These rich and crumbly little rounds go by all sorts of names: Mexican wedding cakes, Russian tea cookies or cakes, Swedish tea cookies, butterballs, snowballs or – in our family – simply Mom’s nut balls.
I don’t really care what you call them – as long as this is the recipe: finely chopped nuts in a buttery dough twice rolled in or dusted with powdered sugar.
You can even use different nuts.
Emeril Lagasse uses pecans or walnuts and calls them Russian. Martha Stewart uses pecans, adds cinnamon and calls them Mexican.
They can be made with macadamia nuts and almonds, too – or a combination. Betty Crocker doesn’t specify, simply calling for “chopped nuts.” Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen suggests pecans, hazelnuts or “other nuts.” How about pine nuts?
Whatever nuts you choose, the recipe comes together fairly quickly and is super simple.
Mom’s recipe, a classic in our family, comes from the 1981 Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook. It calls for filberts, aka hazelnuts. In fact, the cookbook calls them filbert balls.
But Mom said she just uses whatever nuts she happens to have on hand, usually almonds or walnuts or both – and sometimes macadamia nuts, too. Rarely does she actually use hazelnuts.
She doesn’t make these all too often. But when she does they’re a hit. They are – at least to me – quite possibly the perfect holiday cookie.
Of course, I like them all year round. They’re a longtime favorite and pair perfectly with tea or coffee. The buttery little balls seem to dissolve in your mouth, and they’re practically impossible to enjoy without giving yourself a dusting a powdered sugar on the floor or front of your shirt or, at the very least, corners of your mouth.
So, as Mom would holler, be sure to “Take a plate!”
From the 1981 Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook
1 cup butter or margarine, softened (butter is best)
½ cup sifted powdered sugar, plus more for rolling
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped filberts
In a mixing bowl, cream butter or margarine and ½ cup powdered sugar until light and fluffy; blend in water and vanilla. Stir in the flour and chopped filberts. For easier handling, cover dough and chill about 30 minutes.
Shape into 1-inch balls; place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes. Cool slightly; sift powdered sugar over cookies.
Note: This recipe doesn’t call for a double dusting of powdered sugar, but most do. Do the first one when the cookies are cooled slightly; take another go at it once they are cooled completely. Store in an airtight container.
Yield: about 4 dozen