Thursday, December 16, 2010

Russian Tea Cakes

Call ‘em Russian Tea Cakes, Swedish Tea Cakes, Mexican Wedding Cookies, Italian Butter Nuts, Snowdrops (I’ve even heard Butterballs), but don’t call them Pfeffernüsse (even if you can figure out how to say it).  They look similar, but from what I can tell, the difference is that Pfeffernüsse has spices added (and sometimes molasses).

I should warn you before you read this recipe that it’s mostly metric.  That’s because I originally got this as a handout when I was a student at the French Culinary Institute.  As you know, the rest of the world has mastered the metric system (we gave up after a failed attempt to convert in the 70’s—I guess we Americans love our measuring cups and yard sticks too much). 

Speaking of love, I love many things: my family, friends, carbohydrates, using profanity when there are no kids around, and my digital kitchen scale.  If you cook with any frequency, I suggest you buy one too (they’re not very expensive).  While you’re at it, make sure you get one that weighs in both grams and ounces, you’ll thank me later.

I did attempt to convert this for you, but the measurements were just too screwy.

(Yield:  approx. 4 dozen cookies)

55 grams walnuts
90 grams sugar
225 grams unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
250 grams all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
confectioners' sugar

Preheat oven to 300º F.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
1.      Grind nuts with 1/3 of the sugar (30 grams) in food processor until finely ground.
2.      Paddle butter and remaining sugar (60 grams) until creamed.  Add vanilla extract; mix.  Add flour and salt; mix.  Add ground nuts; mix.
3.      Chill dough briefly.  Roll into small balls* and place on baking sheets, about 1 1/2 inches apart.
4.      Bake for about 20 minutes, or until lightly golden brown on top (bottoms should be more of a medium brown).
5.      Roll in powdered sugar while still warm.

*You can freeze the unbaked dough balls on a sheet pan and then transfer them to an airtight bag or container.  When you bake them, allow for extra time. 

sea of frozen dough balls
(I literally took this photo inside a ziploc bag fresh from my freezer)
there are always a few that get irreparably smudged and couldn't possibly
be given as a gift (it's your duty to make sure they don't go to waste)


Anonymous said...

Evelyn loves these! You already gave me this recipe last year, but thanks for posting it, now I don't have to try to remember where I put it.

Pfeffernuesse are a holiday specialty of mine. The recipe is coming next week on my blog. With a pretty nice story to boot. And yes, they have molasses, and LOTS of spices, including freshly ground black pepper!

Susan said...

That's exciting...I've never made Pfeffernuesse before, so I'm looking forward to your post! I'll link it to this one after it's posted. Fa, la, la!

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