Mexican Wedding Cookies v Italian Wedding Cookies

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Jennifer Murphy

Senior Cook
Joined
May 18, 2014
Messages
155
Location
Silicon Valley, CA
The local market has been selling what they call Mexican Wedding Cookies. I may be mistaken, but I think I bought something similar many years ago that was called Italian Wedding Cookies.

Are these essentially the same thing?

Anyway, we really like the ones from the local market, but they have raised the price by a factor of 4 or 5. A box that was about 5-6" square and 4-5" deep used to cost $5.95. Today, a box that is about 4x4x3 costs $9.95.

So, I'd like to see how difficult it is for a cooking klutz like me to make them at home.

Does anyone have a good, reasonably easy, recipe? And any tips to go along with it?

They had some with coconut, which we didn't like. We like a nice smooth texture.

Thanks

PS:

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I don't know what the difference is between Mexican Wedding Cookies and Russian Tea Cakes - they look almost identical, most with ground up nuts, some w/o, some with a hint of spice, like nutmeg, but most just like a shortbread, rolled into balls, and after baking, rolling in some 10x sugar. I've seen these called Italian Wedding Cookies, too - all made the same way, but maybe different flavors, for the different cuisines? At any rate, all are easy to make, and you can make a lot on each sheet, since they don't spread much, and they are a small diameter, and they are round.

Here's the recipe I've used for many years:

Russian Tea Cakes

I/2 lb unsalted butter, firm if using processor, room temp in mixer
2.5 c unbleached flour
1/2 c 10x sugar (more for rolling)
3/4 c finely ground nuts (optional)
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
More 10x sugar for rolling

If done in a mixer, beat the butter and 1/2 c sugar, salt, and the vanilla until well mixed, then slowly add the nuts, then the flour. This will probably need refrigerated for an hour, before rolling and baking.

In the food processor (my preferred method) first set oven to 375°. Then combine the dry ingredients in the processor, and process to mix well, then add the vanilla, pulse briefly, then add the cut up butter. Pulse until it is in smaller pieces, then process until it begins to hold together into a ball, then transfer to a bowl. It should be firm enough to roll into balls, using chilled butter (if not, refrigerate briefly). Either way, roll into 1" balls, then place 1" apart on an unbuttered baking sheet (or some parchment paper). Bake 15 min, or until golden brown. Cool on sheet 5 minutes, then roll the warm balls in some 10x sugar, then cool on racks. Recipe fills approximately 1½ half sheets, and makes about 3½ dozen.
 
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You have to use stick margarine. The recipe doesn't come out right otherwise. This is a recipe my mother made starting when I was pretty young, in my 60s now. She always used Imperial margarine.

1 cup margarine, very soft
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1/4 cup 10x sugar
1 Tbsp water
1 cup fairly finely chopped pecans

10x sugar for tossing.

Cream margerine, vanilla and sugar. Stur in water. Add flour. Mix well. Shape into 1 inch balls. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet in 300 F oven about 20 minutes until firm. Break 1 open to see if cooked through. Cool. Place a good amount of 10x sugar in a plastic bag and toss about 6 cookies at a time. I toss all of them, then go back and do it again. Also, i store the cookies in the same plastic bag with the sugar.
 
We may be talking about two different types of cookie.

In my world Mexican wedding cookies or snowballs, Russian tea cakes, etc… contain ground nuts and are not smooth.

I’ve never seen an Italian version. In this area Italian cookies can be an assortment of butter cookies, almond paste, glazed cake balls, etc…

One of our local markets offers, what they call, Mexican meringues that are dry, crisp, airy, puffs, of egg white. They make them plain in various pastel colors and also offer them with coconut, dipped in melted chocolate, etc…

I use this recipe from Land O Lakes for snowballs. I usually make them with ground walnuts because that is what I usually have on hand. They are also good when made with finely chopped cashews, pecans, etc…


Cornstarch cookies usually don’t contain nuts but are similar in many ways to snowballs. They go by names like meltaway, bachelor buttons, melting moments, etc…. I used to make them using the recipe on the back of the cornstarch box.

