Seattle's Child

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Mexican Wedding Balls

Seattle chef Leslie Mackie’s family holiday favorite: Mexican Wedding Balls

A holiday baking tradition for Leslie Mackie and family.


Traditions are entering a second generation with Leslie Mackie, owner of Macrina Bakery. The time around the holidays is the busiest of the year for Mackie, but she always bakes with her daughter Olivia.

Olivia began that baking tradition at four or five (in those early years, she was most captivated by sampling the sugar toppings), but Mackie said she and her sister have made the cookies with their mother as far back as she can remember.

There are always a few new experiments — such as the Norwegian potato-dough flatbread known as lefse and a cornmeal-sesame seed cookie called cumeri – alongside traditional offerings like angel thumbprints and Mexican wedding cookies, the recipe for which can be found below as well as in Mackie’s Macrina Bakery & Café Cookbook.

Mexican Wedding Balls

1 ½ cups whole almonds

12 ounces (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

3 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Scatter almonds on a rimmed baking sheet and toast on center rack of oven for approximately 10 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool, then finely chop and set aside.

Combine butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and, using the paddle attachment, mix on low speed about 30 seconds. Increase speed to medium and mix another 5-7 minutes, until the mixture is smooth and pale in color. Add vanilla extract and mix about 30 seconds, making sure vanilla is fully incorporated. Remove bowl from the mixer and scrape down the sides.

Place almonds and flour in a medium bowl and toss together. Using a rubber spatula, fold half the dry ingredients in the bowl of batter. After the first batch is fully incorporated, fold in the other half and continue folding until all of the dry ingredients have been absorbed, 1 to 2 minutes. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.

Scoop small amounts of dough out of the bowl (Mackie uses a small ice cream scoop) and roll the dough into 1 ½-inch balls. Place the balls on the prepared baking sheets, about 1 inch apart, pressing down lightly to create a flat bottom on each cookie.

Bake on center rack of oven, 1 sheet at a time, for 15-20 minutes or until the cookies just start to color. To help the cookies bake evenly, rotate the baking sheet every 3 minutes or so. Let the cookies cool slightly on the baking sheet and then toss them in powdered sugar. Lay the sugar-coated cookies on a clean baking sheet to finish cooling. Finally, after the cookies are fully cooled, toss them in powdered sugar once again. They can be stored in an airtight container up to one month at room temperature.

Hungry for more chef family holiday food traditions?  Check out   Rice Pudding from Terry Rautureau and Dungeness Mac & Cheese with Bacon from Jason Wilson.

Originally published in December 2015