Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Russian Tea Cakes

I have a lot to confess before handing over the recipe today. First of all, that's not my picture. It's just one I found on a Google image search and downloaded from here.

Also, I haven't used this recipe yet. My friend Kristine made them for a bridal shower the other day, and she gave me the recipe. I'd normally test it out first, just so I can be held accountable, but I'm terribly afraid I'll lose it, and they were really, really, really good, and I don't want to lose it.

Also, I'm dieting, and I think I ate about a dozen of these. Well, maybe I wasn't dieting right at that moment.

I wasn't sure what to call this recipe, since there seems to be no shortage of names these little delights take on. I think someone finds out how good they are, they grow scarce, and they take on another alias just to be safe. Sometimes they go by Italian Wedding Cookies, and sometimes they go by Snowballs (that's just silly, though, isn't it?), and sometimes they go by Mexican Wedding Cakes, among other names. I tried to find out what the origin of the cookie is, but it isn't easy. It seems most Western countries developed similar recipes around the time that white granulated sugar and powdered sugar became mainstream. Some began without adding nuts, some used hazelnuts, some walnuts or almonds or pecans. I went with the name Russian Tea Cakes, since that's the name I first heard them called when I was younger. It doesn't really matter. What matters is that you eat them. Oooh, they're so delightful and so very easy to make.

Kristine made probably the best batch I've ever had (my husband agreed), so I'm following her instructions. Yes, you can use any nut, but while I'm usually partial to pecans, the almonds were perfect in this. One exception: she used salted butter and omitted the salt, but since I only keep unsalted around, I am writing the recipe with the salt included. Either way should work fine, as the nuts like salt. Just don't double up... you know, use salted butter and add salt. You'll have to throw them out.


Russian Tea Cakes

1 1/2 c. unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 c. confectioners' sugar
1/2 t. salt
1 1/2 c. finely ground almonds (you'll need to use a food processor)
1 T. vanilla extract
1 t. almond extract
3 c. sifted all-purpose flour
1/3 c. confectioners' sugar, for rolling

Cream the butter in a bowl, then gradually add the 3/4 c. sugar and salt. Beat until light and fluffy. Add the almonds, vanilla, and almond extract. Stir in the flour in portions (to avoid dust clouds), and make sure the dough is even. Cover and refrigerate for 2-3 hours.

Preheat the oven to 325°.

Shape the dough into balls, using about 1 teaspoon for each cookie. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes. Do not brown. Cool to room temperature, then roll in the extra confectioners' sugar.


Aaah, delicious. You better give some away quickly, or you'll be finishing them off yourself. Of course, you could just freeze some of them and pull them out next week.


Completely off the subject, fall is setting in, which means I'm listening to Loreena McKennitt again, something I only do in fall and winter, since her music is moody and melancholy and beautifully mystic. I love it in the fall, and I highly recommend picking up a cd. Or downloading it on iTunes.

2 comments:

michele said...

I think calling them Snowballs makes more sense than any of the other names. They don't look like any wedding cake I have ever seen. They do look more like snowballs. Here are a few more names they go by: Italian Butter Nut, Southern Pecan Butterball, Snowdrop and Viennese Sugar Ball. And there are still more...

mark said...

Mexican Wedding Cakes. How on earth could they be Russian Tea Cakes when almonds don't grow in Russia? (Almonds don't tolerate freezing temperatures.) For what it's worth, they aren't grown in Mexico either, just California (at least in N. America), but that used to be part of Mexico, so I am holding my ground on this one. :)