Russian Tea Cookies

As many of you know, as well as contributing to cookrookery, I am also a cartoonist. This recipe I add partially due to the crossover between the two.
The recipe for Russian tea cookies is simple, only 5 ingredients. So simple in fact, it has been “invented” by many, and so common it has many names: butterballs, snowball cookies, snowdrops, pecan puffs, nutballs, cocoons, bullets, kourabiedes, sand tarts, moldy mice, Armenian sugar cookies, Italian butter nuts,  and for the marriage inclined: Mexican wedding cookies, Spanish wedding cookies, Viennese wedding cookies, and Greek wedding cookies.
For me, I wanted something simple for my story.
A man, from Russia, finds himself on a foreign planet and wants to share his skill. He chooses the tea cookie, as a very simple thing. It shows his willful ignorance in thinking it special because it was handed down from his grandmother, but is in fact so simple that you can find a dozen recipes online which vary almost none whatsoever.
At the same time, another planet, they would not have butter churned from cow’s milk, sugar cane, vanilla bean, wheat, walnuts. Such simple flavors we take for granted, they must seem so unique and glorious to a intergalactic tongue untouched by Earth’s wares.
And so I made them too. To enjoy the powdery delicious flavor. You can too, it’s this simple…

100_0499As many of you know, as well as contributing to cookrookery, I’m also a cartoonist. I choose to blog about Russian tea cookies because of the crossover between the two.

The recipe for Russian tea cookies is simple, only 5 ingredients. So simple and common, in fact, it has many names: butterballs, snowball cookies, snowdrops, pecan puffs, nutballs, cocoons, bullets, kourabiedes, sand tarts, moldy mice, Armenian sugar cookies, Italian butter nuts, and for the marriagely inclined: Mexican wedding cookies, Spanish wedding cookies, Viennese wedding cookies, and Greek wedding cookies.

Which is exactly why I chose them. I wanted something simple for my story.

A Russian character in my comic, Dimitri, finds himself on a foreign planet and wants to share his baking skills. He chooses the tea cookie because it is his secret family recipe, handed down by his grandmother (so secret in fact, ahem, that you can find a dozen recipes online which vary almost none whatsoever).

But I love the idea that on another planet they would not have butter churned from cow’s milk, no sugar cane, no vanilla bean, no wheat, no walnuts (well, assuming you believe in evolution). Such simple flavors we take for granted, to an intergalactic tongue untouched by Earth’s wares these simple ingredients would seem so unique and glorious.

And so, back on earth, I made them too, to enjoy the powdery delicious flavor. You can make them too, it’s really simple. I mean, REALLY simple. You could easily train your pet monkey to make you these all the time, but he’d probably eat them all.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1- 1/4 cups sifted flour
  • 1/4 cup nuts, finely chopped

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Soften butter, I did it in a bowl in the toaster oven. A warm afternoon on the counter would do it too.
  2. Mix together butter, sugar, and vanilla. Mix in flour and nuts.
  3. Form into small 1″ balls, and place on un-greased cookie sheet.
  4. Bake at 375 F 12 minutes.
  5. While still warm roll in powdered sugar (this first roll might seem a bit damp and gooey, which helps the second roll to stick on)
  6. After cool, roll again in powdered sugar.

These are 3-4 bite cookies. Makes about 12 cookies. Makes more if you make them smaller or double the recipe.

8 comments to Russian Tea Cookies

  • [...] on cookrookery I blogged about Russian Tea Cookies, and how I came to choose them for [...]

  • WarPig

    Russian tea cookies are delicious, and as you said quite simple. This allows you to tweak them for a little variety. To add to the flavor, try adding a touch of almond extract when mixing everything together. This intensifies the flavor if you use chopped toasted almonds and creates a hard-to-define subflavor if you use chopped pecans or toasted walnuts. As a variation, a little lemon or orange zest can mix in and create strange goodness.

    And, after the first, gooey roll in powdered sugar, try the second one in cocoa powder. My girls asked me to do this once and they went wild over them. I was making tea cookies for a girl’s sleepover and I had to make six dozen. Your taste and mileage may vary, but the orange zest added to the batter with the second roll in cocoa powder was the big hit of the ones I tried that evening.

  • Awesome variation ideas, WarPig.

    And Chris, where’s the vodka in this recipe?

  • David

    Chris, Russian Tea Cookies and your cartoons are two of my favorite things. Love seeing them together.

    The only thing I’ve noticed about the cookies is because they’re so simple, the best ingredients are really needed.

  • Thanks for the ideas Warpig!

    And yes to al of you, variations are easy with this recipe. I do stand by keeping things simple, and the basic recipe is definitely gorgeous on its own. But the variations can be fantastic too, there are so many things that could be added.

    Things that came to mind when I was making them were crushed peppermint candies, cherry bits, or a bit of sugared rhubarb in the center.

    The vodka was all gone by the time I made them. :(

  • I found myself with a day off today and, while reading through my comics, read about these.

    Given that I’m deathly allergic to nuts, I decided to give them a try with diced fruit instead–I wanted to go for raspberries but, alas, they weren’t available. So I went with nectarines.

    They are baking now.

    Here’s to hoping.

  • WarPig

    Dates go well in these, Colin. Never tried nectarines, too much liquid within, or were you speaking of dried fruits? I think dried apricots plumped in vodka may do well. ;-)

  • pagejaws

    Oooohhhhh sugared rhubarb… i am so going to try that!!