To Bathe in Sugar

Have you ever been to a Mexican wedding? I haven’t, but if I did, I’d sure hope to see these cookies.

I’m not sure why, but small round balls of nutty dough rolled in confectioners’ sugar seem to be all the rage at weddings, or at least that’s what their name says. Do they even have these cookies at weddings?

When I was a kid, my favorite cookies were stocked high on the top shelf of Food Lion, near the graham crackers and the Fig Newtons. The packaging was simple, but eye-catching at the same time. It was bright Barbie pink, and unlike a lot of cookies on the shelves that came in plastic trays (Oreo and Chips A’hoy!, I’m talking at you!), these were stored in a paper bag, although now I’m pretty certain they’ve switched to a tall box.

They were also messy – they must have been bathed in a ginormous vat of powdered sugar, maybe three or four times just to make sure there was enough sticking to the cookie. You took one out of the bag and the cookie’s sugar coating went all over the place – like the flour in the jar that you always seem to get everywhere, despite your slow, purposeful movements of the cup into the bowl. These cookies were nearly impossible to eat on the sneak, and for that reason I usually just ate the whole bag at once in an effort to only get into trouble for sneaking cookies one time.

To be honest, I’m not quite sure why there are so many different types of these cookies from all different countries. The name I grew up eating was Danish Wedding Cookies, the recipe I adapted from here was called Mexican Wedding Cookies, and there are also Swedish and Italian versions, probably Argentinian and Fijian too, for all I know. The recipes all seem pretty much the same, so why can’t we just call them “Wedding Cookies”? And why are they called Wedding Cookies anyway? Like I said, I’ve never seen them at a wedding… but maybe I’ve just been to the wrong nuptial ceremonies.

Regardless of what you decide to call them, I can’t believe I’m confessing that this is the first time I’ve ever made them. Furthermore, I haven’t purchased a pink bag or box of these cookies in years, probably even more than a decade ago, which makes me really feel ancient right about now. I’ll also confess this: now that I have made them, I can pretty much guarantee these are the easiest cookies ever to throw together. Christmas cookie swap, anyone?

Danish weddings? Mexican weddings? What the hell ever. I’m just gonna call them Wedding Cookies, and leave all the countries out of it. I don’t really care where they come from, to be honest. I just know that I should have saved a handful of them instead of taking them all to work last week. But no worries – I’m sure there are many more a cookie to be had in the next few weeks.

Happy Holidays!

Wedding Cookies
Adapted from Lottie + Doof; makes ~50 cookies

time commitment: under an hour (most inactive – baking and cooling)

printable version

ingredients
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp
1/2 c confectioners’ sugar, plus more for rolling
3 T maple syrup
1 t vanilla extract
1/4 t salt
zest of half an orange
1/2 t chipotle chile powder
2 c all purpose flour
1 1/2 c g pecans

instructions
preheat oven to 350 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

in the bowl of a mixer, combine butter and sugar and mix until combined and creamy. add maple syrup, vanilla, salt, orange zest, and chile powder and mix until combined. add flour and pecans and mix until fully incorporated.

roll cookies into 1-inch balls and place about 1 inch apart on baking sheets. bake ~14 minutes, remove and let cool completely. toss in confectioners’ sugar to coat completely.

Cobbled Together

In an effort to avoid the grocery store this weekend, I raided the heck out of our pantry to see what we could eat to get through the week. You see, I already have an issue with letting good food go to waste, and this is only intensified when I’m forced to let things go to waste as a result of being away for a few days. These are the times when I might cobble together a recipe with a ton of random ingredients (panzanella salads are great when there’s lots of produce involved, and this Moroccan shepherd’s pie was a great way to use up mashed ‘taters) or conversely, I might make something uber simple using some standby grains or pasta.

In general, they aren’t meals that really make one salivate, but they get the job done, more or less.

Of course, there are always the exceptions – the dishes you toss together, pulling stray carrots and a forgotten bunch of scallions from the crisper to add up to enough stuff to make a meal come together – that somehow end up tasting like you’d planned it that way all along. It helps when you have a few fresh ingredients hanging around (thanks, Joanne, for the tomatoes!), because those are the ones that provide the inspiration, the kick-start to power you through to the end of the recipe, if you even have a recipe in the first place.