Good luck!
 
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I don't honestly know what "Italian Wedding cookies" refers to. There isn't a particular biscuit that is baked just for weddings. Each region bakes their own traditional cookies which are used for special occasions, including weddings, and these are made usually with almond paste, ground nuts and candied fruit, coated in icing.
At wedding banquets, they may be used as place-holders.

 
Snowballs, Mexican Wedding cookies, Russian Tea cakes, Butterballs, Italian Wedding cookies, and other are all names for the same thing.

They are a small ball shaped cookie, made primarily of butter, sugar, ground nuts, and flour, baked then rolled in powdered sugar. You can use walnuts, pecans, almonds, hazelnuts, or any other nut you wish.

I don't know why they have so many names, but I am sure that in Mexico, Russia, or Italy they don't call them Mexican, Russian, or Italian cookies. Most likely, they were called that because your foreign born great-grandmother brought her "special recipe" here with her from her homeland.
 
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We may be talking about two different types of cookie.

In my world Mexican wedding cookies or snowballs, Russian tea cakes, etc… contain ground nuts and are not smooth.

I’ve never seen an Italian version. In this area Italian cookies can be an assortment of butter cookies, almond paste, glazed cake balls, etc…

One of our local markets offers, what they call, Mexican meringues that are dry, crisp, airy, puffs, of egg white. They make them plain in various pastel colors and also offer them with coconut, dipped in melted chocolate, etc…

I use this recipe from Land O Lakes for snowballs. I usually make them with ground walnuts because that is what I usually have on hand. They are also good when made with finely chopped cashews, pecans, etc…


Cornstarch cookies usually don’t contain nuts but are similar in many ways to snowballs. They go by names like meltaway, bachelor buttons, melting moments, etc…. I used to make them using the recipe on the back of the cornstarch box.

Good luck!
I like the Land O' Lakes recipe, too.
 
In the US, the terms are interchangeable. We also call it confectioner's sugar. In other countries, that may be different.
 
I use this recipe from Land O Lakes for snowballs. I usually make them with ground walnuts because that is what I usually have on hand. They are also good when made with finely chopped cashews, pecans, etc…

I tried the Land 'O Lakes recipe since that's the brand of butter I have in the fridge. They came out Ok, but not great. Not even close to as good as the ones from the market.

I tried to follow the recipe, but ran into a couple of problems.

1. I had all of the ingredients on hand except for the pecans. I did find a 2 cup (8 oz) bag of chopped (not ground) walnuts and since you said you use them, I did, too.

2. I loaned our food processor to a neighbor, so I poured the walnuts out on a cutting board and "crushed" them with a rolling pin. I think this might have been part of the problem. The crushed nuts were more like a paste than a powder. They seemed to mix in well with the flour, but maybe they added too much moisture or maybe they stuck together too much. The food processor might have done a better job of finely chopping the walnuts, but the amount of liquid would be the same, it seems to me.

3. Without a food processor, I did all the mixing manually. I was careful not to mix too much, but might have over- or underdone it.

4. To make the cookies, I used a 1 tablespoon measure to scoop some dough. I rolled them between my hands until they were smooth and had no cracks and then placed them on the baking sheet. The balls were abut 1 inch wide, but that is quite a bit larger than the market cookies.

5. I baked them for 16 minutes. They did not look even "lightly browned" so I left them in for another 2 minutes. They still looked too bland, so I left them in for another 1.5 minutes.

6. I followed the cooling instructions exactly. When they were totally cool (traditional definition), I tried rolling them in the powdered sugar. If I just lightly rolled them without pushing on them or simply shook the bowl to cover them, very little sugar stuck to the cookies. If I pushed them into the sugar, it tended to cake onto them. I had trouble getting a light dusting as with the market cookies.

