Monday, February 7, 2011

Polvorones Ricas

Our guest contributor for this post is Karin Ferguson from Little Thing, an online seller of beautiful handmade clothing, including a lovely bunch of items from Oaxaca. In addition, she designs this very blog, takes the photos, and I might also mention she's my fiancée (and the baker of the house). These facts amongst a mountain of others, make me a very lucky fellow indeed.

This recipe is a mix of two, one from Diana Kennedy's The Essential Cuisines of Mexico, one from Fany Gerson's My Sweet Mexico. We found both of them great, but Fany's sweeter than those we were used to, and Diana's somewhat lardier. So after a few attempts and calibrations we have as we remember, the quintessential taste of a Mexico City Bakery.

A little about polvorones: basically a Mexican shortbread composed of nutty roasted flour, almonds and butter, heavily dusted with icing sugar. Variations include the addition of cinnamon, aniseed or orange, or using pine nuts in place of the almonds. Traditionally, they are singularly wrapped in tissue paper and sold in the style of a bonbon, the ends neatly shredded making them that much more exciting and festive.

I'm still not sure if they are called polvorones because they are so liberally doused in icing sugar (azucar en polvo), or because if they are treated gently they are subject to disintegrate to dust (polvo), as any delicate shortbread should. Ours crumbled over home grown vanilla-poached apricots, served with a lavender panna cotta. Thanks again to the wonderful Karin for the toil, the laughs, and of course all the rest too.

Polvorones | makes about 20

1/2 cup whole almonds, skin on
2 cups unbleached flour
a good pinch of salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
90g unsalted butter, at room temperature
30g vegetable shortening or lard, , at room temperature
Confectioner's sugar, for finishing

  1. Spread the almonds and flour out on separate trays and bake in a preheated oven (180C or 350F) for around 15 minutes, or until the flour becomes nutty and off white, and the almonds are roasted through. Remove and let cool.
  2. Sift the flour into a bowl with the baking powder and salt. Place the almonds in a blender with the sugar and pulverise as well as you can. Mix the dry ingredients together, then pour them out onto a clean bench.
  3. Add the butter and lard, then work the mixture gently with your hands until it comes together into a crumbly texture. Gather the dough together into one firm piece, bind in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for two hours to rest.
  4. Remove the dough from the fridge and preheat the oven to 180C (350F) once again. Roll the dough out to a thickness of 7mm (1/4 inch) and use a cookie cutter about 5cm wide to cut out as many as you can. Do this quickly before the dough warms up. Push the remaining dough back together then roll out to the same thickness and cut out the remaining portions.
  5. Very, very carefully move the polvorones to a baking tray with a pallete knife or spatula. Bake for around 15 mins or until they are a golden colour.
  6. Place a third of a cup of icing sugar in a fine sieve and shake over the warm biscuits until liberally coated. Let cool completely before removing to airtight containers for storage.