russian tea cakes

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I’m very impulsive when it comes to baking.  I saw these on Smitten Kitchen (as usual.  When will I branch out?) and got really excited, went out and bought a bag of pecans…and let them sit in the cupboard for two weeks.

Honestly, what kept me from making these at first was that a coworker told me that he wasn’t a big fan of shortbread-type cookies, so I went for something else.  Poor choice – these were delicious.  Buttery, crumbly, dotted with specks of toasted pecan, and rolled in powdered sugar that gives it an almost creamy finish.

Luckily, I was able to pass these off on someone else’s family, because just the dough is so good that I don’t think I would have been able to keep my hands off of them.  Especially after I rolled half of them in granulated sugar and dipped them in chocolate.

These are better than I anticipated.  They taste like Christmas.  You’ve been warned.

Russian Tea Cakes [a.k.a. Mexican Wedding Cakes or Polvorones]
Adapted from Epicurious and Deb

Makes about 4 dozen

1 cup (2 sticks or 8 ounces) butter, room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup pecans, hazelnuts or other nuts, toasted and finely ground (if using hazelnuts, wrap in a dishtowel while still warm and roll about until most of the brown skins come off)
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)

Granulated sugar, for rolling
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter

Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until light and fluffy. Add 1/2 cup powdered sugar and vanilla; beat until well blended. Beat in flour, then nuts. Divide dough in half; form each half into ball. Wrap separately in plastic; chill until cold, about 30 minutes.  [*Alli’s note: I skipped the chilling step and was fine.]

Preheat oven to 350°F. Whisk remaining 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar and cinnamon, if using, in pie dish to blend. Set cinnamon sugar aside.

Working with half of chilled dough, roll dough by 2 teaspoonfuls between palms into balls. Arrange balls on heavy large baking sheet, spacing 1/2 inch apart. Bake cookies until golden brown on bottom and just pale golden on top, about 18 minutes. Cool cookies 5 minutes on baking sheet. Gently toss warm cookies in cinnamon sugar to coat completely [*Alli’s note: I used plain powdered sugar.]. Transfer coated cookies to rack and cool completely. Repeat procedure with remaining half of dough. (Cookies can be prepared 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature; reserve remaining cinnamon sugar.)

Alternately, before baking, roll half (or all) cookies in granulated sugar.  Gently melt butter and chocolate chips (in microwave, melt for 1 minute and stir, then continue at 30-second intervals until chips barely hold their shape).  When cookies come out of oven, let cool 10 minutes, then dip half of each cookie in melted chocolate.  Cool on parchment or wax paper.

Sift remaining [cinnamon] sugar over cookies and serve.

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