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
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.
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)
- ~1 to 2 cups confectioners' sugar
- Preheat the oven to 325°F (see Notes). Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour and salt. Set aside.
- 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.
- Beat in the almond flour, then the all-purpose flour mixture.
- 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.
- 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).
- Coat with confectioners' sugar while still warm (see 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!”)
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.”
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