Sunday, June 2, 2013

Wedding Cookies

Wedding Cookies on plate with flower in background

AKA Russian Tea Cakes — these are addictive no matter what you call them

These tender almond cookies smothered in powdered sugar go by a lot of different names:  Mexican Wedding Cookies (or Polvorones); Russian Tea Cakes; Snowball Cookies; or Butterballs.  And there are probably more monikers.  But all essentially refer to the same cookie.

And all the names basically mean, “These are so good I want another, then another, and oh my gosh, I need another!”  Seriously — these things are worse than potato chips.  You can’t have just one.

And even though these are called “wedding” cookies, there’s no need to limit their consumption to June (the height of wedding season in the US).  They’d make a great Christmas cookie.  Perfect for baby showers too. 

In fact, once you try these, you’ll be thinking up your own excuses occasions to make them.


Wedding Cookies on black acrylic

Recipe:  Wedding Cookies

These cookies are pretty straightforward to make.  There are just a couple of key points to remember (we’ll reiterate them in the Procedure and Notes). 

First, oven temperature is important for this recipe.  Most ovens are off by at least a few degrees, so it’s worthwhile investing in an oven thermometer (you can get a perfectly decent one for under $10).  That said, as your oven cycles on and off, the temperature does vary a bit.  Don’t stress about it — you’ll be fine as long as the interior of the oven measures 325 degrees F once it’s preheated.

Second, don’t overbake!  This cookie is better slightly underdone than overdone.

Almond is classic for this cookie, but you can substitute other flavorings.  For example, in the Notes you can find a lemon variation.  

Mrs. Kitchen Riffs is the baker in our household, and this recipe is hers.  She adapted it from a King Arthur Flour recipe.

It takes about 15 or 20 minutes to mix the dough and form a sheet of cookies, plus another 15 minutes to bake.  Because you’ll be doing several batches, figure an hour and half total.  Maybe a bit more. 

This recipe yields about 4 to 5 dozen cookies, depending on how large you make them.

Ingredients

For the cookie dough:
  • 2¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • ½ cup confectioners' (powdered) sugar
  • 3 tablespoons superfine sugar (see Notes)
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • ¾ cup almond flour (see Notes)
For the coating:
  • ~1 to 2 cups confectioners' sugar
Procedure
  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F (see Notes).  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour and salt.  Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large mixing bowl, using a hand-held mixer), beat together the butter, both sugars, the vanilla extract, and the almond extract.
  4. Beat in the almond flour, then the all-purpose flour mixture.
  5. Scoop walnut-sized (~1-inch diameter) pieces of dough (I use a #60 disher; see Notes), and roll them into balls.  Place the dough balls on the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 1 inch of space between them.
  6. Bake the cookies for 15 minutes, or until they are just becoming firm on top.  Do not overbake.  If in doubt, take them out (see Notes).
  7. Coat with confectioners' sugar while still warm (see Notes).


