Russian Tea Cakes

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Every year, right around Thanksgiving, my dryer starts to shrink all of my clothes and they all get tighter and tighter with each passing day. It’s weird, since I’ve lived in different houses and apartments and no matter how new or old the dryer is it breaks the same time each year. Then right around the middle/end of January my dryer starts to enlarge my clothes and they start to fit correctly again, especially the waist of my pants. Does anyone else have this problem?

On a completely unrelated note to my clothes shrinking, here is another dessert recipe (the fourth one this week)…

Russian Tea Cakes (aka Russian Tea Cookies, Mexican Wedding Cookies, butterballs, and probably other things) are little crumbly, sweet, nutty, concoctions of goodness. Packed with pecans and dusted with powdered sugar, they manage to be sweet, but not excessively so, and would be a welcome gift or dessert brought to a potluck. They’re versatile (delicious with pecans [my personal favorite], walnuts, hazelnut, macadamia, or probably any kind of nut) and are a great make ahead item as they store really well (in an airtight container at room temperature) for well over a week. They’re quite simple to make, only require a few ingredients, but somehow seem very complex.

Traditionally they’re small, spherical shapes that one could easily just pop in their mouth, but I like mine a bit larger than usual (and as a result, they tend to spread a bit). Why do I like them larger? Because cookies all have the same amount of calories regardless of their size, right?!?!? Why eat two small cookies with twice the calories of one large cookie? I have great logic…

Russian Tea Cakes

From Emeril Lagasse (although most recipes are practically the same)

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar, plus more for rolling cookies
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 heaping cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. On a parchment lined baking sheet, spread pecans out in an even layer. Place in preheated oven and bake for 5-7 minutes, or until aromatic (keep an eye on them as they can go from perfectly toasted to burnt rather quickly). Remove from baking sheet and let cool.

Lower oven to 325 degrees F.

In a food processor, pulse cooled pecans until finely ground (or very, very finely chop with a knife if you do not have a food processor).

Cream butter in a large mixing bowl. Add the vanilla then gradually add the 1/2 cup powdered sugar, beating until light and fluffy. In a medium bowl, sift the flour and salt (be sure to yell “BAM,” Emeril style), add gradually to the butter mixture. Add the pecans and mix well.

(Most recipes specify to chill the dough for a minimum of 30 minutes at this point. This particular recipe didn’t [and I forgot that I typically do chill the dough] so I formed the balls immediately. The dough was sticky, but I didn’t notice much change in quality between refrigerated v. non-refrigerated dough. So do whatever your heart desires.)

Shape the dough into 1 1/2-inch balls and place 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment of silicon mats. Bake for 20 minutes, or until edges are very lightly browned. Let cool for a few minutes before gently rolling in powdered sugar. Cool on wire racks before storing in an airtight container. I usually dust with additional powdered sugar before serving.

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