Call them whatever you like–Mexican wedding cookies, Russian tea cakes, snowball cookies–these bite-sized cookies are the perfect addition to a holiday dessert plate, cookie exchange, or for enjoying by yourself snuggled next to the Christmas tree.
There are some foods that just remind me of Christmas. Sitting on the counter, waiting for the moment when my mom would declare a recipe complete and let me lick the bowl…mmm. Happy times.
Christmas always seems to be filled with more treats than I know what to do with, but I can’t stop myself from baking some of my favorites.
Last year I shared our family’s traditional German stollen recipe (from my dear Oma), and the easiest five-minute fudge you’ll ever make. That fudge made its way onto many cookie plates that were doorbell-ditched on the porches of friends and neighbors during the holidays.
Today, I want to share another one of my favorite Christmas treats. This one usually sat right beside the fudge on our cookie plates…snowball cookies!
You might know them as Mexican wedding cookies or Russian tea cakes, but they’re all the same basic idea–buttery shortbread mixed with nuts and then dusted with copious amounts of powdered sugar. The little snowball-like cookies that result are a perfectly festive winter treat.
They’re also great for getting kids involved in the kitchen. I have fond memories of rolling cookie after cookie in a little mountain of sweet “snow” (and licking my fingers afterward). Last week, when we made them, my boys had a great time helping me mix the ingredients, forming the balls, and covering them with sugar.
Word of caution: Keep an eye on your little helpers. After I had turned my back to do some dishes, I found my two little hooligans hunkered down in the corner of the kitchen with the container of powdered sugar between them. Some temptations are just too hard to resist, I guess.
Whether you’re looking for a great recipe to take to a neighborhood cookie exchange or you just want a festive treat to please your family, these cookies are a sure bet.
Snowball fight, anyone?
- 1 cup butter softened
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 1/4 cups flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup chopped nuts (I usually use pecans or walnuts)
- 1 cup additional powdered sugar for rolling (approximately)
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Soften your butter thoroughly. You don’t want any hard clumps.
- Mix butter, sugar, and vanilla thoroughly. Add flour, salt and chopped nuts. Stir until mixture is uniform.
- Roll into one inch balls and place on ungreased baking sheet (I like to line it with parchment for easy clean up).
- Bake 10 minutes, or until set but not browned. (Err on the side of underbaking. 10 minutes is perfect for my oven. If you overbake, your cookies will end up crumbly and dried out.
- While the cookies are still warm, roll in additional powdered sugar. Let them cool completely and then roll again.
- Store in an airtight container.
The dough in this recipe is pretty crumbly. When you finish mixing, you may be wondering what went wrong and why it’s so dry. Don’t worry; just press it together firmly using your hands or a cookie scoop and it will form nice, cohesive balls.
Can you freeze snowball cookie dough?
Yes! Snowball cookies are a great make-ahead treat. Just scoop the dough into cookie balls and then flash freeze them flat on a cookie sheet (this just takes an hour or so). Once they are frozen, you can transfer them to a plastic bag to save space. Flash freezing them this way just helps the cookies not to stick to each other in the bag.
When it’s time to bake, let the balls defrost thoroughly before baking. I find it’s best to set them on a parchment-lined cookie tray and let them sit on the counter for an hour or so. Once thawed, bake them as the recipe states.
Want more Christmas dessert ideas? Try these: