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.
- 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.