Fredericksburg First Friday Food Ministry
Dear Lord: The gods have been good to me. For the first time in my life, everything is absolutely perfect just the way it is. So here's the deal: You freeze everything the way it is, and I won't ask for anything more. If that is OK, please give me absolutely no sign. OK, deal. In gratitude, I present you this offering of cookies and milk. If you want me to eat them for you, give me no sign. Thy will be done.
--Dan Castellaneta (American Actor and Writer, b.1958)

Polvorones de Canele
(Mexican Cinnamon Cookies)

There’s cinnamon and then there’s cinnamon. The stuff most of us reach for in the supermarket is Cassia bark, a spice made from the bark of the Cinnamomum aromaticum tree. Cassia has a bite and can pack a powerful punch in baked goods: think apple pie and cinnamon rolls.

There’s another cinnamon Cinnamomum verum, and it’s the secret of these cookies. The flavor is softer, rounder, and maybe even a little floral. It doesn’t take a trip to a specialty store to find. HEB sells it in cellophane sacks; just look for the Fiesta brand. The bags are filled with shaggy looking “cigars” of soft brown rolled bark. Press it with your fingernails and it crumbles easily. Break a stick into a clean coffee grinder. Press the “go” button. In a matter of seconds you’ll have a small pile of intensely fragrant powdered cinnamon.

Use freshly ground cinnamon; like all spices, cinnamon rapidly loses flavor once it is ground. (Add a pinch with your ground coffee beans to your coffee filter basket when you make your morning coffee. Very nice, indeed!)

In Mexico, Polvorones de Canele appear at weddings and other special occasions. We served them at the Quinceañera dinner-dance for Veronica Robles’ daughter. Veronica has helped us with First Friday lunches since the very beginning, and preparing the food for her daughter’s coming-of-age party remains one of our happiest memories.

1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature

1/2 cup confectioners' sugar

1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (see note above)

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1.5 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 cup confectioners' sugar (for dusting)

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (see notes above) for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (300 degrees if using a convection oven). Line cookie sheets with parchment paper, a Silpat or lightly butter.

Mix 1 cup confectioners’ sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Set aside. This is the mixture you’ll roll the cookies in before baking.

In a stand mixer or with a handheld mixer, cream together 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar and butter until smooth and fluffy. Stir in vanilla.

In a separate bowl, sift or whisk together flour, salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon. Add to the creamed butter and sugar and mix just to combine. The dough will be stiff.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls. (Chill the dough if it feels too soft to hold its shape.) Roll balls in cinnamon mixture and place on the cookie sheets, leaving an inch between cookies.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes in preheated oven, or until nicely browned. Cool cookies on wire racks. If desired, dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Makes about 24.

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