For many, me especially, memories and traditions of Christmas are tied to cookies. Which cookie is as diverse as the people themselves. Growing up always had a variety of different cookies every year. Sugar cookies, thumbprint cookies, chocolate kiss cookies, and several others would be included in our Christmas tradition. For me however, Russian Tea Cakes were always my favorite. It was the only time of the year that we made them. They're rich, buttery with a little crunch from the nuts, and just the perfect bite size. They even look like Christmas, like little snowballs. Which is another one of the several names this cookie goes by. They're also known as Mexican wedding cakes, snowdrops, southern pecan butterball, Italian nut cookie and I think there are a few more out there. It seems almost every culture has a version of this melt in your mouth shortbread nut cookie. Historically, this cookie has been a reserved for celebrations;weddings, christenings, and for many including my family, Christmas.
This is a simple cookie to make, with only a few ingredients. Because there are so few ingredients in the cookie, using high quality butter and vanilla extract are the secret to making this cookie great. My favorite part of making this cookie is rolling them in the powdered sugar after they come out of the oven. When you drop them into the sugar is tricky part. Too soon and the sugar melts and you burn your fingertips, too late the cookie cools the sugar doesn't stick well. These are all part of my memories of making this Christmas cookie. Oh and you can't eat just one. They're just begging to be popped into your mouth.
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup finely chopped nuts ( I always use pecans, but you can use almost any nut you have on hand.)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1. Heat oven to 400ºF.
2. Mix butter, 1/2 cup powdered sugar and the vanilla in large bowl. Stir in flour, nuts and salt until dough holds together.
3. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place about 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet.
4. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until set but not brown. Remove from cookie sheet. Cool slightly on wire rack.
5. Roll warm cookies in powdered sugar; cool on wire rack. Roll in powdered sugar again