Posted by: kriscdub | December 23, 2009

Holiday Cookie Madness Part 2: Russian Teacakes

As the holiday baking madness continues, Mom and I bring you an old classic: Russian Teacakes, Mexican Wedding Cakes, Snowballs, or whatever else you people call these little balls of heaven.  They’re my absolute favorite Christmas cookies. Nutty, not too sweet, and a bit crumbly. Plus they have the potential to make a huge mess, which is always a plus for me. Another thing I love about these cookies is that we get the recipe from one of my mom’s old cookbooks. The copyright date is 1963, and it’s a first edition, fourth printing, so it’s stained, ragged, and all around well loved. Plus it says “Cooky” right on the cover, and that’s just charming.

Your ingredients:

Nothing extravagant, and not too many. One more thing to love about Russian Teacakes. You can use any kind of nut you’d like, really. Pecans are great, but we’re using them in other cookies, so we decided to use walnuts. Mom says that walnuts are best anyway, and I always do what my mother says.

While you wait for my mom to stop laughing at that last statement, mix together the butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla. You could use margarine, but really, why would you do that to yourself?

It should end up looking like a nice light brown ball of butter, especially since that’s pretty much what it is. You know how I usually say to try to avoid eating any at this point? Don’t even try this time. You don’t even have to worry about salmonella with this one, so just accept the fact that you’re going to lose at lease one cookie at this stage.

Mix flour, salt, and finely chopped nuts in a small bowl. The book says to “measure flour by dipping method or by sifting,” but since I don’t don’t know what the dipping method is (it’s apparently on page 5) and I’m too lazy to sift, I just use a big measuring cup and mix everything in it. Hasn’t failed me yet.

Add the flour mixture slowly to the butter mixture. You’ll at first get a very crumbly looking mixture and you’ll probably freak out over whether it’s done or even going to come together, but let your mother calm you down and force you to stick it out until…

the dough starts forming itself into a ball on its own. Chill it for about an hour, either in a container or wrapped in plastic.

When the dough is chilled through, roll it into 1″ balls and place them on a cookie sheet. Or if you’re me, make them way too big and don’t care at all. Since these cookies don’t spread, they just puff up a bit, you can place them closely together on the cookie sheet. This way, you’ll fit all but five onto one sheet, and since one of the batch of five will roll off the sheet onto the floor for the Labrador as you try to put it in the oven, you’ll be pretty much done with just one batch.

Pop ’em in the oven for 10 minutes.

They should come out set, but not browned.While they’re still warm, roll them in powdered sugar. The heat will melt the sugar a bit and make a sort of sticky frosting. It will also clump all over your fingers.

After you’ve coated each one in sugar, let them cool completely on a rack. Notice that there is still some of the cookie showing through the sugar at this point, which is obviously completely unacceptable.

So when they’ve cooled, roll them in powdered sugar again until they really live up to the name “snowballs”.

Russian Teacakes (aka Mexican Wedding Cakes, Snowballs)

from Betty Crocker’s Cooky Book

1 cup butter

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 1/4 cups flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts

Mix butter, sugar, and vanilla thoroughly. Stir flour, salt, and nuts together in a small bowl. Blend flour mixture slowly into butter mixture. Chill dough for about an hour. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll dough into 1″ balls and place on cookie sheet. Since dough will not spread, cookies can be placed close together. Bake 10-12 minutes or until set, but not brown. While still warm, roll in powdered sugar. Allow to cool completely on rack before rolling in powdered sugar again.


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