Snowballs (sometimes also called Mexican Wedding Cookies or Russian Tea Cookies) are one of my all-time favorite Christmas cookies, and I was in total shock when I realized that I had never shared a recipe for them here on the site! I should be ashamed of myself. These aren’t one of those cookies that my mom made year-in and year-out (she had other specialties), but they were always a favorite of mine when I would see them sitting on a cookie platter. As a kid, I’m sure that I was drawn primarily to the half-inch of powdered sugar that coats the outside of these cookies. You know you’ve found a good snowball cookie when you have to dust yourself off from head to toe when you’re done eating them. In addition to all of the wonderful sugar, I love the shortbread-like texture of the cookies, and how utterly loaded they are with nuts. Delicious!
Like so many of my favorite baked goods, these cookies are easily adaptable to your (and your family’s) personal taste. My mom likes pecans, but she also adores walnuts, so sometimes we bake up a batch of those. My Chief Culinary Consultant’s mom makes hers with almonds and adds a splash of almond extract. As is the case with so many recipes that have been around for generations, most families have their own favorite way of making them, or a special little twist they add. I love the flavor of the pecans and the varied texture that using ground nuts as well as finely chopped nuts provide. I guarantee there is no wrong way to make them… as long as you make them with love :)
Does your family have a snowball cookie recipe? How do you like yours?
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F and adjust the oven racks to the upper- and lower-middle positions. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
Mix the flour, 1 cup of the chopped pecans, and the salt in a medium bowl; set aside.
Place the remaining chopped nuts in a food processor and process until they are the texture of coarse cornmeal, 10 to 15 seconds; stir into the flour mixture and set aside.
Cream the butter and sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the vanilla, then scrape the sides of the bowl. Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed until the dough just begins to come together but still looks scrappy, about 15 seconds. Scrape the sides of the bowl again and continue beating at low speed until the dough is cohesive, about 10 more seconds.
Roll a heaping tablespoon of dough between the palms of your hands and place on the prepared baking sheets. The cookies will only spread a little bit, so you can place them fairly close together. Bake until the tops are pale golden and the bottoms are just beginning to brown, 17 to 19 minutes, rotating the baking sheets front to back and top to bottom halfway through the baking time.
Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for 2 minutes, then transfer them to a wire cooling rack and allow to cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.
Place the powdered sugar in a large zip-top bag. Working with 3 or 4 cookies at a time, place them in the bag of sugar and gently toss to coat them thoroughly. Gently shake off any excess. Allow the cookies to sit for at least an hour, or up to overnight, and then repeat the process. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.