Wedding Cookies on napkin with flower in background

Notes
  • If you don't have superfine (caster) sugar on hand, you can make it easily.  Just place some granulated white sugar in the food processor, and grind for a minute or so.
  • You can often find almond flour in the “gluten free” section of the supermarket.  Or you can order it online (check Amazon.com or other sites that carry baking products).
  • I like Honeyville almond flour, but other brands work too.  In most parts of the US, the most readily available brand is probably Bob’s Red Mill.
  • Oven temperature is important for these cookies, so use an oven thermometer (most home ovens tend to be off by 20 degrees or more).
  • I’ve used all sorts of baking sheets for making cookies over the years, including expensive insulated sheets.  Nowadays, I just use 11 x 17-inch (jelly roll) pans with 1-inch sides, and line them with parchment paper.  They provide ample surface space and the sides keep the cookies from slipping off.  I can’t say I’ve noticed much difference in quality.  Although some of the fancier sheets theoretically make for better results, none of them are likely to perform as advertized in the typical home oven, where baking conditions are sub-optimum at best.  So I just go with what’s easiest to use — and quickest to clean up.
  • A #60 disher (scoop) digs out just the right amount of dough for each cookie.  (It’s called a #60 disher because the bowl is sized so that each scoop is about 9/16th of an ounce, or a little over 1 tablespoon.  Thus, you’ll get 60 scoops per quart of dough — or whatever — when you use this size disher.)
  • Just to re-emphasize:  You really don’t want to overbake these cookies — they dry out quickly, losing flavor and texture in the process.
  • To coat the cookies, I generally just pour powdered sugar into a plastic bag, add the cookies to the bag, and bounce them around (gently).
  • Powdered sugar tends to melt into these cookies when they’re warm.  So you may want to coat them again before serving.
  • To make a lemon-flavored version of these cookies, increase the amount of confectioners’ sugar to 1 cup (as opposed to ½ cup in the original recipe), increase the superfine sugar to 4 tablespoons (from 3 tablespoons in the original), reduce the vanilla extract to 1 teaspoon (1½ teaspoons in the original), eliminate the almond extract, and instead add the juice and zest of 1 large or 2 medium lemons.  The Procedure is identical.
  • I’ve said it in other posts, but will repeat myself:  You should use high quality (pure) vanilla extract in this recipe.  Its flavor is so much better than the imitation kind.
  • Pure vanilla extract is made by soaking vanilla beans in a mixture of water and alcohol for several months.  BTW, the FDA requires that pure vanilla extract contain at least 35% alcohol.  If the label doesn’t say “pure,” that means it’s made from synthetic vanilla.  The artificial kind is usually derived from the sapwood of several species of conifers — or from coal extracts!  How appetizing (not).
  • The flavor of some imitation vanillas can be nasty.  You don’t have to spend a fortune on pure vanilla extract, but getting decent quality does mean spending a bit more for something that’s not loaded with sugar or imitation flavoring.  Do yourself a favor and get the real stuff.
  • BTW, have I mentioned that you don’t want to over bake these cookies?  You really don’t.  (To quote Mrs. Kitchen Riffs, “I should know.  I’ve over baked enough batches!”)
Wedding Cookie, overhead view

Goin’ to the Chapel . . . And We’re Gonna Sip Sparkly

“Umm, great cookies,” I said.  “They really do melt in your mouth.”

“Merci mille fois,” answered Mrs. Kitchen Riffs.  “So we’ve done the Bridal Cocktail and now these Wedding Cookies.  We’re developing quite a matrimonial menu.”

“Yes, and next time — for the Summer Sippin’ Series — we’ll be featuring a classic brunch drink that’s also wedding-appropriate,” I said between bites. “The Mimosa.”

“Good thing!” said Mrs K R. “I thought we’d never get around to a post with champagne.  It’s the thing I like best about weddings, you know.  And we really don't drink enough of it.”

“Well, you’re in luck,” I replied.  “We’ll be sampling several sparkling wines — for cocktail making purposes, of course.”

“Excellent," said Mrs K R. “I was afraid I’d have to become a wedding crasher just to get my ration of bubbly.”

You may also enjoy reading about:
Black Walnut Sandies
Walnut Roll Cake
Walnut Apple Crisp
Microwave Peanut Butter Fudge
Chocolate Fudge with Nutella
Peanut Butter Cookies
Ultimate Chocolate Brownie
Chocolate Drop Cookies
Chocolate Pepper Cookies
Zabaglione
Homemade Meringues

94 comments:

  1. It makes me want it just from looking. And name is lovely as well. I don't have any wedding to cook for but I'll have a wedding anniversary soon :)

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    1. Hi Marta, these would be perfect for an anniversary! So of course you have to have them. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  2. I love these! I have them as a Christmas cookie on my blog but totally forgot they are also Wedding bites.. and how beautiful for a wedding dessert table they would be!! I also love your photos, so pretty!!

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    1. Hi Barb, we actually think of these more as a Christmas cookies too. But they are so appropriate for a wedding, as of course is obvious from their name. Or one of their names! Thanks for the comment.

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  3. I've usually seen these as Christmas cookies too, although to be fair I've also seen them as wedding cookies. I had them once made with lemon instead of almond, it was tremendous.

