Monday, December 17, 2012

Russian Tea Cakes (Snowballs)

Snow Day!

That term bring joy to the hearts of all children, and something our children in Fairbanks have never heard, until today.  Now, don't get me wrong we have had to close school before.  In the last 30 years we closed once because it was colder than 60 below so many days in a row the ice fog was too thick and it was unsafe for students to stand at the bus stop (not because of the cold, but because they couldn't be seen through the ice fog).  Two other times we had a weird Chinook (warm wind) and it rained once in November and once in February.  The problem with that is the rain freezes as soon as it hits ground and there is a sheet of ice, inches thick, and no one can drive until the graders can rough up the ice and lay down tons of gravel.  Ice melt doesn't work here, it is too cold.  But today was a true snow day.  We got up to 18 inches in the hills, about 6 inches in town overnight, and the snow plows just couldn't keep up. 

Since I retired, I have become "non-essential personnel" so when school closes, I don't have to go in to my office.  I can check my email and do some computer work at home, but other than that, I get a day at home!  I love it.

I made palmers, peppermint white chocolate popcorn (recipe to follow),  white chocolate chip macadamia nut cookies, and these Russian Tea Cakes from the Brown Eyed Baker.  I love these cookies, probably in my top 5 cookies and the ones I'm always looking for at Christmas.  Brown Eyed Baker called them Snowballs and I thought that was very appropriate for a snow day.

Russian Tea Cakes

Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
2 cups finely chopped pecans, divided
¾ teaspoon salt
1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter, softened but still cool
⅓ cup granulated sugar
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1½ cups powdered sugar, for rolling cookies after baking

1. 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.
2. Mix 1.5 cups of the flour, 1 cup of the chopped pecans, and the salt in a medium bowl; set aside.
3. Place the remaining chopped nuts and 1/2 cup flour 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.

December 17, 2012   Daylight 3 hours, 43 minutes, 35 seconds   Temp. H -21/L -45 ºF

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