These dense yet tender nut-based cookies coated with powdered sugar are also known as Mexican wedding cookies and Russian tea cakes.
These cookies keep beautifully when stored in an air-tight container—up to 2 weeks, easily. Perhaps that’s why they’re so popular come cookie platter season, aka Christmas.
- 1/2 cup pecan or walnut halves
- 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar divided
- 1/8 teaspoon teaspoon salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- Preheat an oven to 350°F. Lay the nuts on a baking sheet and bake until toasted, about 10 minutes. Set a timer and watch them closely—nuts can go from toasted to burnt in the blink of an eye. Set the nuts aside to cool.
- Once cool, put the nuts, 1 cup of the sugar, and the salt in a food processor. Pulse until the nuts are finely ground.
- Cut the butter into 1-tablespoon chunks and drop them in the food processor. Pulse to combine with the ground nuts. Drizzle in the vanilla and pulse a few times. Add the flour and pulse to combine to form a dough.
- Roll the dough into 1-tablespoon balls and set them on an ungreased baking sheet (feel free to line the sheets with parchment paper for easy clean up).
- Bake until just turning golden, about 15 minutes.
- Put the remaining powdered sugar in a wide shallow bowl. Roll the cookies in the sugar to coat them and set them on a cooling rack. When the cookies are completely cool, roll them in the sugar for a second time for a brilliantly white snowy coat.
Handle the dough as little as possible to keep them tender. Using pecans is more traditional and leads to a sweeter, more tender cookie. Walnuts, however, have a bit more oomph of flavor, and their flavor stands up a bit more to all the sugar. Either way, note that toasting the nuts isn’t necessary, but it does add a deeper, nuttier flavor to the final cookies.