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    1. Hi Bob, the lemon version is quite good. But lemon is one of my favorite flavors, so of course I'd like it! Thanks for the comment.

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  4. In Alabama, we made them for Christmas, called them Sand Tarts, and used pecans.

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    1. Hi Sage Trifle, I've seen pecan versions of these - great idea. Thanks for the comment.

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  5. Mmmm, I have never tried these cookies before but I am certainly not waiting till a wedding ;)

    Cheers
    CCU

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    1. Hi Uru, this is a terrific cookie - I think you'd really like it. Plus they're fun to make. Thanks for the comment.

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  6. Oh, these are one of my favorite cookies! I don't add almond extract and use finely chopped pecans instead of almond flour. I'm going to have to test your version!

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    1. Hi Liz, aren't these good? The almond version is wonderful, although I don't believe I've ever had the pecan version - something to try! Thanks for the comment.

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  7. Yes, they are addicting! I love your pictures and your notes section is really helpful. :)

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    1. Hi Tina, aren't they addicting? I can eat way too many of these! Thanks for the comment.

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  8. I've had these before and yes, they are as highly addictive as potato chips. I've had that 'accident' with them though where you breath in as you take a bite and the powder goes down your throat and you end up in a choking fit. These have to be approached with caution! xx

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    1. Hi Charlie, I haven't had that accident with these, but not that you bring it up I can see how that could happen! One of the dangers of powdered sugar. Thanks for the comment.

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  9. no weddings in my diary for some time but im still making these!

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    1. Hi milkteaxx, no need to wait for a wedding - today's Sunday, which should be reason enough to make them. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  10. I have never made these cookies before, but I have eaten them and they are very addictive. Your cookies and pictures look perfect.

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    1. Hi Dawn, these are pretty easy to make, and a lot of fun - worth doing. And they really are addictive, aren't they? Thanks for the kind words, and comment.

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  11. YUM! My mom and I make these for Christmas each year! I didn't know they were called wedding cookies. And I totally agree...you can't eat just one.

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    1. Hi Shut Up and Cook, these have a lot of different names! But wedding cookies is one of them. And they're so addictive, aren't they? ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  12. Hi KR,

    I didn't know that polvorones are also known as Mexican wedding cookies. Nice to know too that these cookies are better being under-done.

    Great tips!

    Zoe

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    1. Hi Zoe, recipe names can be kind of all over the place, can't they? And slightly underdone is definitely better than overdone - this is one of those cookies you want to do some taste testing as you bake, to find the sweet spot for your oven. Thanks for the comment.

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  13. We always called them "snowballs" in our family. I never even knew there were so many names for them until this past year! I was living under a rock, I guess ;) These are my favorite cookie around Christmas time, especially, and yours look great!

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    1. Hi Ashley, we've often had these around Christmas, too (we probably eat more than half our annual cookie consumption between Thanksgiving and New Years!). Isn't it interesting this cookie has so many names? Thanks for the comment.

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  14. These are one of my all time favorite cookies to make, give, and consume! :D I make them and pack as homemade gift in Christmas along with some other cookies. They are always the one people ask for more! :) Glad you like them so much too.

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    1. Hi Amy, these are a terrific cookie, aren't they? Totally fun to make, more fun to eat. ;-) Happy you're a kindred spirit when it comes to these! Thanks for the comment.

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  15. Those are some of my favorite cookies! A classic Christmas cookie...

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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    1. Hi Rosa, I tend to see these in stores most often during Christmas, too. A great cookie! Thanks for the comment.

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  16. I could easily go for a few of these delicious cookies! Dangerous, but oh so good!

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    1. Hi Kiran, truly dangerous but so wonderful! Thanks for the comment.

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  17. Oh, how yummy! Do you deliver, John? ; )

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    1. Hi Lizzy, I wish I could deliver! Think how much fun that'd be. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  18. I can just imagine eating lots of these at a sitting. I have had them in the past and I can remember the lovely almond flavour. The lemon version would be very interesting to try.

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    1. Hi Suzanne, the lemon is excellent! Tough to decide between it and the lemon, though - the almond may have the edge. Thanks for the comment.

