Wednesday, February 8, 2012

This Year's Cookie

Just about a year ago I was doing the exact same thing that I spent time doing today: Baking and putting together boxes of cookies to send to the boys for Valentine's Day. During the past several years of shipping care packages, I've been on a quest to find recipes that both travel well and retain their quality. It's an extra added bonus if they actually improve after a day or so in an airtight container, which sounds kind of odd, but I've found a couple of them that do.

Last year I sent pairs of chocolate cookies with vanilla buttercream sandwiched in between. (These ones really are better after one day in an airtight container I'm craving them.....) This year I made Russian Teacakes which is one of the many cookies that my Mom, siblings and I made growing up. For some reason, as a little girl, it was the name that got me. 'Russian Teacakes'. It sounded sort of exotic to me then and my imagination took off thinking about just what kind of a spread would be included at a Russian Tea. (And how the table would be set. And what the guests would be wearing.) I have since found that many countries and heritages have their own variation of this same cookie and that they appear in the dessert section of nearly every cookbook I own in one form or the other! There are different nut, spice or shape choices....and of course, unique and interesting names for each....but basically, they are all more similar than they are different.

The main difference between these and the ones we baked growing up are how I handled the nuts. Our family's recipe called for finely chopped walnuts. This morning I used pecans, toasted in the oven for about 10 minutes and then pulsed in the food processor until they were in bits much smaller than I could chop with a knife.

So today I measured and toasted and mixed. I rolled and baked and then rolled again. Although I tried to keep up with the cloud of powdered sugar that hung in the air, I should probably still swipe a quick mop over the floor. Next time I make these I just might get creative and experiment. I could possibly think of a unique spice to add or try changing the nut choice again. Adding lime or lemon zest sounds interesting to me and I'm just sure there is something I could do to make the dough chocolate.

Boys, watch your mailboxes....

Russian Tea Cakes

(I adapted this recipe after checking out variations on a few different websites and in a few different cookbooks..... and in my old standby, my Betty Crocker Cookbook. It made about 46 cookies)

1  cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar, divided
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour

1/4 tsp salt
1 cup pecans, toasted for 8-10 minutes in a 350 oven, then chopped fine in a food processor


Beat butter in a large bowl until fluffy. Add vanilla and 1/2 cup powdered sugar, then beat until well blended. Mix salt and flour in well, then stir in nuts. Wrap ball of dough in plastic or waxed paper, then chill for about 30 -40 minutes….Until dough is cold, but not so cold as to be unworkable.
Preheat oven to 350°F  (I ended up turning mine down to 325 after the first pan) and line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Put the remaining powdered sugar into a large bowl. 

Using a small cookie scoop (~ 2 1/2 teaspoonfuls)  measure dough and then roll into balls. (If you don't have a scoop, make balls about the size of a old fashioned way to eyeball the amount of dough needed!)

Place about 1/2 inch apart on baking sheet and bake until light brown on the bottom, about 10-12 minutes or what works best in your own oven.

Roll warm cookies, straight from the oven in a dish of powdered sugar to coat, then transfer to rack to cool completely.

Store airtight at room temperature.

Additional notes:
*Roll the warm cookies, about five at a time, in a large bowl of powdered sugar using two spoons. To prevent finger marks in the warm powdered sugar coating, lift them with a small metal spatula onto racks placed over waxed paper (to help with the clean up) to cool.
* Just a little bit of rolling around in the sugar does the trick. At first I thought I needed a heavier coating, but only a certain amount will stick anyway and too much messing around just made them look.....well....messy.
* I started with a 350 oven, but ended up turning it down to 325, so pay attention to the first batch.
* I just may try them with 1/4 cup less flour next time.

Wishing you a wonderful week ahead!



1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yum! One of my all time faves. I brought them to a potluck a couple of years ago and they were gone in minutes! --Michele

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