Or as they are known at our house, Mexican Wedding Cakes, since my mother first made this cookie from a Mexican cookbook when I was young.
This version, another from our favorite, never-fail cookie book, Cookies Unlimited by Nick Malgieri, is the best I have ever had.
The only changes I made were to use the mixer for the entire process (Malgieri calls for mixing the flour and nuts in by hand) and to double-roll the cookies in powdered sugar; once when they come out of the oven and once when they are cool. Malgieri calls for rolling them only when they are cool. If you don't have a mixer, of course, all this can be done by hand.
Makes about 50 cookies
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon water (or dark rum, bourbon, or brandy)
2 cups flour
8 ounces (about 2 cups) pecan pieces, finely chopped, but not ground
1 cup confectioners' sugar for finishing
2 cookie sheets or jelly roll covered with parchment or foil
Set a rack in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees.
In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together on medium speed the butter, granulated sugar, and salt until soft and fairly light, about 3 minutes.
Beat in the vanilla and water and continue beating until smooth.
On low speed, mix in the flour and pecans just until the dough holds together.
Use a small ice cream or melon ball scoop to separate pieces of the dough for the cookies. Roll the dough between the palms of your hands to make a ball and place on the baking pan leaving about an inch around each. They don't spread, but they do puff slightly. Repeat until all the dough has been used.
Another method is to roll pieces of the dough under the palms of your hands to make a cylinder about an inch thick. Cut off 3/4-inch pieces of the dough and roll as above.
Bake the cookies for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until they are firm and golden. Cool on racks (this is when I roll in powdered sugar the first time and then put them on racks to cool).
After they are cold, sift the confectioners sugar into a shallow bowl and roll the cookies in it.
Store the cooled cookies between sheets of parchment or wax paper in a tin or plastic container with a tight-fitting cover.