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December 23, 2021. Dear Kids– I wasn’t sure I’d get you a recipe for
Cookie Day this year with the relocation of the “Test Kitchen” that’s kept me away from the diary this month, but this hasn’t been the first time we’ve come down to the wire to get our cookies baked before Christmas. Before your high school days, it was very simple- we would surprise you by letting you sleep in a bit on a school day a week or so before Christmas Break and wake you to the news that it was Hookie Cookie Day and we were all staying home to make cookies. As you grew older and more responsible (we were hoping you would), the planning became a bit more complicated, with the stress of final exams that mattered. That meant we often had to push the cookie baking to a few days before Christmas, which usually meant, much to your complaints, we’d be baking cookies on a vacation and not a school day- what a tough life you had!
Anyway, it’s good to be back to cooking and writing for you and to have Mom’s all time favorite Christmas cookie recipe for this year’s Hookie Cookie offering. As you will see from the pictures below, this one goes back to a recipe for “Russian Teacakes” found in GM’s circa 1960’s “Betty Crocker’s Cooky Book”- a buttery and nutty ball of a cookie, lavishly doused in powdered sugar, that’s been known by a variety of names. There seems to be a bit of history and drama that comes along with the Russian Teacake moniker, with some speculating that the name changed to “Mexican Wedding Cookies” in many US households during the 60s as a result of Cold War tensions between the US and Russia. Some might even further speculate, with all the recent political posturing testing US and Mexico relations, that this name may be fleeting in some US households/states as well or is it just a coincidence that this cookie is called “Snowballs” in Kentucky and “Butterballs” in Florida? If that wasn’t enough to contemplate when naming such a cookie, there’s also the pitfalls associated with any cookie with the word “ball” or “nut” in its name being often uncomfortably distorted by some, as famously demonstrated by Alec Baldwin in this now classic SNL sketch. So with all that in mind when it came to naming this recipe for today’s post, I simply tapped into what we should all remember during the holiday season, and really every other day of the year, to give you, “Why Can’t We All Just Get Along Holiday Cookies”; although, I suspect those in our house will always simply call them “Mom’s Christmas Cookies”.
Prep Time: 20-30 minutes
Cook Time: 14 minutes or so
Servings: 32 cookies more or less
GET YOUR STUFF OUT
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 12 chunks and softened
- 1/3 cup honey
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 1/2 cups (12.5 ounces or 354 grams) all purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 generous cup pecans, pulsed in food processor or chopped until they look like rustic bread crumbs (nothing too fine and a few larger bits are nice)
- 1-2 cups confectioners’ sugar
COOK AND PLAY
Play “Imagine” by John Lennon and imagine how the cookies you’re making will add to the joyous and happy holiday season you are celebrating with your loved ones.
1. Sweet Butter. Add butter, honey and vanilla to a bowl and blend (“cream”) with a hand held or standing mixer (paddle attachment), scraping down sides when necessary, until smooth and airy- 3-5 minutes
2. Slow and Steady. Whisk flour and salt together in a medium bowl and add it to the butter-honey mixture. Start to blend it together on very low speed so you don’t start a flour tornado, sending your flour everywhere but in the bowl. As the flour becomes incorporated, increase your mixing speed to get a smooth batter- about 3 minutes. Add pecans and continue to mix until evenly distributed. If the dough is too loose and sticky to shape, set it in refrigerator for a bit to firm up.
3. Roll, Roll, Roll Your Dough, Gently in Your Hands. Set mid-low and mid-high racks in oven, preheat to 350° and cover two baking sheets with parchment paper. Use a spoon to lop off a generous tablespoon of dough and roll into a ball between your hands. Place on baking sheet and repeat, placing cookies an inch apart, until dough is exhausted. Bake until set and golden, but not long enough for cookies to brown-14 minutes or so.
4. Make It Snow. Let the cookies cool slightly, then roll in a bowl filled with confectioners sugar. Once completely cooled, roll in sugar again, because, why wouldn’t you?
How Sweet It Is. Mom’s made these cookies every year for decades (I won’t say how many) and I made them for the first time for this post, so I really don’t have much to say. I do find it interesting that both Mom and GM cream the butter with honey, which is a technique I haven’t seen in any of the recipes I’ve researched. I like the idea of honey or even a mix of honey and maple syrup, but if you wanted to go Betty Crocker for this recipe, you can use 1/2 cup of confectioners’ sugar in place of the honey.
Flour Power. Betty (Crocker) calls for 2 1/4 cups of flour, while your GM and Mom have decided to go with 2 1/2 cups. I might even try out 2 cups to see how it changes the texture- I’m thinking, the less flour the more supple and tender the texture, but you should decide which ratio you like best. While you’re doing that, or whenever you measure flour, I implore you to use a digital scale to weigh your flour,- not only for consistent results, but for less clean up too (you don’t need a measuring cup, just place the bowl you’re using for flour on the scale, zero it out /”tare it” and add flour until you reach your desired weight. For future reference, all purpose flour is found by those that care about such things (King Arthur Baking Company, Bon Appetit, New York Times, to name a few) to be in the 4.2 ounce/120 gram to 5 ounces/142 grams per cup range. Don’t worry about the range, just pick one and stick with it- I adhere to the 5 ounce/142 gram per cup ratio for my recipes.
Happy Holidays And Good Cooking To All
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