7. I tried one of the finished cookies. The taste was nothing like the market cookies. The taste was kinda bland and nowhere near as sweet. The texture was also much less "crunchy". Overall, not bad. Edible, but not good.

8. Then it occurred to me to check the date on the bag of walnuts (which I should have done before using them). To my shock, the "expiration date" was Mar, 2018.

If I am courageous enough to try again, I will reclaim our food processor and buy unexpired nuts. Does anyone have any other suggestions for what I should do differently?

If I decide to make smaller cookies, would I then bake them for less time?
 
I tried the Land 'O Lakes recipe since that's the brand of butter I have in the fridge. They came out Ok, but not great. Not even close to as good as the ones from the market.

I tried to follow the recipe, but ran into a couple of problems.

1. I had all of the ingredients on hand except for the pecans. I did find a 2 cup (8 oz) bag of chopped (not ground) walnuts and since you said you use them, I did, too.

2. I loaned our food processor to a neighbor, so I poured the walnuts out on a cutting board and "crushed" them with a rolling pin. I think this might have been part of the problem. The crushed nuts were more like a paste than a powder. They seemed to mix in well with the flour, but maybe they added too much moisture or maybe they stuck together too much. The food processor might have done a better job of finely chopping the walnuts, but the amount of liquid would be the same, it seems to me.

3. Without a food processor, I did all the mixing manually. I was careful not to mix too much, but might have over- or underdone it.

4. To make the cookies, I used a 1 tablespoon measure to scoop some dough. I rolled them between my hands until they were smooth and had no cracks and then placed them on the baking sheet. The balls were abut 1 inch wide, but that is quite a bit larger than the market cookies.

5. I baked them for 16 minutes. They did not look even "lightly browned" so I left them in for another 2 minutes. They still looked too bland, so I left them in for another 1.5 minutes.

6. I followed the cooling instructions exactly. When they were totally cool (traditional definition), I tried rolling them in the powdered sugar. If I just lightly rolled them without pushing on them or simply shook the bowl to cover them, very little sugar stuck to the cookies. If I pushed them into the sugar, it tended to cake onto them. I had trouble getting a light dusting as with the market cookies.

7. I tried one of the finished cookies. The taste was nothing like the market cookies. The taste was kinda bland and nowhere near as sweet. The texture was also much less "crunchy". Overall, not bad. Edible, but not good.

8. Then it occurred to me to check the date on the bag of walnuts (which I should have done before using them). To my shock, the "expiration date" was Mar, 2018.

If I am courageous enough to try again, I will reclaim our food processor and buy unexpired nuts. Does anyone have any other suggestions for what I should do differently?

If I decide to make smaller cookies, would I then bake them for less time?
Pecans, not walnuts.

Finely chopped, not paste.

Don't overmix. Do it by hand until just combined.

I put the 10X sugar in a gallon bag and do 10-12 cookies at a time, gently shaking, then do a second sugaring after all are done in the first round. I store them in the bag with the sugar as well.

They shouldn't be hard and crunchy, just a bit crunchy and crumbly, which is why you pop the whole thing in your mouth so you don't make a mess.

Cookies should be slightly firm when done. They will firm up more as they cool. I always cut 1 open straight from the oven to check the middle. You can tell if they aren't done by the look of the middle.
 
That plus could have been over mixing or over baking from what you wrote, or a combination. Or the recipe. The one I use is a bit different, but everybody has their favorite.
I'll try this recipe again with fresh ingredients after I hear all of the comments about my first try. If I can't get that to work, I might try a different recipe.

It says to bake 16-18 minutes. Since I obviously cannot tell what "lightly browned" is, should I just bake them 17 minutes?

Thanks

PS: Is there any way I can change my "title" from "Senior Cook" to something more appropriate, like "Butter Fingers"? 🤔😉
 
Over ground - over mixed - over baked. And always use fresh nuts.

Any nut will do, but the flavor will be different for each nut. I usually use almonds or walnuts. We all have our favorites. What nut was used in the ones you had at the market?

