December 20, 2008

Russian Tea Cookies

On with more Christmas cookie baking! These next cookies are known by many names: Mexican wedding cookies, Italian wedding cookies, Russian tea cookies, butterballs, pecan balls, nut balls... What ever the name, my idea of Russian tea cookies is a ball of nutty shortbread made lighter and more tender by using powdered sugar in the dough. The balls of shortbread are then heavily coated in more powdered sugar. I've seen recipes with more than one type of nut or different nuts but for me these are always made with all pecans. The recipe I use comes from my grandmother's church cookbook. I had to beg a bit to get a copy of the earlier edition from my mother just so I could have this cookie recipe. The book is battered, cover-less, yellowed and stained and the recipes are not the kind of food I cook on a daily basis but nostalgic special occasion recipes and oddities of the time. An special detail is that the Russian tea cookie recipe was submitted by my great-aunt Ann, my grandmother's twin.

Russian Tea Cookies
Based on a recipe submitted by my great-aunt Ann to the 1964 edition of the Sacred Heart League Cookbook (Sacred Heart Byzantine Catholic Church Livonia, Michigan).
Makes 4 dozen cookies

1 cup butter (I use Earth Balance margarine)
1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chopped pecans
~2 cups additional powdered sugar to coat, sifted to remove lumps

-Mix together the butter (or EB), sugar, and vanilla. -Sift the flour and salt together and add to the butter mixture. Stir just until combined. Add in the pecans and again fold in, just until evenly distributed.
-Cover the dough with plastic wrap, form into an even rectangle and chill for at least 4 hours.
-Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.
-Take half of the dough and cut it into 24 pieces. Gently squeeze the cubes of dough into a ball. This dough crumbles easily and by squeezing instead of rolling you can prevent some of the crumbling. If the cube does crumble, collect all the crumbles and press them together before proceedin' with the squeezin'.
-Place the formed balls onto a cookie sheet. These do not spread and can be placed as close as an inch apart. Do try and leave even space between each cookie so that they cook evenly.
-Bake for 9-11 minutes. The cookie should be set and the bottoms should be very light brown.
-While the cookies are still warm, roll them in the powdered sugar. Allw the cookies to cool completely and roll them a second time.

Abbie once again has to pop in while I'm taking food pictures.

*This is heresy in the making but this year I discovered another Russian tea cookie recipe that I have to try. Once in a blue moon's author posted her grandmother's pecan ball recipe which has more twice the amount of pecans though same amounts of the other ingredients. Could my favorite Russian tea cookie recipe be beat?