As long as I can remember, these cookies have been a part of Christmas for my family. I don’t necessarily remember helping to bake them, or anything – I just know they were there, and they were delicious! At some point, as I got older, I asked for the recipe so I could start making them myself (probably about the time I started doing my own holiday baking to distribute to my friends), and I’ve made them every year since. They are, far and away, my favorite Christmas cookie. They look festive, all coated in powdered sugar, and they’re rich and buttery and nutty and just perfect!
There are about 1,000 names and different recipes for these cookies; some people call them Mexican Wedding Cookies, some call them Russian Tea Cookies, and surely some people have names for them I’ve never heard of. I like to call them Pecan Snowballs, because… they look like snowballs, and they’re filled with pecans. I never said I was creative. One reason I love my family recipe more than most is that, in the dough, you only use granulated, white sugar – no powdered sugar. Personally, I think that using powdered sugar in the dough lends a very chalky, gritty texture to the cookies, and I don’t really enjoy it. Just using granulated sugar gives the cookies a rich, buttery, shortbread-like texture that I can’t get enough of!
makes approximately 4 dozen
1 1/2 sticks salted butter
1/2 c sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 c flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 c ground pecans
1. Preheat your oven to 350°. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar.
2. Add the egg, and mix until well-combined. Add the vanilla, and mix to combine.
3. Add the salt and flour, and mix until just combined – stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl, if needed. When all the flour is just moistened and incorporated, add in the pecans and stir them into the dough.
4. Roll the dough into balls the size of a large marble, about 1″ across. Place them onto a baking sheet (I line mine with a silpat liner or parchment paper, but you can just use a plain, ungreased baking sheet if you’d like). They don’t really spread, so you don’t have to worry about giving them too much space on the sheet; I generally space mine about 1″ apart, and I can easily fit 2-3 dozen on each baking sheet.
5. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the bottoms of the cookies have browned slightly (the tops will not brown). Remove them from the oven, and allow them to cool for about 10 minutes. When they are still just a bit warm, roll them in the powdered sugar. If you notice the powdered sugar starting to melt or get a little goopy, give the cookies a few more minutes to cool.
If you can manage not to eat a dozen of these in the first hour after you’re done making them, you are a stronger person than I am. I literally can’t bake these unless I have somewhere for the majority of them to GO (this is where Crist chimes in to say “I’ll take them!”), or I will eat several dozen in the span of a couple days. And then I find myself lying on the couch, covered in powdered sugar, and slowly emerging from a sugar coma. It ain’t pretty.
These will keep well for a week or more (uh, if they last that long). I generally keep a pile of them on a cake plate, and after a day or two, I’ll move them to an airtight container. They also ship really well, as they’re not prone to crumbling or falling apart!
It’s finally COOKIE season!