Thursday, December 8, 2011

Christmas Cookie Blunders

Christmas cookies have become a tradition in our house almost as important as putting up the tree and decorating it. The kids are excited to hear which cookies I've picked each year as the stars of our Christmas cookie lineup and even more so to sample them and have them easily accessible for the few weeks before this joyous holiday.
One of our favorite cookies are snowballs. They are melt-in-your-mouth little domes of sugary bliss. With ground nuts blended in, they are more commonly known as mexican wedding cakes. The powdered sugar incorporated into this dough makes them so delicate that they do indeed literally melt in your mouth. I think we all prefer the nutty versions of these cookies - as we prefer the nuttier versions of most everything (not limited to edible things)... :-) You can really use whatever nut you desire. My favorites are hazelnuts and almonds but pecans, walnuts, and pistachios would do well too.
One evening this week, my son, unaware of my excessively long list of things to do, requested homemade cookies. I couldn't turn him down because well, who in their right mind could turn down cookies? We were feeling the holiday spirit and Christmas isn't Christmas without cookies....! I asked him if he wanted snowballs and he eagerly said yes. After searching high and low for my recipe and not having any luck I decided to throw together the ingredients from memory and cross my fingers.

As you can plainly see from the picture above, the result was NOT a snowball nor a mexican wedding cake. The cookies spread in the oven causing them to look more like a traditional sugar cookie than anything else. Of course this is in part because I forgot to refrigerate the dough before throwing the cookies into the oven. In my defense, I was trying to make these cookies while figuring out what I was going to prepare for dinner, so I was a bit distracted. Nevertheless, the cookies spread and when I pulled them out and took a bite, I was pleasantly surprised by the result. The cookie was a crispy-on-the-outside, chewy-on-the-inside nutty sugary cookie that was quite delightful! To make sure I was not imagining it, I let the kids taste them. Though they were disappointed they didn't get the cute little powdered sugar-coated snowball shapes that they are so accustomed to at this time of year, they loved them and their samples disappeared before I could say "Time for dinner!" A happy accident! I was so pleased with this cookie that I have decided to share the recipe with all of you. In fact, I've added it to my cookie aresenal and I am excited to try it again with different nuts.

Leelabean's Nutty Snow Flurry Cookies

1/2 cup nuts, ground - pistachios, walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, almonds (I used almonds, here)
1 cup confectioner's sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
more confectioner's sugar (for dusting)

Whisk together the ground nuts, confectioner's sugar, flour and salt in a bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and vanilla extract together until light. Slowly incorporated the flour/nut mixture until just combined. Roll into 1" balls and space evenly 2" apart on a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 12 - 15 minutes or until the edges start to lightly brown. Let the cookies rest for about 10 minutes on your counter. Dust the cookies with more confectioner's sugar and enjoy. This recipe makes 16 - 20 cookies.

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