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Wedding Cookies: For Richer, for Crumbier

July 14, 1994|MARION CUNNINGHAM

Every year I grow more fond of cookies, but I've become fussy about them. There are lots of ordinary cookies; it's the rare, wonderful cookie that I crave.

I had one of those at Rubicon, a restaurant in San Francisco. Elizabeth Falkner, the pastry chef, created her own version of the old classic Mexican wedding cookie--a triumph. The original Mexican wedding cookies are little walnut-size balls, rich with butter, crumbly with ground nuts and heavily dusted with confectioner's sugar. They are pleasantly sweet, but messy to eat with the sugar flying around.

Falkner's creation is the same size as the original, but she added more flour to the recipe so it doesn't crumble as much. And she substituted toasted ground pecans for walnuts, which greatly enhances the flavor. She finishes the dough balls by rolling them first in granulated sugar, then in confectioner's sugar. The granulated sugar melts into the confectioner's sugar during baking to form a crisp thin icing.

These simple changes in the basic recipe produce an outstanding cookie. When I asked Falkner if she would share her recipe she said she was happy to. The dough is crumbly before baking, but it easily forms into walnut-size balls.

A frittata with cheese and bread crumbs served with tomatoes and scallions on the side would be an easy lunch or supper, with the wedding cookies for dessert.

You could also serve the cookies with a fresh fruit compote. Soft summer fruits, such as peaches, nectarines or apricots (or all three together) preserved for a few days with sugar work well. Peel, pit and slice about 5 cups of fruit, place in a bowl and add about 1/2 cup of sugar. Mash the fruit, but leave it in small pieces. Taste and correct the amount of sugar if it's not sweet enough. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed. Serve with the cookies.

FRITTATA WITH CHEESE AND CRUMBS

1/2 cup butter

2 cups fresh, coarse bread crumbs

10 eggs, lightly beaten

Salt, pepper

2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh winter savory, or 1 teaspoon dried winter savory

1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

Melt 4 tablespoons butter in oven-proof 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Stir in bread crumbs and cook, stirring often, until they have absorbed butter and are golden. Remove from heat and set crumbs aside. Clean skillet.

Melt remaining butter in clean skillet over low heat. Sprinkle half of crumbs over bottom of skillet. Pour eggs on top, Season to taste with salt and pepper sparingly. Add winter savory. Cook without stirring about 1 minute, until bottom has just begun to set. Do not overcook. Tilt skillet to check.

Bake at 350 degrees 2 minutes. Sprinkle cheese and remaining 1 cup bread crumbs evenly over top. Bake 1 more minute. Remove from oven. Loosen edges and slide frittata onto large serving plate. Cut into serving wedges. Serve hot or cold. Makes 5 servings.

Each serving contains about:

422 calories; 513 mg sodium; 498 mg cholesterol; 36 grams fat; 7 grams carbohydrates; 18 grams protein; 0.50 gram fiber.

ELIZABETH FALKNER'S MEXICAN WEDDING COOKIES

1 cup pecans, toasted and ground

1 cup butter, softened

Powdered sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon water

3 cups flour

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup granulated sugar

Spread pecans out on baking sheet and toast at 325 degrees 8 to 10 minutes, being careful not to burn nuts. Remove from oven. Set aside to cool.

When cool, process pecans in food processor until finely ground. Set aside.

Combine butter and 2 cups powdered sugar in bowl. Beat until well-blended and creamy. Add vanilla extract and water. Blend well.

Stir together flour, salt and ground pecans in bowl. Add to butter-sugar mixture. Beat until well mixed. Dough will be very dry and crumbly.

Form dough into walnut-size balls. Put granulated sugar and 1/2 cup powdered sugar into separate bowls. Roll balls in granulated sugar, then in powdered sugar until well coated.

Place on lightly greased baking sheets and bake at 350 degrees 12 to 15 minutes, or until lightly browned and crinkly on top. Makes about 58 cookies.

Each serving contains about:

88 calories; 63 mg sodium; 9 mg cholesterol; 4 grams fat; 12 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram protein; 0.05 gram fiber.

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