Russian Tea Cakes (Mexican Wedding Cakes) – Great Holiday Gift Idea

Russian tea cakes or Mexican wedding cakes

Cakes? It is a slight mystery why these are called cakes and not cookies, but no matter the name, they are delicious. How can you go wrong with toasted pecans, brown butter and sugar? The texture is like a shortbread cookie that is taken to new heights by the richness of the nuts. They are typically served at the holidays, maybe because they look like little snow balls, and at special occasions, like weddings, as the name suggests. This holiday my aunt Kristin, who is my pastry muse, requested them. It is ridiculous that my house isn’t stocked with them all year round. The recipe is so simple and the results so incredible. Thanks to Kristin my cookie jar is now full. They make a great gift because they pack up well and actually improve with a bit of time, which can’t be said for many cookies. (more…)

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Beyond the Box – Brown Butter Vanilla Bean Rice Krispie Treats (plus a short tour of the bakery that inspired them and a wedding cake)

It took the extraordinary pastry chef from Flour in Boston, Joanne Chang, to get me to confess my love for Rice Krispies Treats. She boldly put a recipe for them in her cookbook, next to the cakes and other delicate, fanciful pastries. It was an honest and unpretentious statement, which gives the rest of us the ability to stand tall while admitting we too love these juvenile confections. Until now I have used my boys as an excuse to have them around, but the truth is I love them more than they do. This recipe takes the ordinary to new heights. One may argue the beauty of a recipe on the side of a cereal box is the speed, ease and simplicity of ingredients. Admittedly this version takes a few more minutes, and I do bother to use some pretty special ingredients, but it is so worth the effort and I promise the vanilla bean is not lost on them.

I have been following Joanne’s career since she worked in New York with François Payard. Her talents were recognized even while in the shadow of one of New York’s pastry greats, which is no small feat. Several years ago she took the bold step of leaving Payard and opening her own bakery in Boston, now she has a small pastry empire. When my brother announced that he would be getting married this summer near Manchester, New Hampshire, I immediately made plans to slip into Boston for a day to sample her goodies. (more…)

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