I adore Christmas but am not a fan of shopping at this time of the year. Crowds and long lines are just not my kind of fun. So I like to get into the holiday spirit by baking small gifts for others.
Last year, I made some cookies, small breads and individual bread puddings. However, this year is different because I just moved back to my house in the Hudson Valley from Pennsylvania this past week. Being surrounded by pillars of boxes that seem to not want to go away doesn’t exactly encourage one to spend days baking!
Or maybe it does!?! It certainly would be a great escape from doing what I need to do, which is unpack, clean and organize. I wish I had one of Santa’s elves, who, instead of packing and wrapping packages did just the opposite: unpacked and put away!
Sadly that is not going to happen any time soon! Help me Santa, what I want for Christmas….
So I need to scale back my baking duties a bit this year and embrace the holiday festivities in one cookie that is delicious, easy to make and package. I love Mexican wedding cookies or Russian tea cakes. They are little sugar-dusted balls of nutty, like shortbread, and with the right dose of salt, are incredibly irresistible! If you have children in the house, these are just the right cookie to mound on a plate with a glass of milk for Santa.
I have transformed the cookie a touch to create Snowball Cookies. I made mine with pecans but you could swap them out for whatever nut you have in your freezer, such as walnuts, almonds or skinned hazelnuts. (The freezer is the best place to store nuts to preserve their oils and you can eat/use them straight from the frozen state.)
One note of caution: you can’t eat just one of these cookies and do not breathe in when you pop one in your mouth or you will certainly be coughing up clouds of confectioners’ sugar! Happy baking!
Makes about 3 dozen
3/4 cup (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into pieces and softened
1-1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour (you could use ½ all-purpose and ½ whole wheat flour)
1 cup chopped, toasted pecans
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
- Preheat oven to 325°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Beat together butter, 1/2 cup of the sugar and vanilla in a medium bowl with a hand mixer until light and fluffy. Toss together flour, pecans, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in a bowl and add to bowl with the butter. Beat until just combined.
- Make balls (about 1 tablespoon each) and arrange on prepared pan. Bake in middle of oven for 15 to 20 minutes until golden. Let cookies cool on pan until you can safely handle them.
- Put remaining ¾ cup sugar in a medium bowl. Add warm cookies to sugar in small batches, rolling them around in sugar to coat. Place cookies on another pan until completely cool Repeat process with remaining cookies. Once cookies are completely cool roll them in the sugar again to coat. Store in an airtight container.
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