I discovered Ali and her blog 3 Baking Sheet to the Wind earlier this year on one of my rabbit hole trips on the interwebs. At first, I could not quite believe there was another person out there who devoted massive amounts of mental storage capacity to pop culture phenomenons such as Teen Witch, Heathers, The Breakfast Club, Willy Wonka (the original), and Summer Rental. It’s like she’s the voice inside my head telling me to click over to these time sucks when I see them in my Tivo Channel Guide. Not only does Ali know and lurv these movies, she finds ways to tie them to a recipe in her ‘Sugared Cinema’ selection each and every Friday. The other days of the week, she’s rocking out fabulous decorated cakes, cookies, and throwing down some serious beer. The tag line of her blog isn’t “I like baking and drinking craft beer…sometimes simultaneously” for nothing. So it wasn’t too long before I started pestering Ali for a Food Memory. She kindly obliged with the following memory for one of the easiest, tastiest cookies I’ve ever made.
Russian Tea Cakes
During the Christmas season, my mom and her best friend would pick a day to get together in our kitchen and spend the entire day baking. They started the tradition when I was around 5 or 6 years old and carried out the tradition for a good 10 years or so. My mom would get experimental and try out a new recipe every now and then but for the most part, they would stick to the old faithfuls: red and green sprinkled sugar cookies, chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal cookies, fudge, date bars and Russian tea cookies.
As a kid, I had pretty typical tastes when it came to sweets. The sugar cookies were my favorite (she could have thrown sprinkles on a stapler and I would’ve eaten it.) I never could understand why she insisted on making those powdery Russian tea ball things, though.
As I got older, I found myself sneaking cookies from the Russian tea container. They were so wonderfully buttery (even more so than the sugar cookies) and I was addicted to them, right down to the powdery residue it left on my fingers. After a long hiatus, we decided to bring back the Baking Day tradition last Christmas. There were a lot of new additions, some from me and some from my sister, but we knew the day wouldn’t be the same without my Mom making those Russian tea cookies.
Russian Tea Cookies
Adapted from AllRecipes.com
BAH Note: Ali didn’t have her mom’s exact recipe but she poked around online until she found one that was close to what she remembered. I tweeted to Ali that I was kicking myself for scaling the recipe down and only making a half batch. I could not stop eating these morsels. At 12 minutes, they are perfectly undercooked so that the center is still slightly moist while the outside is crisp. The decision to omit the walnuts completely and substitute almond for vanilla was mine and mine alone. And I stick by it. I can’t eat nuts, period. And I’m not usually big on almond flavor but in these cookies it was the perfect counter to the buttery, sugary goodness. I can see why these would have become a favorite in Ali’s house growing up.
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 6 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
Heat the oven to 350 degrees and line two sheet pans with parchment paper.
Combine the flour and 6 tablespoons of powdered sugar in a medium bowl and whisk until combined.
In the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and almond extract until it is smooth. Slowly add the flour mixture and mix until fully combined.
Roll the dough in to 1 inch balls and place them about 1 inch apart on the prepared sheets. Bake for 12 minutes. Allow the cookies to cool completely before rolling them in the 1/3 cup powdered sugar.