Horchata Polvorones

Extra tender and delicate, this vegan and gluten-free version of polvorones is the creative (and delicious) invention of Mariela Camacho, owner of Comadre Panadería in Austin, Texas. Mariela drew inspiration for these flavorful cookies from horchata, a favorite plant-milk beverage in Latin cultures, and its rich, deep notes of grains, nuts, and cinnamon. Reminiscent of the more commonly known wedding cookies, these are Mariela’s contribution to our “Baking a Stand” for social justice effort.

Prep
30 mins
Bake
20 to 30 mins
Total
1 hr 50 mins
Yield
24 large (2 1/4”) or 55 smaller (1 1/2") cookies
Horchata Polvorones - select to zoom
Horchata Polvorones - select to zoom
Horchata Polvorones - select to zoom

Instructions

  1. To make the dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer, or using a hand mixer and large bowl, combine the vegan butter, sugar, vanilla, and bitters. Beat on medium speed, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl once or twice, until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Set aside.

  2. In a separate large bowl, combine the toasted almonds with the remaining ingredients. Transfer enough of this mixture to the work bowl of a standard-size food processor to fill it about a third full, and blend to make a fine meal. You want to blend the nuts enough to release their oils but not so long that the ingredients begin to clump together (overfilling the work bowl will make it harder to achieve that balance).

  3. Transfer the dry meal from the food processor to the bowl with the butter-sugar mixture. Process the remaining whole almond mixture and add to the mixing bowl.

  4. Mix everything together on low speed until thoroughly combined and cohesive, about 3 minutes.

  5. To shape the cookies: For large, dessert-worthy cookies, scoop the dough into compact 2 1/4” balls – a scone and muffin scoop works well here. For smaller, snackable cookies, scoop the dough into compact 1 1/2” balls – a tablespoon cookie scoop works well here. Use your hands to roll and pack the cookies into tight balls.

  6. Transfer the unbaked cookies to a storage container, cover, and refrigerate overnight.

  7. When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets.

  8. Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheets, spacing them 1” apart (they won't spread much).

  9. To bake the cookies: Bake the cookies until their surfaces are slightly cracked and their bottoms are brown, 25 to 30 minutes for the larger cookies, and 20 to 25 minutes for the smaller cookies.

  10. Remove the cookies from the oven and let them cool completely on the pan; they're quite fragile while still warm.

  11. To finish the cookies: Put the confectioners’ sugar in a shallow bowl and gently toss the cookies in the sugar. Let the cookies rest for 15 minutes, then toss them in the sugar a second time. Top with a sprinkle of freshly ground cinnamon, if desired.

  12. Storage information: Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days.

Tips from our Bakers

  • Mexican vanilla extract will bring the flavors of these cookies to life! Use it if you can — it's more complex than traditional vanilla extract, bringing creamy, woody, spicy, and sweet notes to the cookies.

  • Look for Amargo Chuncho at Latin mercados (marketplaces); it's usually Peruvian-made. This style of bitters has a warm spice and floral flavor profile that rounds out these cookies nicely. If you can't find it, substitute Angostura bitters (commonly found at most liquor stores) or additional Mexican vanilla extract.

  • To toast the almonds: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Scatter the almonds on an ungreased or parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 13 to 18 minutes, until fragrant and beginning to darken unevenly. Remove the almonds from the oven and allow them to cool completely on the baking sheet.