I was looking for a cookie that would ship well, to pack with the gifts I mailed out to my brother’s family. I wanted to do gingerbread cutouts, but I wasn’t sure they would arrive intact. I was flipping through a book called “Homemade Christmas” by Mary Harvey Gurley, when I saw the recipe for Mexican Wedding Cookies. I decided these would work for a couple of reasons. They are small and a bit firm, so they’re unlikely to arrive in pieces. Also, they look like little snowballs. My brother lives in a much warmer part of the country than I do, so they don’t get too much snow. I thought snowballs would be fun.
I did a quick search on Wikipedia to see why they were called Mexican Wedding Cookies but are so commonly served at Christmas. I didn’t learn much, but they are also known as Russian Tea Cakes. Since the name doesn’t seem fixed, I took the liberty of giving them a third name: New England Snowballs. I made enough changes to the original recipe that I felt justified. (“Homemade Christmas” is a great idea book, but the recipes are somewhat lacking.)
If you’ve never had this kind of cookie before, you’re in for a treat! They’re rich and buttery with just enough crunch, sweet enough for coffee and light enough for tea. A word of caution – it does tend to “snow” when you take a bite, so make sure to eat them over a plate or napkin.
- 1 1/2 cups pecans
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
- 1 large egg
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- About 1 cup confectioner’s sugar, for rolling
- Preheat oven to 350ºF. Toast pecans on a baking sheet for 7 minutes, or until fragrant. Let cool, then chop fine. Set aside.
- Cream together the butter and confectioner’s sugar. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until fluffy.
- Beat in flour, baking powder, salt and pecans.
- Cover the dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours or up to one week.
- Before taking the dough out of the refrigerator, preheat oven to 350ºF.
- Form the dough into approximately 1-inch balls (I used an #70 cookie scoop) and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 12 minutes, or until the bottom of the cookies just begins to brown.
- Immediately roll cookies in confectioner’s sugar and place on rack to cool. (The heat of the cookies will melt the sugar a bit, making the cookies very sticky.)
- When cooled, roll in sugar again and store in an airtight container.
You can make the dough several days ahead of time and keep it in the refrigerator.