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 these Lemon Pecan Polvorones (and others I have posted.)
Because the experiments sometimes came out too crumbly, I substituted a little flour for cornstarch, to give a little more structure to the dough. This basic recipe is not a flexible one in one respect. If you omit the brandy (yes, only 2 T.!) the cookies fall apart when you try to remove them from the cookie sheet. Who would think 2T. of liquid would make such a huge difference? But it does. And I finally figured out why. That 2T is needed to bond the dough together, to give the cookies structure, as in a pie crust dough. I haven't tried substituting any other liquid for brandy, but I would think orange juice or bourbon might work in its place. In my experiments, I also found that chilling helps with 2 steps: chilling the dough makes it easier to form the balls without them getting greasy; and baking the balls after chilling them- results in a cookie that has a nice domed shape rather than a flat one.
I used True Lemon in this recipe because I had run out of lemons for zesting. (and I had bought some but never tried it.) Because I didn't want more liquid (lemon juice) in the recipe, I found the True Lemon worked out really well. I was surprised, but It was a good replacement for lemon zest . I really dislike lemon oil and can always taste it, but the True Lemon didn't have any fake flavor. I like the texture and shape of these polvorones- they are small domed melt-in-your mouth, with a robust tart lemon flavor and the nuttiness of pecans. If ,like me, you have a love of anise, you might enjoy adding that as well. —LE BEC FIN
1/4 cup demerara/ 'raw sugar', ground to powder*
2 lemons' zest
2 cups shelled raw pecans
1 7/8 cup cornstarch
2 Tablespoons 'white whole wheat' or spelt flour
8 packets " True Lemon"
2 pinches kosher salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, cut up into 8 chunks
2 Tablespoons brandy
1 tablespoon vanilla
optional 1 Tablespoon anise seeds, crushed
confectioners sugar for dusting
- In a small food processor, grind the lemon zest into the sugar.In another processor, pulse and grind pecans with 1/4 cup of the cornstarch- til fine. Add the rest of the cornstarch , flour, and Salt and pulse to combine thoroughly, using a knife to free up the bottom corner of the mixture.Pulse in the sugar lemon zest . Add butter and pulse to combine.(Optional anise would be added now.*) Combine vanilla through 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 cube 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 hour in refrig .
- Place 2" apart on parchment or silpat- lined cookie sheet and bake in a preheated oven at 325 degrees for 17-20 minutes til lightly browned on the edges ,and sweet nutty smell is indicating their doneness. Remove pan to rack. Cool 1/2 hour. Transfer to another sheet pan or container, placing shoulder to shoulder. Sift heavy layer of confectioners sugar over them. Store in airtight container.
- * It is important to grind whatever sugar you use into a powder so the cookies don't have any crunchy texture in them. You want them to be 'Melt in your mouth.'
- ** When I want more variety in one batch, i will divide the dough and add 1/2 Tablespoon of the anise to half of it, by hand, pressing it into the square pan to make roughly half the pan lemon anise and half just lemon.
- Note: In the freezer I store lightly scored (not cut) saran- wrapped dough pieces(takes up the least space this way) or rolled balls, and later, bake as needed.
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