I am not normally a cookie eater, but around Christmastime I make an exception, especially for snowballs. Mexican wedding cakes, Russian teacakes, whatever you call them, these were my favorite Christmas cookie when I was growing up. Mum’s original recipe had regular walnuts and vanilla extract. This recipe is my adult, “I’m a forager” version that uses wild black walnuts, orange flower water and a little Grand Marnier.
Orange and walnut work well together, and the combination with the black walnuts — a diamond of a nut that makes regular walnuts feel like rhinestones — and the orange flower water, plus the softness of the powdered sugar all make for a luxurious bite. They actually feel cooling in your mouth. I defy you to eat just one.
Make them in one-bite balls, as these cookies are crumbly. Oh, and while this is a small recipe, fit for two people, this scales up perfectly to at least four times, so you can make enough to give as gifts.
Snowball Cookies with Black Walnuts
You can buy black walnuts in many supermarkets, or online through Earthy Delights. Or you can use regular walnuts, but they are not as good as the wild ones for this kind of recipe. Using cake flour improves the texture of these cookies, but you can certainly use all-purpose; my mum does. And please do try to get a hold of the orange flower water and Grand Marnier: While not strictly necessary, they do add a lot to the flavor.
Makes 16 cookies, and can be scaled up.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
- 1 cup cake or all-purpose flour
- 1 cup finely chopped black walnuts
- 2 heaping tablespoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons orange flower water
- 1 teaspoon Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur
- Pinch of salt
- 1 stick of butter (1/4 pound), cut into small pieces
- Powdered sugar for dusting, about 1 cup
- Preheat the oven to 300°F. Mix all the ingredients except the powdered sugar in a large bowl. Mix with your clean hands, mashing the dry ingredients with the butter until you get a mixture that looks like lumpy meal.
- Form the dough into little balls the size of a walnut and place on an ungreased sheet pan. Bake for 35 minutes. Take the cookies out and let them cool for 5 minutes or so. After they are cool enough to handle but still warm, roll them in the powdered sugar and set aside on a rack to cool. Then, when they are totally cool, roll them in powdered sugar one more time.