(The fresh ingredients are also the ones that make me feel a little less guilty about tossing leftover bagged shredded cheese into a perfect biscuit dough, knowing full-well that a freshly-grated cup of cheddar would have been tons better, not only in terms of taste, but also quality and texture.)

So, here we are, at the moment where I did something like that and actually get to tell you about it, because I truly feel that this new-found recipe is something you just might want to make yourself. I take that back – it’s something you should make yourself. Rarely is there a time in the year where the produce is this perfect, this satisfying, and this accessible than now – when you get to eat fresh corn and! fresh tomatoes ’til your heart’s content. And I’m telling you this: if you do have access to both ingredients, straight from the market or the store, please do purchase them. I think I already mentioned my stubborn desire to avoid those places this week, and as a result my trusty freezer bag o’ corn came in handy here. And while it was fine, mighty fine indeed, I know it could be that. much. better. with just-shucked morsels of yellow goodness.

If the mixture of tomatoes and corn isn’t enough to get you in a tizzy, have you noticed the biscuits on top? Need I say more?! Even though I’ve moved away, I still read the blogs of many Chicagoans, and I tell ya – Midwesterners get some kinda excited about summer produce. Tim over at Lottie + Doof posted a tomato cobbler recipe from Martha Stewart a couple of weeks ago, and it sounded like the kind of food they’d have in Paradise. I figured I could make it work, or something like it, even if I didn’t have but approximately half as many tomatoes, no regular onions, heavy cream, or Gruyere on hand, not to mention a penchant for never adhering to the regular ol’ all-purpose flour suggested in most recipes.

So yeah, you could say this recipe is a pretty far leap from the original, but that’s what happens from time to time. You may not have scallions on hand, and maybe you have a different cheese, or no cheese at all, and maybe you have neither pancetta nor bacon for the smoky twist I was craving. Maybe the carrots aren’t doing it for you, and understandably so, maybe you don’t have 10 types of flour in your pantry (15-20 if you count the ones used almost solely for gluten-free cooking). You might even be one of those people who are afraid of a little shortening in your life, for reasons I just can’t figure out. I promise you – it’s okay, and ultimately, it might even be better to use this as your inspiration, and run with it (after, or course, you put down your knife…).

I’m sure Martha would understand.

Tomato & Corn Cobbler
Inspired by Lottie + Doof; serves 4-6 as a meal

time commitment: 2 hours (~40 minutes active)

printable version

ingredients
filling
2 T evoo
2 oz finely chopped pancetta or bacon (optional)
6 scallions, chopped
2 carrots, medium dice
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 c fresh or frozen corn (2-3 ears if fresh; thawed and drained if frozen)
~1 lb cherry tomatoes
~1 lb heirloom tomatoes, medium dice
1 t crushed red pepper flakes
3 T white spelt flour (or all-purpose)
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

biscuit topping
1 c white spelt flour
1 c whole wheat flour (or use 2 cups all-purpose flour to replace both)
2 t baking powder
1 t kosher salt
4 T cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 T shortening, cut into small pieces
1 c grated cheddar cheese, plus 1 T, for sprinkling atop biscuits
1 1/2 c buttermilk, plus ~2 T more for brushing

instructions
Make the filling. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add pancetta, if using, and cook for 2 minutes, then add onions and carrots, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Add garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Toss in corn and remove from heat; let cool.

Preheat oven to 375 F. Toss onion/corn mixture, tomatoes, red-pepper flakes and flour with 1 1/2 t salt and some pepper.

Make the biscuit topping. Whisk together flours, baking powder, and 1 t salt in a bowl. Cut in butter and shortening with a pastry cutter or rub in with your fingers until small clumps form. Stir in cheese, then add buttermilk, stirring with a fork to combine until dough forms.

Transfer tomato mixture to a 2-quart baking dish. Spoon large clumps of biscuit dough (about 1/3 c each) over top in a circle, leaving center open. Bake 30 minutes. Remove, and brush dough with buttermilk, and sprinkle with remaining T cheese. Bake until tomatoes are bubbling in the center and biscuits are golden brown, another 30 minutes or so. Transfer to a wire rack. Let cool for 20 minutes.