Yup. Long before Schweddy Balls, there were my mom’s Christmas Cookie Balls…with nuts. It made us laugh every year, the pun and the cookies. You might know these little buttery delights as Russian Tea Cookies or Mexican Wedding Cookies. And although they were definitely present (and given as presents/favors) at my wedding – hugged by clear cellophane treat bags and closed with bride and groom clothespins – these will always be known as Christmas Balls. But, when you don’t live near your support system, sometimes the things that were once reserved for those special times of the year, become one of the greatest hits on regular rotation. I even remotely taught my mother how to use her new smartphone to take a photo of the recipe and send it to me; that’s a whole other homicidal story unto itself.
As you can see from the piece of paper and the recipe here, there were some things that got lost in translation. Like, the fact that my mother lists a “cube” of butter, (which I would interpret as a tablespoon) which actually turns out to be a stick of butter. She lists her margarine on the paper as room temp, then on the phone she told me “it has to be cold cold cold.” And she did not list the directions on how to incorporate the ingredients, she basically went from the table of contents straight to the conclusion; what the hell happened to the first chapter?! This is a straight forward recipe that only has five ingredients, I added salt, so six. But, there is one technique that can make it seem laborious; fraisage.
Fraisage is French for: mash the hell out of fat and flour until they have been merged into submission with the heel of your hand.
- 2 cups AP Flour
- 2 sticks Margarine, cold and cut into little chunks
- 1/4 cup Confectioner's Sugar
- 1 tsp Vanilla
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 cup walnuts, chopped
- 1 - 16oz box/bag confectioner's sugar
- Preheat oven to 350
- In a large bowl, combine flour, salt, sugar, vanilla and butter pieces. Run your fingers through the mixture to ensure all is well combined. Within the bowl, mash ingredients with the heel of your hand - this technique is known as fraisage - ensuring butter pieces are getting smashed into the flour. This can take a while. Once all of the ingredients start to form a paste, you can fold in your walnut pieces. If you don't have a large enough bowl, you can dump contents onto your bench and fraisage that way.
- With your hands, roll dough into individual 1'' balls. Place on an ungreased sheet tray, about 1'' away from each other. These cookies don't spread.
- Fill a large bowl with half box/bag of confectioner's sugar.
- Bake cookies 13-15 minutes, or until golden brown. A little dark around the edges is fine, brings an extra nutty flavor.
- Immediately place hot cookies into bowl of confectioner's sugar and top with remaining box/bag of sugar. You want to make sure all cookies are coated with confectioner's sugar. You may have to do this in steps.
- Remove hot cookies from sugar and set aside to cool. After they have cooled, 10-15 minutes, roll cookies in confectioner's sugar again. Place in serving vessel and enjoy!
In my mom's handwritten recipe, she only adds 3TB of confectioner's sugar. However, on the phone she told me, "I add an extra TB for love."
Which is why my recipe calls for 1/4 cup.