One bite of these buttery snowball cookies will tell you they aren’t your mama’s tea cakes. The dough is subtly flavored with orange zest, and a sweet cranberry filling hides in the center. If you choose to add a fresh cranberry, it will add a burst of tangy flavor.
Whether you call them Russian Tea Cakes, Mexican (or Italian) Wedding Cakes, or Snowballs, they are a holiday tradition worth making. They do tend to be just a little bit dry (like shortbread) so a small dab of filling to soften the center worked well. Of course, if you don’t want all the bells and whistles, you can simply leave out the filling entirely. But oh, not the orange zest! It’s so good.
I am pretty hands-on, and use my thumb to make the hole in each ball of dough (where the filling is added) but if it makes you more comfortable, it can be made with the round handle of a wooden spoon . . . or you can wear disposable gloves. The only tricky part is to make the dough at the top of the hole thinner—and don’t over fill, of course—so the cookie can be neatly pinched closed. If a little filling squeezes out, just wipe it off and patch the spot with a small piece of dough before rolling into a smooth ball.
|Cranberry Pecan Snowballs|| |
- 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 1 tablespoon cranberry sauce (jellied or whole berry)
- a few drops of red food coloring (optional)
- ¼ cup white chocolate chips
- 24 fresh cranberries (optional)
- 1 cup butter, softened
- ¾ cup powdered sugar
- 1 cup finely chopped pecans (I toast mine first for the best flavor)
- Zest of one large orange (about 1 packed tablespoon)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Powdered sugar to roll cookies in
- FILLING: In a small bowl, beat together the cream cheese and cranberry sauce. If desired, add a few drops of red food coloring.
- Melt the white chocolate in a small pan on lowest heat, or in a microwave-safe bowl in the microwave at fifteen second increments. Don't get it too hot - just until melted. Add to cream cheese mixture and beat until smooth. Place in a pastry bag and set aside. (You can skip the pastry bag and just use a ½ teaspoon measuring spoon to fill the cookies, but it will be messier.)
- DOUGH: In a large bowl, beat butter until creamy. Add powdered sugar and beat for 1 minute, scraping sides of the bowl often.
- Add chopped pecans, orange zest, and vanilla. Beat well.
- Add flour and salt. Beat just until blended.
- Make balls of dough, using a generous tablespoon of dough for each. (You should have about 24.) Make a deep hole in each. The easiest way is to cup your hand around the dough with it poking out of the circle made by your thumb and forefinger. Use a finger on your opposite hand (or the rounded handle of a wooden spoon) to make the hole, then widen it so it's a little thinner at the top. Using a pastry bag, fill the hole about half way. Press a raw cranberry (if you're using them) on the filling and gently pinch the dough over the hole. Roll between your hands to form a round ball. Place 1½ inches apart on ungreased (or parchment lined) baking sheet.
- Repeat until all cookies are formed. If you have time (and room in your fridge) chill for 1 hour.
- Heat oven to 325 F. Bake cookies 15-17 minutes, until just the bottoms are lightly browned.
- Let the cookies rest on the baking sheet for a minute or two before sliding onto a cooling rack.
- When the cookies are barely warm, dredge them in the powdered sugar. Wait until completely cool and repeat. Store in an airtight container.
But you might prefer working on a flat surface, like this:
Wishing you peace,