Our family was involved in a wedding this month, and for the rehearsal dinner I decided to make some Mexican wedding cookies. Also known as Russian tea cakes or shortbread, it intrigued me as to how it became the Mexican wedding cookie.
One thought is since these cookies are rich in butter and sugar, they are reserved for special occasions. In Mexico, a variety of nutty fruitcakes as well as powdered sugar-coated cookies are offered at weddings.
These types of cookies came from the Moorish traditions that spread through Europe and then to the Americas. In Mexico, the Spanish brought the first cookie in the 16th century and are known as biscochitos.
The first known Russian tea cakes appeared in the 18th century, so it is apparent that the Mexicans could be credited with the first cookie.
Makes 30 cookies
In a medium bowl, cream:
1 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons water
2 cups flour
1 cup chopped pecans, walnuts or macadamia nuts
Mix until blended. Cover and chill for 3 hours.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Shape dough into balls. Place on an unprepared cookie sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes in the preheated oven. Remove from pan to cool on wire racks. When cookies are cool, roll in confectioners’ sugar. Store at room temperature in an airtight container.
We have our traditions but many are carried over from other countries. I can remember packing fruitcakes in little groom’s cake boxes when I was a child for a family wedding. Fruitcakes in England, full of nuts, fruits, and marzipan, symbolize fertility and good fortune. The top of the wedding cakes are called the “christening cake,” as it was kept for the christening of the first born.
Chef Keegan Gerhard grew up in Germany and knew our fruitcake as stolen. He claims his mother’s fruitcake recipe is delicious and the best ever! If you are wanting to keep with the English tradition, here is his recipe.
Line a 10-inch tube pan with foil, smoothing out wrinkles. Reserve:
10 green and 10 red cherries for garnish. Cut remaining in half:
1 cup red candied cherries
1 cup green candied cherries
In a large bowl, place cherries with:
1 cup red candied pineapple
1 cup mixed candied fruit
4 cups pecans, chopped
Cover mixture with:
Grand Marnier to cover fruit and nuts
Let stand overnight.
The next day, preheat oven to 300 degrees. Stir into macerate fruit and nuts and evenly coat:
2 cups flour
In a large mixing bowl, cream until light and fluffy:
1 pound butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
Add, one at a time, beating well after each addition:
8 large eggs
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
2 teaspoons baking powder
Add the dry ingredients alternately into butter mixture with:
1 cup Grand Marnier
Mix to combine. Spoon batter into prepared pan. Pack the batter down evenly to eliminate air pockets. Place cherries on top decoratively. Bake the cake for 2 1/2 hours or until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Cool cake in pan on a wire rack. Remove cake from pan, peel of foil. Cool the cake completely on wire rack. Wrap the fruitcake in cheesecloth that has been soaked in bourbon or rum. Store in an airtight container, continuing to moisten with rum or bourbon periodically, if desired.
If you have been given Jordan almonds in a bag at a wedding, that tradition is from Greece where the bitter almonds and the sweet coating represents the highs and lows of marriage. The Jordan almonds are packed in little bags and placed on a silver tray. The odd number of almonds are important because odd numbers are indivisible, meaning the newlyweds will not be broken apart.
If you attend a wedding in India, the couples eat honey and yogurt called “madhupak” or “offerings.” The honey means a sweet start to marriage, and the yogurt means eternal health.
In Thailand, “foy thong” or “golden silk threads,” long noodle-like threads, are served at weddings. The goal is to have the threads as long as possible to symbolize love between the bride and groom.
In Japan, the concern is having children right away so “kazunoko” or herring roe is served to the bride and groom for fertility and family prosperity, which makes sense as they are eggs and expensive!
If you attend a wedding in Brazil, you would be given “bem casados” or “happily married” in Portuguese, individually wrapped cakes and tied with a bow. “Bem casados” are 2 mini-sponge cakes with dulce de leche or caramel sauce in the middle.
In China, “tang yuan” or sweet rice ball soup is served to the bride and groom on the eve or on the wedding day. The small balls of mochi, which is sweet and smooth, must be swallowed whole for good luck. They cannot be chewed into smaller pieces. I hope they make them small enough to swallow because that would be awful if the bride or groom got choked on one of them!
If you are also involved in a family wedding, congratulations! It is a wonderful time in the lives of the couple and always a blessing for the start of their new life together! Happy marriage to Dean and Ariana!
Please feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have a question. Bon appetit until next week.