Chicago snowballs

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yummy shortbread cookies, known as Russian tea cakes, Mexican wedding cookies, Viennese crescent, pecan logs, sand tarts...or the dubiously named Swedish balls!
the original recipe from Tom at work was very simple with just the pecans chopped. i added more pecans, finely ground 1 cup and roughly chopped the rest. added spices for a flavor kick. came out looking less white and reminded me of Chicago the week after snowfall and the streets have kicked up dirt onto the piles of snow. perhaps my subconscious trying to keep me from downing the whole batch in one go as they are extremely yummy and exude a delicate aroma that makes me think of Indian spice shops.

thanks to Lauren Knowlton, whose recipe for spice cookies i have borrowed the spice mix from.

this is easily adapted into a vegan cookie if you use vegan butter/margarine.

yields: about 3 dozen cookies
2 cup (9 oz) all-purpose flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cardamom (about 15 pods)
1/4 tsp nutmeg, grated
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 c (6 oz) pecans
2 sticks (1 cup/8 oz) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup (2 1/4 oz) powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
alternative spice mix
1 tsp black peppercorn, cracked
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp lemon zest
1. sift flour, spices and salt together.
2. roughly chop half a cup of the pecans. finely grind the rest in food processor until the texture of coarse cornmeal, occasionally scraping bottom and sides. to help ensure you don't grind into a paste, add 1 tbsp of the flour mixture.
3. add the rest of the nuts, flour mixture and pulse to combine.
4. in a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. add the extract.
5. gradually add flour mix to butter batter, by hand.
6. cover the batter with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.
7. remove batter from fridge and preheat oven to 325ºF, with racks set in upper third and lower thirds, and line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
8. form batter into 1-inch balls, spacing them on the cookie sheet about 1-inch apart . there are no leaveners so no need to worry about them rising but you still want good hot air circulation.
9. bake for about 20-25 minutes or just until the bottom edges of the cookies are just beginning to brown. halfway through, rotate sheets and switch them from top to bottom.
10. remove from oven and set aside. cookies will still be crumbly but will continue to cook on the sheet as they cool.
11. once cookies are completely cooled (about 30 minutes), sprinkle with more confectioner's sugar and serve. if you want more sugar, fill a ziplock bag with 1 cup of confectioner's sugar, add the cookies and gently roll them around until fully covered. i actually like them "naked".
don't let the cookies bake for too long, otherwise, instead of getting melt-in-your-mouth goodies, you will get a dry rock that's lost all its delicate, buttery crumb.

you can probably sub any other nuts to the recipe, including walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds or pistachios. you can even finely grind the whole cup for a more delicate texture (might have to adjust flour). walnuts and pecans have the richest buttery flavor.

add 1/2 tsp of almond extract along with the almonds for more almond flavor.

add 1/2 tsp of lemon zest along with 1/2 tsp of lemon extract for an extra zing. lemon or orange zest would be good with the pistachios. consider decreasing spices by half.

the alternative spice mix has no nuts, added. just the flour, sugar, butter, 1 tsp kosher salt and vanilla extract: from NYTimes.
Meal   SnackDish   Cookie
Cooking Method   BakedMain Ingredient   Rice/Grains
Prep Time   15 to 30 minutesCooking Time   15 to 30 minutes
Features   Dairy-Free, Vegan, Vegetarian

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