Author Notes: Back in November, I found a recipe for Hazelnut Polvorones- which are similar to Mexican Wedding Cookies-but this recipe contained no flour. Instead, it called for all cornstarch -which produced this amazing melt-in-your-mouth quality. But I wanted to work with other nuts and flavorings, so I started making variants. After consistent trial and error, I came up with a successful recipe for Maple Pecan and Lemon Pecan Polvorones, and finally, for Pistachio Green Tea Polvorones. Because the experiments sometimes came out too crumbly, I substituted a little flour for cornstarch, to give a little more structure to the dough. (for GF, just use all cornstarch and keep in mind that they might be a little crumbly.) I really liked the 'melt in your mouth' texture of them and for me, maple extract is wonderful. Like the mint extracts, it has an authentic flavor (not a fake flavor like so many other extracts.) These are sandy, melty, delicate, and not too sweet,with a robust nuttiness and maple flavor. ( They can also be 'dressed up' by sandwiching them with the Maple Ganache in the addendum. ) —LE BEC FIN
2 cups shelled raw pecans
1/4 cup plus 1/8 cup maple sugar*, ground to powder
1 7/8 cup cornstarch (remove 1/8 cup from a leveled 2 cups cornstarch)
2 Tablespoons 'white whole wheat' or spelt flour(for GF, use all cornstarch)
2 pinches kosher salt
8 ounces cold unsalted butter, cut up into 8 chunks
2 Tablespoons brandy
1/2 tablespoon maple extract
confectioners sugar for dusting
Optional Dress-Up: Maple White Chocolate Ganache
ounces quality white chocolate bits (whole foods, caillebaut, trader joe's, valrhona)
tablespoon maple extract
cup heavy cream, heated over stove or in microwave til VERY hot
pinches kosher salt
- In food processor, pulse and grind pecans with sugar til fine. Add cornstarch, flour and Salt and pulse to combine thoroughly, using a knife to free up the bottom corner of the mixture. Add butter and pulse to combine. Combine maple extract and brandy and add while pulsing . When dough is just starting to come together, but before mixture gets creamy and clumps together, pour out into a 9" square pan (or 8 or 10" square pan; it doesn't need to be buttered) , spread to even thickness and smooth the top with a metal spatula. Cover and refrigerate .Allow an hour to thoroughly chill and firm up. Score and cut into a grid that is 8 by 6 squares .
- Run a metal spatula under the cubes; lift sections of them and roll each into a ball, adding to or removing from them to get them all about the same size. Return to square pan and chill 1/2 hr in refrig . Place 2" apart on parchment or silpat lined cookie sheet and bake in a preheated oven at 325 degrees for 20- 24* minutes til lightly browned and sweet nutty smell is indicating their doneness. Remove pan to rack. Cool. Transfer to another sheet pan or container, placing shoulder to shoulder. Sift heavy layer of confectioners sugar over them. Cool and store in airtight container.
- * When I first started baking these, I baked them too little; they are much better when they are caramel colored- the nuttiness of the pecans really stands out.
- Note: In the freezer I store scored saran wrapped dough pieces(takes up the least space this way) or rolled balls, and bake as needed.
- Optional Dress-Up: Maple White Chocolate Ganache: After utterly failing with an attempted ganache of butter, white chocolate, and maple, I was yet again rescued by Alice Medrich.** This technique is hers; my contribution is the Maple. To make the ganache-sandwiched cookies more manageable, I cut in half the normal- size cookie balls (0.6 ounce cut in half to 0.3 ounce and bake them cut side-down.):
- Grind white chocolate in mini food processor. Add maple extract. While running, pour very hot heavy cream through feed tube until chocolate mix is smooth and creamy (not grainy). Spatula mix onto piece of plastic wrap. Let come to room temp without stirring. Fold saran over and allow a few hours or more to firm up. (Mine didn't need this step.) Pipe or spread a dab of ganache on the bottom of half the polvorones, spreading an even layer to the edge, and sandwiching together the flat sides of 2 cookies. Store in tightly sealed container at room temperature for a few days or refrigerated for longer periods.
- See below for a great tip for easy no-muss piping. And if the ganache gets too firm to pipe, massage the saran 'sausage' between your hands til it warms up enough to pipe. (When the kitchen is cold in winter, I have to do that with my fav cookie dough; it would likely look pretty kinky to an innocent bystander!!):
- ** Bittersweet , pg.159
- This recipe was entered in the contest for The Best Thing You Ate This Year