Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Buttery Tea Balls

Buttery Tea Balls - first made many years ago

Remember when I said I don't like nuts in cookies or brownies? Well, this is one of those exceptions where you not only add nuts to these cookies but they taste much better with them than without, for both flavor and texture.

I got this recipe from my cousin Bernadette who lives in Canada and also likes to bake. The original recipe name for these are Buttery Tea Balls but they're also known as Mexican Wedding Cakes. Essentially, they're a buttery shortbread-type cookie with toasted pecans, rolled in powdered sugar while they're still warm, then rolled again once they've cooled. The powdered sugar not only adds sweetness but also gives this cookie a melt-in-your-mouth quality.

This cookie only takes minutes to whip up, is easy to make ahead of time, ships well, and looks good when served at parties, making them an ideal cookie for the busy holiday baking season. A couple of simple tips when making this recipe: First, toast the nuts to bring out their flavor. This cookie doesn't have a lot of ingredients so what you do use should be tasty. Second, don't overbake these as they will dry easily and be crumbly rather than melt in your mouth. Lastly, don't be afraid to roll them in powdered sugar. The first layer of sugar will almost melt into the cookie when they're rolled warm but that's okay. You'll roll them again once the cookies are cool and the second layer will adhere, giving them a pretty white coating. Don't roll them too much though - you don't want them completely whited-out. Let some of the cookie peek through the sugar coating. And sift the powdered sugar before rolling the cookies. Then you don't have to worry about pesky lumps of sugar sticking to the cookies.

½ lb unsalted butter at room temperature
4 cups confectioners’ sugar, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ¼ cups flour
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup finely chopped pecans

1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
2. In a large bowl, mix the butter, ½ cup sugar, vanilla, flour, salt and nuts until they form a dough. Roll the dough into 1” balls in the palm of your hand.
3. Place on ungreased baking sheets and bake for 10-12 minutes or until the bottoms are slightly brown.
4. To coat: Place the remaining 3 ½ cups sugar in a shallow dish. Using a spatula, remove the balls from the baking sheets and while still hot, roll them around in the sugar. Let cool and roll again

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