These are a variation on a cookie that is known by many names across the world. Mexican Wedding Cakes, Mexican Tea Cookies, Russian Tea Cookies, an Italian Butternut, a Snowball and more I'm sure. In the spirit of simplicity, I'm calling my version "Roasted Chestnut and Almond Cookies". And I can assure you, they are really amazing and fantastic, probably my favorite variety of this cookie.
While I love chestnuts and wish they were more widely available through the year, I do get tired of having them in stuffings or dressing to accompany a protein on the holiday table or in a soft and velvety soup. So when I spied them in the store the other day I brought them home vowing to challenge myself to something new with them.
Having also made a lovely flourless chocolate cake with almond flour earlier in the week and loving the texture of the ground almonds so much, I decided to merge the two ingredients and see if my take on the Mexican Wedding Cake would work with these two new components. Not only did it work, it's spectacular! They are also pretty quick and easy so if you have some time still to bake in the next week, give these a try. They are lighter, moister and less dense than the traditional cookies of this format. They have a creamy element to their powdered and crumbly texture.
Here's the recipe and Happy Holidays to everyone!
makes 2 dozen small cookies
3/4 lb. fresh chestnuts
1/2 c. or 4 oz. unsalted butter at room temperature
1 c. confectioner's sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
two big pinches salt
1 c. almond flour
1. Preheat oven to 450˚F. Cut a small "x" on the rounded side of each chestnut with a very sharp knife. This scoring process will help you peel them after they've roasted. Place on a baking sheet and roast for 25 minutes until they're darker brown and the "x" is curling away from the flesh of the nut.
2. Remove from oven and let cool until you can handle them. Peel away the outer shell and the brown skin covering the flesh of the chestnut. If you see any that are moldy or rotten, of course salvage what you can by cutting out the good stuff and discard the rest. I overestimate the weight of chestnuts needed, accounting for any that are spoiled. You don't need to worry about keep the chestnut flesh whole, you'll grind it up. Once all the chestnuts are removed and cool, then roughly chop them on a cutting board with a knife.
3. Measure 1/2 c. of the chopped chestnuts and put them in the bowl of a food processor. You can use the rest for another recipe or double the batch of cookies if you had excellent chestnuts with no spoilage. Pulse the chestnuts in the processor until almost crumb-like. Add the softened butter and pulse together until combined. Add 1/4 cup of the confectioner's sugar, the vanilla extract, the cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and almond flour and pulse until it comes together into a dough ball.
4. Divide the dough into two equal parts, wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate one hour. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Combine the remaining confectioner's sugar and a few more pinches of nutmeg and cinnamon on a small flat plate and set aside.
5. Working with one half of the chilled dough at a time, form little balls with the dough that are about 2 tsp. in size. Place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the second half of the dough.
6. Bake the cookies until they're pale golden on the top and a little darker brown on the bottom, about 15-17 minutes. Remove and cool still on the baking sheet on top of a cooling rack for 10 minutes. Afterward, gently place each cookie in the powdered sugar and roll it around coating evenly. Place each cookie on the cooling rack and cool completely. When cooled, you may find some of the sugar melted in during the process so if you want to roll them again then go for it.
These are terrific served with milk, coffee, tea, dessert wine or your favorite liqueur or cordial. Enjoy!