Sunday, November 27, 2011

Mexican wedding cakes

Lets start off with a history on wedding cookies. A wedding cake is an essential element to celebrate and share your joy with others. If the couple has a connection in Mexico or loves Mexican cakes then they can serve them during weddings. Mexican wedding cakes have a very old tradition. They are traditionally prepared with help of butter, vanilla and nuts. These cakes are baked in the form of cookies. The finest quality of butter, vanilla and nuts will give the best quality Mexican cake. These cookies are white in color and served in a multi tier tray after the dinner. This cake has various names and versions. Some people add chocolate to this cake to give flavor.
These cakes became popular in 1950's and 1960's. They are part of all the celebrations like wedding, Christmas, etc. These cakes have roots in the Ancient Arab culture. They traveled to Europe and found variations in Spanish, Russian and Mexican civilization. These cookies are usually round or oval in shape. The variations are mixing fruits, chocolate, food color to the original six ingredients of the cake. The ingredients of this cookies are fine quality butter, vanilla, nuts, salt, powdered sugar and flour. The recipe of this type of cake is simple and easy to make.
Pastelitos de boda (literally,"wedding cookies") are a traditional dessert at Mexican weddings, made with walnuts, pecans, or almonds, they're a sweet way to thank guests for sharing the day.

Mexican Wedding Cakes are a melt-in-your mouth shortbread-like cookie that are also known as Russian Tea Cake, an Italian Butter Nut, a Southern Pecan Butterball, a Snowdrop, a Viennese Sugar Ball and a Snowball. They are very popular, not only at weddings but also during the Christmas season, and other festive occasions. Looking at these cookies you could mistake them for Melting Moments, as the only difference between the two is that Mexican Wedding Cakes contain ground nuts (either ground pecans, hazelnuts, almonds, or walnuts).
The secret to great tasting Mexican Wedding Cakes is to use a high quality butter and pure vanilla extract.

Ingredients : 
2/3 cup nuts (pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts)
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup confectioners' (powdered or icing) sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup powdered (icing or confectioners) sugar, sifted
Directions : 
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven.
2. Toast Nuts: Place nuts on a baking sheet and bake for about 8 minutes, or until lightly brown and fragrant. Cool.
3. Once the nuts have cooled completely place them, along with 2 tablespoons of the flour from the recipe, into your food processor, fitted with a metal blade, or a spice grinder and process until they are finely ground (but not a paste). 

4. In a mixing bowl, with a electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Beat in the vanilla extract. Add the remaining flour and salt and beat until combined. Stir in the nuts. Cover and refrigerate the dough for about one hour or until firm.  
5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. 
6. Form the chilled dough into 1 inch balls and place them 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. 
7. Bake for about 12 - 15 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies start to brown. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool for about 5 minutes.
8. Meanwhile, place the 1/2 cup sifted confectioners sugar in a bowl. Take the still hot cookies and roll them in the sugar, one at a time. Place on a wire rack to cool. 
9. Let cookies cool 15 minutes, and roll again in remaining sifted confectioners sugar.Or you can simply place the confectioners sugar in a strainer and sift the sugar over the tops of the cookies.
10. Let cool completely before storing. Can be stored in an airtight container for several weeks. Can roll or sift the cookies in more confectioners sugar before serving.
11. Store cookies, putting waxed paper between layers, in tightly sealed container at room temperature up to 1 week or in freezer up to 3 months.

Note : I used pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts but you can use any nuts of your choice.

Vamu Anam / Ajwain Rice

Ajwain, also known as carom seeds contains thymol as the main essential oil which gives the seed a strong, dominant flavor and bitter taste which numbs the tongue when bitten. Ajwain is also used in vegetable dishes (for its distinctive taste) and pickles (for its preservative qualities). It also aids in digestion.
Ajwain rice is very simple and easy to make dish. This can be made with left over rice also. This is a very comforting food in case of cold, cough or acidity.
My Mom used to make this at home for breakfast usually with leftover rice. My sister likes this a lot that she cannot stop at one serving. I dont eat this rice much because of its strong pungent flavour.
Ajwain also has many medicinal properties. Below are a few home remedies using ajwain :
•As a digestive. Chew by itself or with a little sugar/salt to make it more palatable in its raw form.
•As a cure for diarrhoea, dysentry and indigestion. Boil a cup of water with 1 tbsp of Ajwain till the water is reduced to half its original volume. Drink this water.
•To relieve symptoms (like blocked nose, etc) of a cold. Add 1 tbsp of Ajwain to a bowl of boiling water and inhale the steam.

Ingredients : 
2 cups cooked rice
6 garlic cloves peeled and roughly chopped
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
4-5 dry red chilli
1 teaspoon urad dal
1 teaspoon chana dal
Few curry leaves
2 tablespoon carrom seeds (ajwain or vaamu)
Few fried cashews (optional)
1 tablespoon oil
1/4 teaspoon oil
salt to taste

Directions :
1. Add 1/4 teaspoon oil and little salt to cooked rice amd mix well with a fork. This prevents rice from sticking to each other.
2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a pan on medium heat.
3. Add garlic cloves and let them fry till golden brown.
4. Now, add urad dal and chana dal. Fry till urad gets slight colour. Then add cumin seeds, dry red chillis and curry leaves and fry for a minute.
5. Now add carrom seeds and fry for another minute.
6. Add little salt to oil and then add the rice and mix well. Mix slowly so that the rice does not break.
7. Check for salt and add more of required.
8. Let the rice fry for 2 to 3 minutes.
9. Remove from heat and serve hot.