Cakes? It is a slight mystery why these are called Russian tea cakes and not cookies, but no matter the name, they are delicious. How can you go wrong with toasted pecans, brown butter and sugar? The texture is like a shortbread cookie that is taken to new heights by the richness of the nuts. They are typically served at the holidays, maybe because they look like little snow balls, and at special occasions, like weddings, as the name suggests. This holiday my aunt Kristin, who is my pastry muse, requested them. It is ridiculous that my house isn’t stocked with them all year round. The recipe is so simple and the results so incredible. Thanks to Kristin my cookie jar is now full. They make a great gift because they pack up well and actually improve with a bit of time, which can’t be said for many cookies.
Mexican Wedding Cakes (Russian Tea Cookies):
2 cups (7 1/2 oz) pecans, lightly toasted and cooled
1/2 cup (2 oz) confectioners’ sugar, for processing nuts
4 cups (18 oz) bleached all-purpose flour (measured with spoon and sweep)
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 sticks (1 pound) unsalted butter, browned, strained and cooled to room temperature.
1 1/2 cups (6 oz) confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups (8 oz) confectioners’ sugar, for dipping the cookies
To make the cookies:
preheat oven to 350°F, with the racks at the top and lower third of oven. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
In a food processor pulse the nuts and 1/2 cup of confectioners’ sugar until they are a fine meal.
In a large bowl combine the nut mixture, flour and salt with a whisk.
In a stand mixer, with the paddle attachment, cream the browned butter and 1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed until all the dry ingredients are incorporated.
Using a small ice cream scoop, portion out the dough and roll them in your palms to create round balls. Position them on the lined cookie sheet so they have about 1 1/2 inches between them.
Bake for about 12 minutes (rotate the trays and switch from top to bottom, half way through the baking), until the bottoms are golden and the tops set, but pale. The tops will crack slightly.
Allow the cookies to cool completely before you roll them in the confectioners’ sugar. If you roll them too soon the sugar will melt and get clumpy.
Dip the cookies a few at a time in the sugar. Dip them again right before you pack or serve them.
Enjoy more holiday baking ideas:
I recently had an incredibly fun chat with Joy Estelle Summers from City Pages. We talked about everything from growing up on a commune, to my true feelings about fussy dessert garnishes, and how those things lead to me being a pastry chef. To read the full interview you can visit Hot Dish.