Friday, January 6, 2012

Snowball Cookies

These cookies were a last minute addition to my Christmas cookie list. I know Christmas is over and done but as I sit here typing this the wind is howling and the snow is blowing against my window. These cookies go by several different names but in honor of the holiday and joyful weather, I am calling them snowballs. I do make these cookies year round, in the summer they are Russian Tea Cookies and if someone is getting married they become Mexican Wedding Cookies. I like to make these cookies round but you can also make them crescent-shaped if you prefer.

Snowball Cookies 
recipe courtesy of Cook's Illustrated

2 cups whole pecans, finely chopped
2 cups all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon table salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup superfine sugar (or regular granulated sugar pulsed in a food processor for about 30 seconds)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ½ cups confectioners' sugar, for rolling

Preheat oven to 325°F and adjust oven racks to middle positions. 

Mix flour, salt and half the chopped nuts in medium bowl and set aside. Place remaining chopped nuts in a food processor and pulse 10 to 20 seconds until you get the texture of coarse cornmeal; stir into flour mixture and set aside.

In bowl of an electric mixer at medium speed or by hand, beat butter and sugar until light and creamy, about 1 ½ minutes with an electric mixer or 4 minutes by hand, then beat in vanilla. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl with rubber spatula, and add flour mixture. Beat at low speed until the dough just begins to come together, about 15 seconds. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl again with rubber spatula and continue beating at low speed until dough is cohesive, 6 to 9 seconds longer. Do not overbeat! Working with about one tablespoon dough at a time, roll and shape cookies into balls, crescents, rings, or cigar shapes as desired. 

Bake until tops are pale golden and bottoms are just beginning to brown, turning cookie sheets from front to back and switching from top to bottom racks halfway through baking, 17 to 19 minutes. Cool cookies on sheets about 2 minutes, then remove to a wire rack and cool to room temperature (about 30 minutes).

Working with three or four cookies at a time, roll cookies in confectioners’ sugar to coat thoroughly. Gently shake off excess. Before serving, roll cookies in confectioners’ sugar a second time to ensure a thick coating, and tap off excess. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container up to 5 days.

When you are shaping them, use a very light hand, it helps make sure they melt away in your mouth when you bite into them. 

Yield: approximately 48 cookies