Sunday, November 14, 2010

Cookie Craze Day 2: {Russian Teacakes}


These cookies are known by many names.  Russian Teacakes, Mexican Wedding Cookies, Snowballs, Italian Butter Nuts, and Swedish Teacakes, just to name a few.  Apparently many nations want to claim these not-too-sweet delectable bites, and no one is sure just which nation made them first!  My son has christened them "little white ball cookies," which is not only accurate,  but quite politically correct.  Maybe I've got a budding politician on my hands?   At any rate, I've always called them Russian Teacakes.  I'm not sure why that's the name that sticks with me the most, maybe because one of my closest friends from 5th grade on is Russian.  Or maybe because that's what my Mom called them in her recipe book.  Really, it doesn't matter what you call them, as long as you MAKE them!

These cookies do have nuts, specifically pecans, as one of the main ingredients.  This is important not only for those of you with allergies to nuts, but also to those who don't typically like nuts.  Personally, I can't stand nuts.  In fact, the only nut I will actually eat is a pistachio.  But, I LOVE these cookies.  I think it's because the nuts are so finely ground, they become almost a meal-like consistency, and are used sort of like a flour.  You're going to get the best essence of the nuts, without the unpleasantness of actually biting into a nut.  But, because you cannot tell by looking at them that they are full of nuts, you need to be particularly proactive if you have any family members or friends with nut allergies.  Last Christmas, we had a close call with my nephew who is allergic to nuts, and didn't realize these cookies contained them until he was about 3 cookies in.  Luckily, he has a very mild allergy, and was left with just a sore belly all night, instead of something more serious.  But, it did open my eyes a little, so if you know someone with a nut allergy, be sure to advertise the ingredients of these babies!

Also, I'm not sure if you remember THIS POST on the quintessential nature of snapping beans on the front porch, but take a second to review, and then think of the rolling of these cookies as the Christmas version of bean-snapping.  Yes, it takes a little bit of time to do, but it's repetitive and relaxing motion ushers in the Christmas season much like snapping beans on the front porch ushers in the summer season.  So, throw on some holiday music, and get rolling...literally!  Embrace it, people!

This dough is very thick, and starts out really crumbly.  So, you're REALLY going to want to do this in a stand mixer, or in a BOSCH if you have one.  If you are not lucky enough to own a Bosch, now is a really great time to start lobbying your husband Santa to put one underneath your Christmas tree.  Sexual Favors, batting my eyes always works for me, but feel free to use whichever devices you have at your disposal.  I assure you, this baby is well worth it!  So be VERY NICE this year...or maybe, be a little bit NAUGHTY!  Whatever you do, get yourself on Santa's nice list this year!

{Russian Teacakes}

1 cup butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar (plus extra for dusting!)
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 cup self-rising flour
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup crushed pecans

-First, you're going to need to grind up your nuts into a meal-like consistency.  I purchase my pecans in already smashed up bits, because it's cheaper this way.  But even those aren't smashed up enough.  I still have to throw them in my Magic Bullet, and grind 'em up some more!  So, feel free to use whatever kind of pecans you have on hand, whole, halves, or pieces, because you're going to grind them up really fine.
-Important note here, you will measure the 3/4 cup AFTER you grind the nuts, not before!  I use the Magic Bullet for this task, because one of the small cups full of pecan pieces yields just the right amount of ground up nuts for this recipe.
-Place your nuts in your Magic Bullet, or Food Processor, or Chopper of any kind.
-Pulse your nuts until they reach a meal-like, almost pasty consistency.
-The nuts will now pack down just like brown sugar.  So, press them into your measuring cups just like brown sugar to get the proper amount.
-Place all ingredients into your mixing bowl.
-Mix until you've got a thick dough.  At first, it will be very powdery, and you'll be convinced it's not going to come together.  But, just as you begin to curse me for getting you into this mess, it will happen beautifully.
-Now, you're supposed to chill the dough for 1 hr.  This makes the dough easier to handle for rolling, but I'm almost NEVER patient enough for this step.  Sometimes, I stick it in the freezer for 15 minutes, other times, I throw it in the fridge for anywhere from 10-60 minutes, and other times still, I roll it out immediately, as is.
-After letting the dough chill (or skipping this step if you were born with a missing patience gene, like I was!), you're going to pre-heat the oven to 400*.
-Now start rolling your dough into 1/2" balls.
-Don't break out the measuring tape or anything, the actual size of the balls is not nearly as important as making sure that all of them are the SAME size.  
-Place your balls on a large cookie sheet.  These cookies don't really rise very much, so you can really cram 'em in there!
-Bake for 8-10 minutes, until just set.  You don't want them to get too dark on the bottom.
-You can see that I made my cookies too large (about 1"), and they cracked during baking.  But, don't worry, once they're coated in powdered sugar, you'll never see the cracks!
-While your cookies bake, get your dusting sugar ready.  Place powdered sugar in a bowl large enough to roll cookies in.  Just to be festive, I usually take my powdered sugar, and add a whole mess of red and green sugar to the bowl.
-I just stir it around with my hands, and then the cookies have a subtle hint of the season when all is said and done!
-You're going to roll the cookies in the powdered sugar twice. 
-You roll them the first time when they are about 3 minutes out of the oven.  You want them to still be hot, but have a couple of minutes to set.  It's important to note that during this first rolling, the cookies will be Very Delicate.   You must roll them VERY carefully, or they will break.  If one does break, just pop it in your mouth, and no one will be the wiser (except maybe your hips!).
-After the first rolling, you will see that the cookies are still poking through the sugar.  So, you're going to let them sit about 5 more minutes, and then roll 'em again baby!  This time, the sugar will stick even more, and they'll get that beautiful bright white color you're looking for!
-Now, you can either place them in the absolutely cutest cookie jar you can find....
-Or you can put them on the ugliest paper plate you can find, and give them away, so that you don't eat them all!
-And you should DEFINITELY go sit down, have a couple of cookies, and pretend that your sink doesn't look like this:

1 comment:

  1. I call them Mexican Wedding Cookies, probably because that was what my mom called them the first time I had them. I love the Christmas flecks in them! So cute!