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Thursday, May 5, 2011

MELTING MOMENTS

I started out looking for a recipe Wednesday for the Mexican Wedding Cookies since today is Cinco de Mayo.  Now that I live in the Rio Grande Valley I'm a bit more aware of the Hispanic culture's special celebrations.  I really didn't know what Cinco de Mayo was about...just that it was, obviously, the 5th of May, and it was a big deal in the Mexican culture.  For many years I thought Cinco de Mayo was Mexican Independence Day and I couldn't understand why it was so celebrated in the U.S. - but this year I did my homework. 

I asked the great Wikipedia in the sky..."what is Cinco de Mayo?" and it answered:
"Cinco de Mayo has its roots in the French occupation of Mexico. The French occupation took place in the aftermath of the Mexican-American War of 1846-48, the Mexican Civil War of 1858, and the 1860 Reform Wars. These wars left the Mexican Treasury in ruin and nearly bankrupt. On July 17, 1861, Mexican President Benito Juárez issued a moratorium in which all foreign debt payments would be suspended for two years, with the promise that after this period, payments would resume.[12][13] In response, France, Britain, and Spain sent naval forces to Veracruz to demand reimbursement. Britain and Spain negotiated with Mexico and withdrew, but France, at the time ruled by Napoleon III, decided to use the opportunity to establish a Latin empire in Mexico that would favor French interests, the Second Mexican Empire.

The French invasion

Late in 1861, a well-armed French fleet stormed Veracruz, landing a large French force and driving President Juárez and his government into retreat.[14] Moving on from Veracruz towards Mexico City, the French army encountered heavy resistance from the Mexicans near Puebla, at the Mexican forts of Loreto and Guadalupe.[15] The 8,000-strong French army attacked the much poorer equipped Mexican army of 4,000. Yet the Mexicans managed to decisively crush the French army, the best army at the time, and one that had not been defeated for almost 50 years.[16]

The Mexican victory

The victory represented a significant morale boost to the Mexican army and the Mexican people at large. The History Channel puts it this way:
"Although not a major strategic victory in the overall war against the French, Zaragoza's success at Puebla represented a great moral victory for the Mexican government."[17]
And TIME puts it this way:
"The Puebla victory came to symbolize unity and pride for what seemed like a Mexican David defeating a French Goliath."[18]
"It was a glorious moment for Mexico." It helped establish a much-needed sense of national unity and patriotism."

"In the United States Cinco de Mayo has taken on a significance beyond that in Mexico. The date is perhaps best recognized in the United States as a date to celebrate the culture and experiences of Americans of Mexican ancestry, much as St. Patrick's Day, Oktoberfest, and the Chinese New Year are used to celebrate those of Irish, German, and Chinese ancestry respectively. Similar to those holidays, Cinco de Mayo is observed by many Americans regardless of ethnic origin. Celebrations tend to draw both from traditional Mexican symbols, such as the Virgen de Guadalupe, and from prominent figures of Mexican descent in the United States, including César Chávez.[36] To celebrate, many display Cinco de Mayo banners while school districts hold special events to educate pupils about its historical significance. Special events and celebrations highlight Mexican culture, especially in its music and regional dancing. Examples include baile folklórico and mariachi demonstrations held annually at the Plaza del Pueblo de Los Angeles, near Olvera Street. Commercial interests in the United States have capitalized on the celebration, advertising Mexican products and services, with an emphasis on beverages, foods, and music."

Okay - more info than you probably evah wanted to know.  So, in the way we search out brats and polka dancing to celebrate our German culture around Oktoberfest (the beloved Wurstfest of New Braunfels, Texas), the many parades and Irish foods and green beer associated with St. Patrick's Day, and many other cultural celebrations of our melting pot country...we will eat Mexican Food and eat a cookie SIMILAR to but not the same as Mexican Wedding Cookies today (I don't want nuts in mine, so they are really more like the Melting Moments cookies).

Here's the recipe I adapted from others I found online.
The first bite was quite tasty!

MELTING MOMENTS COOKIES

Ingredients:

2 sticks butter - softened to room temperature (1 cup) -
     use quality butter - it is the primary ingredient you will taste!
1/3 cup confectioner's sugar - sifted
1/2 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (after tasting, I might have added a full teaspoon)
1/4 teaspoon fine grind sea salt

Additional confectioner's sugar for dusting over baked cookies (about 1/2 cup)

Method:

Beat butter and 1/3 cup confectioner's sugar in bowl of electric stand mixer (or use hand mixer if preferred) until creamy and smooth.  Add vanilla bean paste and vanilla extract.  Beat until incorporated.

In separate bowl, sift all dry ingredients.  Add slowly to butter mixture until totally incorporated - scrape down mixer bowl to ensure everything is mixed.



Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and prepare two baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking sheet.
Hardened dough (lots of butter firmed up) made it necessary
to press into scoop and even with a knife to get consistent sizes

Used the smallest cookie dough scoop
Rolling into balls

Remove chilled dough from refrigerator and form dough into approximately one inch balls  - spacing about one inch apart.  You should be able to get about 16-20 cookies on each baking sheet - these don't really spread.  There's no leavening, so they don't get bigger.  If your hands are warm and the butter starts melting - put it back in the fridge.  I had a few that spread at the bottom because they got too warm before baking and the butter started melting when they hit the oven.  I put the second tray in the fridge to re-firm before baking.
Rolled and ready to bake - would have been better if
I had refrigerated after rolling for about 10 minutes

Bake for 10 to 14 minutes (mine took 13) - cookies will still look mostly white but you can see just a bit of light brown at the bottom edge when done.  Allow to cool on the cookie sheet resting on top of a wire rack for about 5 minutes before moving to another wire rack placed on top of a piece of wax paper (used to catch the confectioner's sugar). 
Out of the oven and cooling

This was not chilled enough before baking

Place the confectioner's sugar in a hand-held strainer and dust cookies thoroughly.  Some people roll them in powdered sugar but I understood they were fragile cookies and I didn't want to crunch them.  So I'm sprinkling.  Glad I did - I picked one up and it just crumbled in my hand...I was forced to bite it in half... the uncooperative little smidgen of goodness!
The dusting of the cookies is easy on a rack

The cookies can store for weeks (ha, like that's gonna happen) in a well-sealed container.  If you the cookies absorb the powdered sugar while in storage, simply re-sprinkle before serving.

So, there we have it.  Another yummy cookie!  Feliz Cinco de Mayo my friends of Mexican origin and those who just like Mexican celebrations :-)

Bon Appetit, Y'all!

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2 comments:

  1. Where do you get vanilla bean paste?

    ReplyDelete
  2. I got a jar at Central Market in Austin...but I think you can get it online from Amazon as well. I got the Nielsen-Massey brand and it is delicious.

    ReplyDelete

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