Tuesday, December 29, 2009

When in Russia...or Mexico

Ok, so I know I said move over cookies, but you should know me well enough by now to know that I didn’t really mean it. And besides, when I said it, I was in a sugar coma from these buttery little balls of heaven and needed a good stiff Brussels sprout to cut the richness of the platter of these I had just consumed (pretty much single handedly).

I know, I know… we’ve all been eating these guys for years. We call them snowballs or Russian teacakes, or Mexican wedding cookies, and moms have been rolling these in powdered sugar and serving them up during the holidays for generations. At least that’s what everyone at Food 52 told me when I posted my recipe for them. But most people probably don’t add cinnamon and fresh ground nutmeg to the buttery-nutty dough, or a heap of orange zest to the powdered sugar coating…which is probably why my spicy-sweet version was an editor’s pick in the holiday cookie contest!

While you folks may have been tucking these decadent butter balls into your holiday stockings for years, my family wasn’t. The closest thing we had to these growing up were Oma’s walnut crescents, which were similar and amazing (my favorite Oma cookie) but different than the typical ball of walnutty dough rolled in powdered sugar. Actually, I didn’t even try one of these goodies until college… and I didn’t call it a snowball or serve it during the holidays or with Russian tea. I called it a Mexican Wedding Cookie, and served it to a room of classmates.

For a Spanish oral presentation, I did a report on the tradition of Mexican Weddings… mainly so that I could try my hand at Mexican Wedding Cookies. It turns out that Mexican weddings aren’t much different than American weddings, and that my Spanish isn’t much better than that of a two year old. Good thing I brought in the cookies, otherwise I probably would have failed the presentation altogether! If only I had a batch of those cookies to save me from my awful Spanish the first time I was in Mexico, the whole ‘Beach-Party Tequila Incident of 2007’ might have been avoided!

So, without further ado, and before you start asking questions about the tequila incident…here’s the recipe! Hurry and make these before Friday, as they’ll surely break all of your New Year’s Resolutions!

Orange Spice Russian-Mexican-Teacake-Wedding-Snowball Cookies
Makes 2 dozen-ish

1 cup butter-softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
6 tablespoons confectioners (powdered) sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
1/3 cup powdered sugar
zest of 1 orange

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and vanilla until smooth. Mix together flour, 6 T sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Stir into butter mixture until just blended (will seem flakey and powdery). Mix in walnuts. Form dough into 1 inch balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 12 minutes. Transfer to wire cooling rack. Mix together remaining powdered sugar and orange zest. When balls are cool enough to touch (but still warm), roll in powdered sugar, they’ll get a gooey frosting like coating. Once balls have completely cooled, roll once more in powdered sugar. Enjoy with a cup of tea, at a wedding, or during the holidays.
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