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  19. These always remind me of showers. :) Love the tips and the conversations with Mrs. Riffs.

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    1. Hi Debra, a fun cookie for sure, and great for any occasion. Those conversations are always loads of fun to write. Thanks for the comment.

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  20. These look divine....and your photography is stunning!

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    1. Hi Chris, it's a great cookie. Thanks for the kind words, and comment.

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  21. These are my daughter's favorite. Sometimes I even make them with a mixture of cocoa and powdered sugar. Don't know what those are called! Good job, Mrs. KR!

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    1. Hi Abbe, your daughter has excellent taste! Mrs K R has played with coating this with cocoa also. Thanks for the comment.

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  22. Hi John, I have not try this cookies but it certainly look fantastic and addictive. Please send me 1 dozen, please! :))

    Excellent photography skill. You're good.
    Have a great week ahead,regards.

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    1. Hi Amelia, they're great. And I wish I could send you a dozen, but they're all gone! ;-) Thanks for the kind words, and comment.

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  23. Any cookie or pastry that has almond flavoring goes to the head of the line of my favorites. I know these as Christmas cookies, too, John, and remember trying to sneak one from the cookie tray Mom set out for guests. I never got away with it until I learned the ways of powdered sugar. Now, that was a good day!
    Thanks, John, for the recipe and memories. :)

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    1. Hi John, I can see why so many people remember these from Christmas - they really do seem so appropriate for winter (and of course one of their names is Snowballs!). And I've had them more for Christmas, too - never for a wedding! A nice cookie for anytime. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  24. When I was a kid my mom called them snowballs and they were a part of (ironic) Florida Christmas celebrations. Here in Los Angeles we call the Mexican Wedding cakes. Delicious on both coasts! GREG

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    1. Hi Greg, we used to live in Florida too - I loved the Christmas lights on the palm trees! Thanks for the comment.

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  25. Yummy, John - these have always been my favorite Christmas cookie, but I don't make myself wait until December to enjoy them - good any time of year!

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    1. Hi Donalyn, these definitely are good anytime of the year! Whereas some Christmas cookies - Gingerbread Boys, for example - just seem wrong eaten out of season. Thanks for the comment.

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  26. Replies
    1. Hi Alyssa, aren't these a great looking cookie? And delish, too. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  27. You're full of fun facts--June is the peak wedding season! I had no idea. Well, these sound perfect, then, although I'm sure I could gobble them up any time... :)

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    1. Hi Ala, I definitely wouldn't save these for a wedding. I'd serve them anytime for any reason - say, because gosh, it's 20 after the hour! thanks for the comment.

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  28. There is no telling how many of these cookies my husband could eat if a plate was set down in front of him. :)

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    1. Hi Karen, I hate to say it, but I share your husband's weakness! Thanks for the comment.

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  29. They are absolutely delectable treats to enjoy anytime!!!! Thanks for posting the lemon version too.

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    1. Hi Shibi, the lemon version is definitely worth trying. Thanks for the comment.

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  30. Smile. You are so right. I can NEVER get enough of these cookies. My mom makes them around the holidays, and I have to tell her to hide them from me. This is a lovely recipe, and now I'm wanting to wake up early tomorrow morning to bake a batch of my own. Thank you for sharing!!

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    1. Hi Monet, aren't these dangerously addictive? ;-) But so great! Thanks for the comment.

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  31. These are MY FAVORITE COOKIES IN THE WHOLE WORLD!! I'm serious! I can't stop eating them if they are in front of me! Now you inspired me to make myself a batch (it has been a while!) :)

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    1. Hi Kristi, aren't these wonderful? Enjoy making a batch! Sorry about the temptation. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  32. Oh, yum! Can't wait to read about the mimosas! I think I might have over baked mine as I remember these to be rather dry cookies. They really are festive, all dusted in white powdered sugar!

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    1. Hi Laura, Mrs K R can't wait for the Mimosas either! If you overbake these, they do get a bit dry. And they really are festive, aren't they? Thanks for the comment.

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  33. Are you two planning an anniversary without telling us?

