Every Christmas there are a few types of goodies that my mom makes. One of them is what she calls "snowballs", but most of you will know them as Mexican wedding cake cookies, or Russian tea cakes. Whatever you want to call them, I've never really liked them. Other people seem to though, including a friend whose bridal shower I was going to, so I said I would bring them. I was feeling really conflicted about bringing these cookies since I knew that I didn't like them and so I guess I worried that no one else would? Though I know everyone has different taste. Anyway, I used the same recipe that my mom always uses (where she crossed out the name "Russian tea cakes" and wrote snowballs, which I thought was funny). Also, to me snowballs are these chocolate coconut balls that my grandma makes, so it's just not right in my head for my mom to call these snowballs. Though I guess it's weird to call the brown chocolate coconut balls snowballs too.
The recipe for these "snowballs" is from an old worn copy of Betty Crocker's cookbook. This is one of two cookbooks that my mom and I made cookies out of when I was growing up. The tabs for the cookie sections have long been broken off in both cookbooks but I always knew what area of the book they were in. Now the incredibly good news is that I was really happy with how they turned out (despite some fears after rolling them in icing sugar and seeing how they became gummy/gluey on the outside while warm - though I later found out that it hardens up and is just fine and delicious). I'm not sure what it was that made them taste better this time to me. Most likely it was the vanilla I used, which my mom brought back for me (two 1 liter bottles!) from Mexico. Or perhaps she uses margarine instead of butter when she makes them, I'll have to ask her. Or maybe it was the expertly finely chopped walnuts that my boyfriend patiently and diligently prepared. As is my usual tendency, I made the snowballs way too big. I think that's a result of my impatience to get through the batter, and my love for big cookies.
When making the dough I was scared that it was too crumbly, but it turned out to be just fine. At the bottom of the recipe it suggests a variation called "ambrosia balls" that sound good, so I'll add that to the recipe below.
Russian Tea Cakes (aka Mexican wedding cakes, aka "snowballs")
(Adapted from Betty Crocker's cookbook)
1 cup salted butter, softened
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
Heat oven to 400F. Beat butter, sugar and vanilla together until fluffy. Mix in flour, salt and nuts until dough holds together. Shape dough into 1 inch balls. Place on ungreased baking sheet.
Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until set but not brown. While warm, roll in confectioners' sugar. Cool. Roll in sugar again.
Variation (Ambrosia Balls): Omit nuts; add 1 cup finely cut coconut and 1 tablespoon grated orange peel with the flour.