Micah A. Leal
Active Time
40 Mins
Total Time
1 Hour
Yield
4 dozen cookies

Of all holiday cookies, few are as simple and as Southern as our Pecan Snowball Cookies. Also known as Russian tea cakes, these small spheres of buttery vanilla shortbread have crunchy pecan pieces dispersed throughout their crumbly texture. Our recipe is special because we take the time to toast the pecan pieces in the oven before making the dough. A step requiring no more than 10 minutes, toasting the pecans first forces the pecans to release their oils and take on a richer and nuttier flavor. Once they’ve cooled, these pecans are mixed into the shortbread, their oils perfuming and flavoring the cookie dough. For balance, the cookie dough itself is not very sweet because the cookie balls are coated twice in powdered sugar. The first coating happens minutes after the cookies come out of the oven. The warm exterior of the cookie causes the powdered sugar to stick, and as they cool, the powdered sugar adhering to the surface becomes very sticky. It’s this sticky surface that makes the second coating of powdered sugar cling to the cookie and form a dry and powdery sweet casing for the rich and nutty cookie. This recipe makes 4 dozen Pecan Snowball Cookies, so you will have some to share (if you want to).

How to Make It

Step 1

Preheat oven to 350°F. Place chopped pecans in a 9-by-13-inch metal baking dish. Roast in the oven until the pecans have a nutty aroma and are lightly toasted, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool.

Step 2

Beat butter and sugar together until lightened and creamy. Scrape down sides of the bowl and add vanilla extract and salt; beat to combine. Add flour and cooled toasted pecans, and mix on low until incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Step 3

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Scoop and shape dough into 1 inch balls, pressing the dough in your hands. (Note: the dough will be very crumbly, so you will be pressing the dough balls into spheres instead of rolling them between your palms.) Place cookies 1/2 inch apart on baking sheets. Bake until lightly browned, about 15 minutes.

Step 4

Allow cookies to cool until just cool enough to handle but still quite warm. Roll each cookie in powdered sugar, putting the cookie back on the baking sheet after it’s coated in sugar. Allow cookies to cool completely and roll them again in powdered sugar before serving or storing in an airtight container.