Monday, February 11, 2013

Little Cookies from Guatemala: Polvorosas

I had never made Polvorosas before today. I lived in Guatemala for 12 years and loved these little cookies so very much, but never had a recipe to make them. It makes me wonder why? But, it's never too late to start, I say.

Polvorosas get their name from the root word, "Polvo", meaning dust or powder. They are little shortbread cookies dipped in confectioners' sugar. One bite and the crumbs and powder go everywhere. Hence the name. Similar cookies are known as Mexican Wedding Cakes. I love the apt name of Polvorosas better. 

I was thinking about these little cookies as I have been working through various Guatemalan recipes lately. I have been eating black beans like no tomorrow, and I made Rellenitos de Platano, or plantains with a black bean filling last week. I made enchiladas; no resemblance at all to what we know in the U.S. as an enchilada. Another thing on the agenda before I am over this Guatemalan food kick is Empanadas de Manjar. Many have heard of Empanadas as a meat filled pastry, but the ones I ate in Guatemala were a little orangey colored pastry filled with a cornstarch pudding. Delicious. I haven't made them for probably 30 years. I am craving my little antojitos (snacks, or cravings). 

packing into mini muffin tins
Back to the Polvorosas. I know from many years of baking that they are a shortbread cookie. Shortbread, if any of you are unfamiliar, is a dough made with no eggs. Often it is a simple, basic three ingredients: flour, butter or shortening and sugar. I chose to go with a little cornstarch to lighten the flour a bit, and I used a combination of butter and shortening; butter for the flavor, and shortening for stability. The next thing I wondered was how to get the right shape? These cookies are always about 1 1/2 inches in diameter and about 1/2 inch high. Making shortbread stick together in any shape is not easy. Then a had a flash of brilliance! Mini muffin tins.

unmolded from mini muffin tin
I took the "dough", more like a bowl of crumbs, and packed some into a mini muffin cup. Just one, to try out my theory. I pressed it in well, then turned over the tin, holding it from the opposite end and sharply rapped the tin down onto the cutting board. I lifted the tin, and there was the little formed cookie, pretty as you please. Okay, that worked. I continued on, using one row of 4 mini cups at a time, then turning it over and rapping sharply to get them out. Worked like a charm. 

Making these, I started out using pounds and ounces to measure the ingredients, though I translated that over to cups. Pounds and ounces is a more accurate measurement, of course. Here is my recipe.


Makes 35 to 40 cookies

8 ounces all-purpose flour (1½ cups)
4 ounces cornstarch (¾ cup)
9 ounces sugar (1 cup)
5 ounces butter, room temperature (10 tablespoons)
4 ounces shortening, room temperature (8 tablespoons)

Place granulated sugar into a food processor or blender to make it very fine. Cream the butter and shortening, then add the sugar and cream well.

In another bowl, sift or whisk together the flour and cornstarch. With a wooden spoon mix the flour and cornstarch mixture into the creamed mixture, with a pinch of salt. This will never be a cohesive dough like other cookies, but crumbs that can be pressed together.

Using a mini muffin tin, pack the crumbs into the little wells, then turn the muffin tin over, holding from the opposite side. Rap sharply down onto counter or cutting board to release the cookies. You may try to make other forms out of this mixture, but the mini muffin tin idea worked really well.

Gently place cookie forms onto a baking sheet. Bake these in a preheated 350 degree oven for 15 minutes. Dredge in confectioners' sugar while still hot from the oven.

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest


  1. Hello Chris - I'm so glad I came upon your blog - we have a lot in common! I was born in Belgrade, for one! I have a neighbor from Guatemala and I thought I'd try these cookies. My confusion is that in your recipe you sasy 5 ounces of butter or 5 tablespoons of butter. But 5 ounces equals 10 tablespoons. Same issue with the shortening. It will make a big difference if the wrong amount of fat is used. Can you please clarify the quantities for me? Thanks so much!

    1. Hello Dragana. So very sorry for the mixup on amounts. I am correcting the recipe right away, and should be reflected above. I am new to measuring by weights, so when I do, that is the amount I used, not the measure by volume. Have to keep this in mind! Thank you for catching this - it's been out for a long time already. I haven't made them in far too long.
      Chris, A Harmony of Flavors