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Esurientes - The Comfort Zone

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Rich Pecan Shortbread

More commonly known in the USA (and Mexico, I guess?) as Mexican Wedding Cookies. These buttery little shortbread rounds were part of my Blogging By Mail gift from Jocelyn in San Francisco and I was so blown away by their gorgeous texture and taste that I had to make some for my Christmas.
Plain shortbread at Christmas is a tradition in my family, and only my mum can make it with the perfect light, buttery, flaky texture. My attempts have all failed before, so it was with some trepidation that I started on this recipe. But everything was fine and I am really impressed with myself at making such perfect tasting and looking cookies. This is really not very Niki-like. I'm pretty hopeless at pulling off little gorgeous things that actually look gorgeous.

The addition of the chopped pecans gives a really different flavour, which surprises most people who are expecting the usual plain buttery, sugary taste. They're very, very addictive and very easy to make.
It was a pretty warm night when I made these and I was worried that rolling the dough in my palms would end up with me covered in dough and dough covering most of the kitchen surfaces, so I had a bowl of iced water nearby to for plunging my hands to cool down my palms. But this is some very amenable dough and it behaved perfectly. No stickiness anywhere - another selling point!

I had to laugh at a comment from Pille on my previous post. She was horrified at the prospect of us spending Christmas Day in 25C (77F) degree heat. Believe me, 25 degrees in December is not hot at all and we're looking forward to having such a temperate weather to enjoy!! Yesterday, for example, was 36C (97F) ,overcast and humid, and it was still over 30 degrees at 10pm when my friends and I were singing Christmas carols outside my house for the rampaging crowds. Truly, whoever suggested singing "In the bleak midwinter" deserved a kick up the bum! Just awful. But it's just as likely in Melbourne to have a Christmas Day of lashing rain, cold winds and a top of 16 degrees. That's Melbourne. ;-)
But for real stress factor and incredulity, get this: I spoke to my friend who made our Christmas pudding as he was driving from Canberra to Adelaide across western New South Wales, and he casually commented that the temperature outside was a scorching 45 degrees!!!!! That 113 Farenheit, and yes, you could quite easily fry an egg on the boot of his car.
One day I'd love to experience a true northern hemisphere "White Christmas" with all the traditional hot food and hot drinks that entails. I'm sure I'd love it, but somehow I know inside it just wouldn't feel right - like Christmas from the movies or something. Christmas is hot weather and scorching footpaths, and bare feet and outdoor cold seafood buffets in the late, golden twilight after traditional hot roast dinners prepared in the heat of an Australian summer afternoon. That's the Christmas tradition for me.

This afternoon I'll continue the last minute cooking for tomorrow before I head off to sing at midnight mass, which for me is the most significant part of Christmas day. Surrounded by friends and family, singing the final hymn of O Come All Ye Faithful while I perform my once-a-year Christmas tradition of joining the sopranos in the final verse descant (not a pretty sound for this alto!) because it's just not Christmas without screeching at the top of my lungs, then exchanging gifts and chocolates and drinking champagne with everyone after the service and getting home at 3am. Now, that's what I love. :-)
Read on for the recipe for Rich Pecan Shortbread:

Rich Pecan Shortbread (aka Mexican Wedding Cookies)

1 pound (450g) soft unsalted butter
1 cup powdered (icing) sugar
2 tablespoons vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups finely chopped pecans
5 cups sifted plain flour
Powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350F degrees (175C). Beat butter and powdered sugar in mixer until light and fluffy, about 10-15 minutes. Add vanilla, salt and pecans. Remove from mixer and stir in pastry flour by hand being careful not to overmix. Form into football shapes about the size of small walnuts and place on a buttered cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes or until just beginning to get the slightest bit colored on the bottom. Remove upon the first sign of color and set on a rack to cool. When cool enough to touch place in a bowl with powdered sugar on top and bottom and toss gently. Occasionally toss with sugar while cooling, trying to get as much sugar as possible to stick. When cold, place cookies in airtight container and cover until ready to serve.

Makes approx: 50


  • I'll trade you frozen slush for scorching footpaths :) Very merry christmas Niki - do come and visit one year! (Hey, and bring cookies.. they sound delicious!!)

    By Blogger Anne, at 12/24/2005 07:14:00 pm  

  • 'I'm pretty hopeless at pulling off little gorgeous things that actually look gorgeous.' - coulda fooled me!

    Lemme tell ya, a white Christmas really is like a fairy tale. We've enjoyed 2 days of snow and I've loved every minute of it. I'm waiting to see if it's going to snow on Christmas Day itself - fingers crossed.

    By Blogger cin, at 12/25/2005 07:38:00 am  

  • Let me just say that it's about 28C here today, so you're not the only one enjoying the warm weather, Niki.
    Those cookies look delicious. Beautiful job, too. You're not giving yourself enough credit!
    Merry Christmas!

    By Blogger Nic, at 12/25/2005 11:32:00 am  

  • Anne - I would love to visit Sweden for Christmas; it'd be like a dream!

    Cin - My mum has always wanted to spend a Christmas in New York and live out childhood movie fantasies. It'd be spectacular, and it must be quite different to enjoy the traditional hot Christmas food in the climate in which it developed. My dad's family are northern Italian I heard from them yesterday that it was forecast to snow on Christmas day. Now that's a Christmas I'd like to spend; both snow AND family!

    Nic - Jeez, and I thought it actually did get a little cooler around December where you are?!? It does sometimes, doesn't it? Is today an anomaly that sprang from nowhere? It's Christmas morning here and we're about to leave for lunch, but it's quite cool and grey with a brisk wind, so I reckon you're having better weather up there!

    By Blogger Niki, at 12/25/2005 12:23:00 pm  

  • Niki - Merry Christmas!! With my week of vacation and Christmas preparations, I've hardly had any time to keep up with my blog reading (and I didn't make any Christmas cookies this year :( ). Anyway, all your cookies look just beautiful and I'm sure they were equally delicious. Hope you had a wonderful Christmas and that you have a very happy new year!!

    By Blogger Cathy, at 12/26/2005 08:31:00 am  

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