    I love these cookies but I know not to eat them while wearing anything black. I walk around with icing sugar on my shelf. :)

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    1. Hi Maureen, no upcoming anniversary - just posting about a seasonally-appropriate cookie. ;-) You're right about eating these while wearing a dark color - not a cool move at all. Thanks for the comment.

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  34. These sound so good, would love to try them!

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    1. Hi Caroline, they're an excellent cookie and really worth making. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  35. Hi John! These are perhaps my favorite type of cookie. I love the lemon variation you suggested and think it sounds perfect for a summer theme. Great matrimonial series you've been sharing, perhaps it's time to start up a wedding catering business?:)

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    1. Hi Nancy, LOL at the wedding catering biz! The lemon versions definitely is a nice summer cookie (winter, too!). Thanks for the comment.

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  36. We make these every year at Christmas, though I've never used almond flour in them, so I'll have to try that. As you mentioned, they are quite addictive and there always has to be that first one (still warm), eaten before the second coating of sugar. :)

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    1. Hi Judy, only one eaten (warm) before the second coating of sugar? ;-) It's really worth getting some almond flour to use in these - wonderful flavor. Thanks for the comment.

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  37. This really looks soft and moist, nice one!

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    1. Hi Raymund, these are really nice! Well worth having. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  38. I tell you what I'm gonna do with those cookies; I'll store 'em in an air-tight jar for my grand children to see. And I'd tell them with all my vanity, "Look! People in our era used to create sinful, beautiful 'magic' in their kitchen. And what to you create? ...dieting pills and shit like that?!"

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    1. Hi Suborna, I expect these would be eaten long before your grandchildren got to see them! Of course you could always bake them a batch. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  39. I love wedding cookies, but I've never made them myself. Yours look wonderful. And I definitely got the message about "don't over bake"!

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    1. Hi Beth, these are both easy and fun to make - you'd enjoy it. Glad you got the message not to over bake! Thanks for the comment.

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  40. Oh, these are one of my favorite cookies ever! Your photos are stunning and have me craving a plate of them now. :)

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    1. Hi Hannah, aren't these nice? Sorry about that craving thing. ;-) Thanks for your kind words, and comment.

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  41. How did I miss this recipe....Wedding cookies are one of my favourite cookies. My mom would always make them around x-mas for some reason but why not eat wedding cookies for wedding. The good news for the bride is that wearing white she does not need to worry about getting powdered frosting all over her dress it will just fade into the dress.

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    1. Hi Bam, I see these in stores at lot around Christmas, not so much other times. Good point about the bride's dress! Thanks for the comment.

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  42. I add finely chopped pecans and we call these cookies pecan balls in my family. They are irresistible. Love the close up shot that shows the texture of these cookies.

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  43. Hi Holly, pecans sound good! Great cookie, isn't it? Thanks for the comment.

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  44. There's only one possible word for this: YUM! :P (You can't have too many DON'T OVERBAKE warnings. But argh! I always do... I always think: This looks too undercooked... just a couple of minutes more... and 3 more... just 1.... oops!) :D

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    1. Hi Alex, yeah, sometimes you really don't want to overbake things! Certainly not this cookie. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  45. These cookies look beautiful and incredibly tasty! I tried these once a long time ago and thanks to your beautiful picture I crave them now... :-)

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    1. Hi Baltic Maid, always happy to indue cravings! ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  46. These cookies have been on my list of cookies to try forever. I just worry that if I made them resistance will be useless :)

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    1. Hi Sawsan, resistance definitely is futile when it comes to these! Which, of course, is why you should make them. ;-) Thanks for your comment.

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  47. These look great, you know I am going to have to invest in a thermometer for my oven, I never think that is on the right temperature.
    I would love to try these with lemon.

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    1. Hi Lizzie, it's really worth getting a thermometer - I've never had an oven thermostat that was accurate. No big deal if you know what the actual oven temperature is - you just adjust. The lemon version of these are quite good - I think you'd enjoy. Thanks for the comment.

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  48. These cookies look so buttery and moreish! I would love to give them a go!

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    1. Hi Christine, careful - these are really addictive! But such a pleasant addiction. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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