One year when I was very young I wanted to give pan de polvo, also called Mexican wedding cookies, as Christmas presents to my teachers at school. My mom taught me “her” recipe. In fact, it was this one—Aunt Elsa’s!
I went to the flea market and spent my allowance on a collection of cookie cutters. I returned home and set out to make about 15 dozen in different shapes. Unfortunately, many of them broke because, as I discovered to my great frustration, pan de polvo is a very delicate cookie that doesn’t hold shapes well—especially intricate ones like snowflakes. Those cookie cutters were probably my first purchase of kitchen equipment—but far from my last. They were so cheap that when I washed them for the first time, they rusted the next day!
Polvo means “powder,” an apt description of a delicate cookie, generously rolled in sugar, that shatters on your tongue. I roll these very thin, just like Aunt Elsa used to, so they practically melt in your mouth. They are often rolled a little thicker, to about 3⁄8 inch—if you do so, just bake them a little longer.
Makes about 8 dozen
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup shortening
¼ cup sugar
For the sugar coating:
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
- In a medium mixing bowl, place the flour and cinnamon. Whisk together until thoroughly blended. Set aside.
- In the work bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large mixing bowl with a handheld mixer, beat the shortening and sugar on medium-high speed until well blended and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons of water and beat until thoroughly combined.
- Add the flour mixture and blend on medium-low just until completely blended. Press the dough into 2 equal disks. Place each disk between 2 sheets of wax paper. Use a rolling pin to roll out each disk to 1⁄8 inch thick, lifting and smoothing the top sheet of wax paper if necessary. Slide the two sheets of rolled dough onto a baking sheet. Chill until firm, about 30 minutes in the refrigerator or 10 minutes in the freezer.
- Preheat the oven to 300°F.
- Place one rolled dough on the work surface. Lift off and replace the top sheet of wax paper. Flip the dough over and lift off and set aside the sheet of wax paper. Use a 1½-inch or smaller cookie cutter to cut into desired shapes. Transfer the cookies to an ungreased baking sheet, placing about 1 inch apart. Gather the scraps, reroll them between the sheets of wax paper, and refrigerate until firm. Repeat with the other sheet of dough.
- Bake until firm when gently touched, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool 3 minutes on the cookie sheet. Use a thin spatula to transfer them to cooling racks to cool completely.
- To prepare the sugar coating, place the sugar and cinnamon in a shallow dish. Stir with a fork until completely combined. Roll the cooled cookies in the sugar and serve.
- Store in a tightly covered container at room temperature for 3 to 4 days.