(Foolishly?), I have begun making most my Christmas gifts in the last few years. I'm realizing how much TIME it takes, and that it's not necessarily much cheaper. I picked Emily up for our Christmas date last night. When she asked me how I was, I said, "I'm not in the Christmas spirit." I haven't had time to putter around in the kitchen yet, I'm stressed about a few outstanding commitments with clients before Christmas, and I feel generally discombobulated. (That is an awesome word. It sounds discombobulated, doesn't it?) Being with Emily for the night helped, though. We finally went to Delancey and got so absorbed in conversation that we were late to our movie. (For the record, both of us hate being late to movies. I always joke that I'd pay to see two hours worth of previews.) We got the pizza special--finely chopped brussel sprouts, cooked down with cream and white wine, spread on perfect crust and topped with lots of bacon. Sounds like a Leftoverist pizza, if I do say so myself.
If I'm not being cheered up by Emily, these cookies are another option. I am certainly not the first person to expound their virtues. They're also called Mexican Wedding Cakes (or Viennese Crescents or Snowballs or so many other things.) In my family, we've always called them Russian Teacakes. I think of them as Little Spheres of Perfection. They are fast, unfussy, can be made without going to the store (especially if your house is a nut warehouse like mine), and have come through for me a million times. And for some reason, I don't make them unless it's Christmas.
I make mine on the small side--two bites' worth. I love that first bite, when the powdered sugar bursts out in a little cloud, and it becomes deliciously obvious how much BUTTER they contain. You decide not to care (it's Christmastime, after all, and you've been discombobulated). Besides, they're little. So little, in fact, that one is definitely not enough.
You can use finely ground pecans, walnuts, or almonds. Pecans are my favorite. Though there are some baking recipes where nuts are optional, this isn't one of them. And the double roll in powdered sugar is imperative, too. The first tumble helps the sugar start sticking to the warm cookies. The second one really coats them. And since there's not much sugar in the cookies themselves, you can really go for it with the powdered sugar. And I usually make a double batch. Once baked, they'll keep well for several days.
1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 c. powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 c. flour
1/8 tsp. salt
2 c. finely chopped pecans
about 1 1/2 c. more powdered sugar for coating
Preheat oven to 350.
Cream butter and sugar together with an electric mixer. Add vanilla. Combine flour, salt, and pecans; stir into sugar mixture.
Roll dough into 1" (or a bit smaller) balls. Place on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 12-15 minutes, until lightly browned.
While hot, roll in powdered sugar. Cool for a bit, then roll again in powdered sugar to coat.