Monday, December 8, 2014


Swedish Teaballs... Russian Tea Cakes... Mexican Wedding Cakes.  What do these all have in common?  Everything!  I wonder if there is any other food item that is claimed by so many different countries.   Also, why are they called "cakes" when they are actually "cookies"?   

A few friends came over the other night to bake Christmas cookies, and we each brought a recipe to make.  One person had a recipe for "Swedish Teaballs" that we thought sounded (and the picture looked) just like Russian Tea Cookies.  The only difference was that they were made with cake flour rather than all-purpose flour, and they baked in a 275º oven for an hour,  rather than a  400º oven for 10 minutes.  We were curious to see how those two factors would impact the cookie.  The short answer is... not much.  They turned out somewhat lighter and crisper, but also dryer.  In the final analysis, the added expense of cake flour, and the long cook time, did not result in a better cookie.  

Now is the time of the year to make these delicious cookies.  Here is the best recipe I have for Russian Tea Cakes (donated last year by friend, Diane).  I'm going to change the recipe, though, to call them "Russian Tea Cookies."  When you make them, you may decide to select your ethnicity and rename the cookie... perhaps "Italian Tea Cookies"?

*  1 cup butter at room temperature
*  1/2 cup sifted powdered sugar
*  1 teaspoon vanilla
*  2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
*  1/4 teaspoon salt
*  1 cup finely chopped pecans
In a mixing bowl beat butter for about two minutes until creamy.  Beat in the sugar and salt for about three minutes, until creamy.  Beat in vanilla, then slowly beat in flour until blended.  Stir in chopped pecans.

Preheat oven to 400º.   Roll dough into 1" balls, dusting hands with flour if necessary.  Place about 1" apart on ungreased baking sheets.  Bake about 10 to 12 minutes, or until set and bottoms are lightly tanned.  After removing from the oven and allowing to slightly cool, roll the cookies in powdered sugar.  For a holiday look you can add colored sugar.  Very pretty!

Here is a photo of the cookies we made.  

Top:  Buried Cherry Chocolate Cookies.   Right:  Italian Almond Cookies - the 2014 winner of the Star Tribune Holiday Cookie Contest.  Bottom:  Cookie Cut-outs.  Left:  Swedish Teacakes.  Far Upper Left Corner:  Gingerbread Cut-outs.

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