Every year, my dad commissions me to make an assortment of treats for him to give out to his work colleagues. This started a few years ago, back when I was still living in Washington, DC, when he asked me to make him a bunch of homemade sweets to fill gift tins. That year I made an assortment of white and dark chocolate peppermint bark, coconut macaroons, espresso chocolate truffles, and spiced nuts, which I then packed up and brought to NJ with me via Amtrak. Since then, I've made everything from Italian rainbow cookies, from-scratch rum cake, and even some fancy quince and frangipane tarts that were a big hit, but a big pain in the but to make.
The name comes from the word "polvo" which means "dust" in spanish, and which references the powdery sugar that covers the cookie, as well as the trademark crumbly texture of the cookie itself. You may know these as "Mexican Wedding Cookies" or even "Russian Tea Cakes." There is also a Middle Eastern version with basically the same recipe, but where the treats are shaped into crescents instead of circles.
The reason this cookie is so popular is because it's incredible easy to make, and it keeps well--so it can be made in advance (ideal for celebrations and gift-giving). (Also, it's delicious! Buttery, crumbly, melts in your mouth, with just a touch of crunch from those almonds. Amazing!)
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Polvorones (Puerto Rican Almond Shortbread Cookies)
Makes about 2 dozen
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups flour
1 cup coarsely ground almonds
1/2 cup powdered sugar, for dusting cookies
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In the base of a mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy--about 3 minutes. Add the extracts and salt, and beat for another 30 seconds. Lower the mixer to the lowest setting, and slowly add the flour letting it mix until it is all completely worked in. Add the almonds and let mix until completely incorporated.
Use a cookie scoop or your hands to form round balls out of the dough, each about 1 tablespoon in size. Arrange on the cookie sheet 1 inch apart. Once you have filled the cookie sheet, place it in the refrigerator to chill for 15 to 30 minutes. Once chilled, place in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the cookes are completely baked, golden brown on the bottom, but still pale on top. Let them cool on the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a rack to completely cool.
Toss the cooled cookies in the powdered sugar and serve or store with extra powdered sugar in an air-tight container. Will keep well for about 5 days. Dough can also be frozen and baked later.