Don't pulverize the nuts. You are not making peanut butter. It won't get all the way to a powdery flour, it will still have a bit of texture. The food processor is helpful, but not absolutely necessary. I have been making them for 50 years, long before I ever owned any fancy equipment. I had a hand nut chopper and a hand mixer.

Rule #1 in all baking - Use a light touch. You are not kneading bread. Most baked goods are best handled lightly, and not overworked.

Rule #2 in baking - don't overbake. In this case, lightly browned means a very light hint of golden color. Then STOP. Something as small as an inch round cooks through before it has enough time to get very brown. Medtran's suggestion to break one open is excellent. Eventually you will learn to recognize doneness by multiple means, sight, smell, and touch.
The first roll in powdered sugar should be while the cookies are still hot. The steam from the hot cookie is what helps makes the sugar stick. Easiest way is to follow Medtrans advice and gently shake them in a bag. Then let them cool and roll in sugar a second time.

If you make them smaller, you will definitely shorten the cooking time. They may not even show a hint of browning if they are very small. If you make them very small, it will be trickier. I would try to master the recipe first before trying to work in miniature.
 
I tried the Land 'O Lakes recipe since that's the brand of butter I have in the fridge. They came out Ok, but not great. Not even close to as good as the ones from the market.

I tried to follow the recipe, but ran into a couple of problems.

1. I had all of the ingredients on hand except for the pecans. I did find a 2 cup (8 oz) bag of chopped (not ground) walnuts and since you said you use them, I did, too.

2. I loaned our food processor to a neighbor, so I poured the walnuts out on a cutting board and "crushed" them with a rolling pin. I think this might have been part of the problem. The crushed nuts were more like a paste than a powder. They seemed to mix in well with the flour, but maybe they added too much moisture or maybe they stuck together too much. The food processor might have done a better job of finely chopping the walnuts, but the amount of liquid would be the same, it seems to me.

3. Without a food processor, I did all the mixing manually. I was careful not to mix too much, but might have over- or underdone it.

4. To make the cookies, I used a 1 tablespoon measure to scoop some dough. I rolled them between my hands until they were smooth and had no cracks and then placed them on the baking sheet. The balls were abut 1 inch wide, but that is quite a bit larger than the market cookies.

5. I baked them for 16 minutes. They did not look even "lightly browned" so I left them in for another 2 minutes. They still looked too bland, so I left them in for another 1.5 minutes.

6. I followed the cooling instructions exactly. When they were totally cool (traditional definition), I tried rolling them in the powdered sugar. If I just lightly rolled them without pushing on them or simply shook the bowl to cover them, very little sugar stuck to the cookies. If I pushed them into the sugar, it tended to cake onto them. I had trouble getting a light dusting as with the market cookies.

7. I tried one of the finished cookies. The taste was nothing like the market cookies. The taste was kinda bland and nowhere near as sweet. The texture was also much less "crunchy". Overall, not bad. Edible, but not good.

8. Then it occurred to me to check the date on the bag of walnuts (which I should have done before using them). To my shock, the "expiration date" was Mar, 2018.

If I am courageous enough to try again, I will reclaim our food processor and buy unexpired nuts. Does anyone have any other suggestions for what I should do differently?

If I decide to make smaller cookies, would I then bake them for less time?
I start with walnut halves and pieces. I pulse them in small amounts using my old Oster blender.

I portion the cookies using a lavender handled 3/4 ounce disher.

I bake them following the directions and don’t attempt to brown them.

I coat the cookies in powdered sugar when they are still a bit warm. The sugar melts onto the cookie and absorbs some of the fat to create a sort of glaze. I toss them in powdered sugar a second time when they are completely cool. I store the cookies in a plastic container literally cover in powdered sugar. The excess sugar doesn’t go to waste, I sift it and reuse it after the cookies are gone.

Read the label on the store cookies to look for any clues about a difference in ingredients.

That’s all I got!

Practice, practice, practice! 🐷🐷🐷
 
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