Saturday, December 24, 2011

Russian Tea Cakes

A few years ago I was really stuck for Christmas gift ideas for the Boy’s parents. I’ve always loved an excuse to get busy in the kitchen, and being rather addicted to food blogs at the time I thought it’d be fun to make a Christmas hamper full of homemade goodies. I bought little baskets from Ikea and tucked all my paper packets of biscuits, cakes, and mulled ciders into them, and although I can’t remember everything that went into my homemade hamper that year, these biscuits were definitely the stand outs. When I asked the Boy how the hamper had gone down with the ‘rentals he said that his mother couldn’t get enough of these biscuits, and from then on I’ve popped a batch in their Christmas box every year, and brought another fresh batch along when we go round to their house for New Year’s Day lunch. They have become a Christmas staple.
Some people call these Mexican Wedding cakes or snowball cookies, but I’ve been calling them Russian tea cakes since I first made them six years ago. They’re buttery, crumbly, not too sweet, and melt in your mouth delicious. And perhaps more importantly, they’re a doddle to make. Always handy in the festive season when you have several simultaneous bakes on the go.
I can’t remember where I found this recipe, it might have been on a blog, it might be a hash of several different recipes I liked the sound of. What I do know is that I lost this recipe one or two years after I first found it, and that year I had to resort to another recipe, and for some reason or other I wasn’t overly thrilled with the results. I was so happy when my original recipe showed up again, so I’m typing it out here for posterity in case my original handwritten copy ever goes walkabouts again!
Russian Tea Cakes
(makes 36 – although I made mine rather large this year and only ended up with 27)
225g softened unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (see how to make your own vanilla extract here)
6 tablespoons icing sugar
250g plain flour
120g chopped walnuts/pecans
40g icing sugar to dust
Preheat oven to Gas mark 4/175°C
  1. In a medium bowl cream butter and vanilla until smooth.
  2. Combine the the 6 tablespoons of icing sugar and flour. Stir into the butter mixture until just blended.
  3. Mix in the chopped nuts.
  4. Roll dough into 1 inch balls and place them 2 inches apart on a baking tray.
  5. Bake for 12-15 minutes until they are just golden on the bottom. Transfer tray over to wire cooling racks, and while still warm roll the cookies in the icing sugar.
  6. Let cool completely and roll again in icing sugar to give a second layer.
  7. Scoff and enjoy! 
  • For extra flavour try toasting the nuts, but be sure to let them cool before you add them to the dough.
  • Sometimes I’m too lazy to roll the dough and get it all over my hands, so I simply press and shape a ball using two spoons.
  • Similarly for rolling the biscuits in icing sugar, the high butter content in the biscuits (whilst making them utterly delicious) can cause them to melt a little in warm fingers which can get a little messy if you’re rolling them in icing sugar by hand. Instead I like to pop a couple of tablespoons of icing sugar into a bowl and use a couple of spoons to roll the biscuits around in the sugar. This also has the added benefit of allowing you to “pour” the icing sugar over the biscuits which sometimes coats them a little bit better.
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