My mother is too nice a person to ever say, “I told you so” but I should know better by now. She’s always right. Always. It’s one of the things I love about her but when you like to be right once in a while as I do, it can also be frustrating. She’s been suggesting for weeks that I get a flu shot but I’m stubborn. One, I don’t like to see needles. Two, I don’t feel I need one. But would you like to guess who enjoyed the weekend and who has been home sick for the last few days?
Thankfully, I’m recovering just fine. The only loss was that most of my cooking plans for the weekend went by the wayside. So today, I decided to make one of my favorite treats: Russian tea cakes (aka Mexican wedding cookies). If I visit a sweet shop and these are on display, I will always choose them over the other options. They’re elegant little cookies, nutty and crumbly, too. But between you and me, it’s the powdered sugar coating that I love. It makes the cookies both delicately beautiful and delightfully messy to eat. I always end up rubbing the excess sweet powder off my face and clothes but I think that’s part of the fun.
There’s really not much to these little cookies. Chances are, you have all the ingredients available in your pantry. If you’re like me and have a tendency to collect boxes of confectioners sugar, you have no choice but to make these. They’re worth it. They’re two-bite delights though you won’t be able to eat just one. I lightly toasted the nuts before adding them to the mix and I think this lent a nuttier flavor to the cookies. The recipe also called for sifting the flour before measuring it, resulting in a lighter cookie. My taster’s take on these (since I can’t fully trust my taste buds yet): Good balance of flavors; not too sweet from the double layer of sugar, just nutty enough and no overpowering flour-y texture. That’s good enough for me.
Russian Tea Cakes
Adapted from Emeril Lagasse
- 1 cup butter at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup sifted powdered sugar, plus more for rolling cookies
- 2 cups flour, unsifted
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup finely chopped pecans (I toasted lightly in a pan for nuttier flavor)
Preheat oven to 325ºF
Cream butter in a large mixing bowl. Add the vanilla extract, mix again then slowly add the 1/2 cup powdered sugar. Beat until light and fluffy remembering to scrape the sides of the bowl periodically if using a stand mixer.
Sift the flour, measure two cups (scoop sifted flour into your cup and level with a knife, don’t pack the sifted flour into your cup) then sift again with the salt. Note that you won’t use all the flour you initially scooped out of your container before sifting. I ended up with a few tablespoons left over after sifting.
Add the flour gradually to the mixture. Add the pecans and mix well.
Shape the dough into 1-inch balls and place two inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. I used a slightly larger than 1-inch ice cream scoop and placed the balls over parchment paper-lined baking sheets.
Bake for 20 minutes or until the edges are very lightly browned. Remove the cookies from the baking sheets and roll in powdered sugar while still hot. Cool on a wire rack and roll once more in powdered sugar before serving.
The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to one week. Makes 40 – 48 cookies.