently, I found myself poring over the fantastic volume Hungry for Wisconsin: A Tasty Guide for Travelers. The reason why I was looking through this book is this: I was seeking out unusual regional specialties or bakeries that I simply needed to visit. What can I say? I love armchair food travel. 

Wild Rice Dessert Topping

One thing caught my eye right away, as in on page 2: a story about wild rice in Wisconsin. As it turns out, wild rice is a pretty big deal in what many would consider the Dairy State. It grows "freely in cool, northern rivers, shallow lakes, and other wetlands", and commands a high price, because the harvest is done by hand. This love and care gives it a unique, nutty flavor that Uncle Ben could only dream of attaining. 

For generations, the Native Americans of the area have harvested rice in a ritual that brings together the whole family. Unfortunately, this tradition seems to have been dying in recent years. 

But at least a few brave Wild Rice soldiers want to bring back the tradition. And as part of their dedication to bringing back the wild rice harvest, the fine people of Bear Clan Wild Rice do various events to raise awareness.

Wild Rice dessert Topping

At these events, they hand out recipes for wild rice, including this unusual one, which is in the book and caught my attention right away: Wild Rice Dessert Topping. At first it struck me as an odd recipe, but when I thought about it further, it came to me sort of like this: I like rice. I like dessert. I think rice pudding is great, but why should it have all the fun?

And so I gave it a try. If you have wild rice on hand, the recipe is a snap. Getting used to the flavor might involve a learning curve--it's definitely different. Earthy, and nutty, sort of granola-esque but with that distinct rice flavor, it works best with fairly neutral flavored desserts--I tried it on top of vanilla ice cream. It's a fascinating flavor, and once I got past the "oh! weird!" aspect of it, I found it highly enjoyable.

Wild Rice Dessert Topping (Printable recipe here!)

  • 1 cup cooked wild rice
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar or maple sugar
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries (original recipe suggests dried cranberries or raisins)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (original recipe calls for pecans)

Combine all the ingredients together in a bowl. Wild Rice Dessert Topping

Cover and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes, so that it can all meld together. Wild Rice Dessert Topping Wild Rice Dessert Topping

Spoon the mixture over ice cream, custard, or pudding directly before serving.

Wild Rice Dessert Topping

Tuesday
Mar052013

A Historical Look at the Mexican Wedding Cake Cookie

Mexican wedding cakes

Ah, Mexican Wedding Cakes: one of my favorite cakes that is not a cake at all, but a cookie!

And oh, what a cookie. These rich cookies rolled in confectioners' sugar to resemble sweet little snowballs crumble in your mouth in the most delightful way: basically butter and (usually) finely chopped nuts held together by flour and sugar, they begin to shatter and disintegrate the moment they hit your tongue. You may know them as Mexican Wedding Cakes. Or you might know them, with slight variations, under another name: Snowballs, Moldy Mice, Bullets, Russian Teacakes, Melting Moments, Mandulás kifli, Polvorones, Sand Tarts, Sandies, Butterballs, Almond Crescents, Finska kakor, Napoleon Hats (whew!). Mexican wedding cakes

These cookies hail from as many countries as they have names: talk about a universal cookie.

Mexican wedding cakes

Considering the many variations, is it possible to connect the cookie to a particular place? Well, you might first look back to sugar-rich medieval Arab cuisine. Sweetmeats, candies, and confections containing nuts (usually almonds) and spices were served at special occasions. Next, you spread it to Europe, a sweet tradition quickly adopted by Moors and taken to Spain. From then on it’s like playing Telephone: the concept of the cookie traveled far and wide, with each region taking on their own variations based on ingredients available at the time. This sweet cookie concept was then introduced to the New World by early explorers. Fast forward, and you've got a cookie tradition that has persisted due to the cookie's relative ease in preparation and simple but ultimately satisfying tastiness. 

Mexican wedding cakes In the 1950s, they started to appear in American cookbooks as Mexican Wedding Cakes, but it seems that it's really just a new name for an old cookie. They're nearly identical to Russian Teacakes, which were a popular dish at noble Russian tea ceremonies in the 1800s. A popular book in Russia from this era, entitled A Gift to Young Housewives, contains several morsels that are constructed similarly; it’s not hard to see how these treats came to be called Russian teacakes. So what's with the name's cultural makeover? I'm wondering if perhaps the name change was a Freedom Fries-esque name change in the 1950s and 1960s, when the Soviet Union and the United States were at odds with one another? It does seem to have coincided with a period during which TexMex cuisine made its entry into American culture in a big way.

But no matter what you'd like to call them, one thing remains true across cultures: these simple cookies are easy to make, and absolutely delightful to eat. Mexican wedding cakes

Mexican Wedding Cakes (Printable version here!)

Makes about 2 dozen 1-inch cookies

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts or pecans 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Confectioners' sugar, for rolling

 Procedure

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the flour gradually, beating well after each addition; pause to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
  4. Add the nuts and vanilla; beat just until evenly mixed in.
  5. Shape the dough into balls about 1 inch in diameter and place on the cookie sheets.
  6. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, rotating the position of the pans halfway through baking; the cookies are finished when they are lightly browned on the bottom and have a dull finish on top.
  7. Let the cookies cool on the pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. While the cookies are still warm, gently roll them in a bowl of confectioners' sugar. Tap off the excess, and allow them to cool completely. When cool, roll them in the confectioners' sugar a second time before serving; the first coat tends to slightly melt into the cookie, and the second coat will ensure a pretty, snowy appearance.
  8. Store in a single layer in an airtight container for up to four days.
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