Traditional Snowballs (Russian Tea Cakes)
These cookies will no doubt bring back a flood of memories for many of you. Christmas baking sessions of yesteryear, cookie exchanges of your youth, or church parties in the basement. Few trays of holiday delights would be complete without these little bites of shortbread.
Snowballs are often called Mexican wedding cookies, Russian tea cakes, or jumbles. All are correct and all refer to the same kind of cookie. Originally from Europe and dating back to the middle ages, these all contain butter, flour, and a bit of sugar. The nuts and flavorings mixed in vary by region and, well, century. These days almond flavoring is often added, but I prefer to let the flavor of the pecans come through. Sometimes these can be hard and dense, but this recipe is light and tender and absolutely melt in your mouth. The pecans inside are like toasted little bits of crunchy goodness. Festive and wonderfully delightful.
Years ago, I was at a family Christmas celebration that was being hosted by my sister-in-law. She had a huge rubbermaid container of these cookies sitting on the counter and while the family tucked into them, I held back. The last I remembered, those cookies were tasteless and dry. Definitely not good eats. But I had one anyway (it WAS Christmas after all…) and it was fantastic. The best little snowball cookie ever. When I started experimenting to get the most perfect version to post here, I compared all recipes to the cookies from that one special Christmas. Turns out, the recipe from Land O’Lakes was the front runner and I never changed it. Classic and simple, these come together super fast. They look festive and absolutely lovely on a platter during the holidays and are a great recipe to make with your kids. Tasty and fantastic, they are great-no matter what you call them!
Snowballs (Russian Tea Cakes)
Recipe from Land O’Lakes
2 c flour
2 c finely chopped pecans
1/4 c sugar
1 c (2 sticks) softened butter
1 tsp vanilla
Preheat the oven to 325.
In the large bowl of a mixer, combine all ingredients except powdered sugar, just until blended well. Scoop by heaping teaspoonfuls and roll between your hands to form a smooth ball. Place on a lined sheet pan. These cookies won’t spread so I place them 4 by 5 on the pan. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the tops are just BARELY starting to brown. Remove, let cool for a few minutes, and then gently toss in powdered sugar. Set on a rack and let cool completely. If desired, roll again in powdered sugar to achieve a full on white ‘snowball’ look. Store at room temperature, tightly sealed, for up to 5 days, or freeze for several months. Enjoy!