Sunday, December 11, 2011

Day 1: Russian Tea Cakes

On the first day of Christmas, my true love baked for me. . . 12 Russian tea cakes!  Well, I actually baked them for my true love, but that's another story.  My kids usually refer to these cookies as 'snowball' cookies since that's exactly what they look like and I more often make them when it's cold than when it's hot outside. 

I really didn't start baking these cookies until about a year ago.  I'd always liked them at parties, but just never thought to try a recipe.  What a shame I haven't been making these for years because they are so super-easy! Here's a photo of my sweet snowman cookie jar!  He gets so lonely up in the attic all year, that I feel guilty if I don't keep a constant supply of goodies inside his tummy! 

Here's a little history courtesy of wikipedia on these famous cookies.  Russian tea cakes appeared in Russia in the 18th century as a sweet cookie used in a tea-sharing ceremony. By the 20th century, they became part of wedding and Christmas traditions in the U.S..  They were still known by their popular "Russian tea" name during this time.  Mexican Wedding Cookies, and Bizcochitos (the official cookie of the State of New Mexico), are similar except that they have the addition of anise.  Many cultures have a similar cookie. In Spain, they are called Mantecosos.

I just adapted the recipe from Betty Crocker, here.  This recipe seems to be similar wherever I look online.  I noticed that a lot of people mix peppermint into the dough or even coconut, but I'm a minimalist with this cookie.  I love the simplicity of it and I love them to be undercooked.  I cook them for about 8 minutes in my oven for that heavenly soft texture! 

Russian Tea Cakes

1 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/4 cups all-purpose or white whole wheat (my choice)
3/4 cup finely ground chopped nuts (I used walnuts or almonds usually)
1/4 teaspoon salt
Powdered sugar

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Mix butter, powdered sugar and vanilla in large bowl.  Stir in flour, nuts and salt until dough comes together.  Shape dough into 1-inch cookie balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet. 

Bake in oven for 8-10 minutes.  Cookies should not be brown on the top, but just set.  Move the cookies to a wire rack and cool slightly.  Roll cookies around in the powdered sugar and then return to cook on wire rack.  Once cookies have completely cooled, roll in the powdered sugar one last time for that perfect 'snowball' look. 

This made almost 3 dozen cookies.  It's hard to say now because quite a few of them have already disappeared. 

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