Monday, December 20, 2010

Annual Christmas Traditions - Baking Extravaganza

This big guy worked hard last night.
My mom and I held our annual baking night yesterday, where we bake all the goodies for the season to give out as gifts and and indulge in.  If you're thinking this sounds like a very quaint and idyllic evening amongst mother and daughter, scratch that and picture two women sweating away and barely speaking to each other except to mutter commands like "more baking powder" and "where's my butter?"  Still, we enjoy this yearly tradition and always marvel at all we accomplish in just one night.  It's amazing what can happen when two women put their minds and mixers to work.  

We usually bake about 10-15 items including the usual peanut butter and oatmeal cookies and of course fudge, lots of fudge.  I wanted to share two recipes that I've been making for the last several years.  These two cookies are my personal favorites, and I usually reserve them for special friends and family.  

The first are Pecan Snowballs (also referred to as Italian Wedding Cookies and Almond Crescents) and are actually my friend Ali's recipe.  I've tried at least 6 different pecan snowball recipes and have always been disappointed in how they turn out.  Either too dry so that the nuts don't form in the dough, or too dense so that you need a glass of milk to wash them down.  When I tried Ali's Pecan Snowballs a couple of years ago at a cookie exchange, I knew I had found my recipe.  The dough is pretty much fool proof and mixes together with the nuts perfectly.  The cookies turn out moist yet still flaky and buttery, so that the powdered sugar gives it just the right amount of sweetness.  These cookies are perfection.  Especially for someone like me who really is more of a savory girl.  Cookies consisting of gobs of chocolate, caramel or peanut butter make me gag.  Buttery little nougats like this though, yes please.  Scroll all the way down for Ali's recipe.
My other favorite are the Barefoot Contessa's Jam Thumbprint Cookies and you can find the recipe here.  While these cookies are rolled in coconut, which can often be a deterrent to some and evoke very strong dislike reactions, I promise that the coconut flavor on these are so faint you won't even know you're eating it.  The flakes toast up so nice in the oven that they form a nice little crispy, almost nut-like texture on the outside.  I don't even tell people they're made with coconut anymore.  I also use Smuckers for my jam and I've never been disappointed. 
For packaging I just place them in simple clear cellophane packages and then tie with extra wide grosgrain ribbon in pretty colors.  Chic and simple.
I'm giving these little packages to my coworkers this morning, along with a Starbucks gift card because at least once a day one of us makes a Starbucks run.  We have a drive thru across the street from our office and it never has a wait.  It's way too tempting that way.  
Happy Monday friends!  I'm linking up to Heather's Life Made Lovely Monday post.   

Ali's Pecan Snowballs:
1 C unsalted butter at room tempertature
1/2 C sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
2 C all purpose flour
1 1/4 C pecans, chopped into very small pieces
Powdered Sugar for rolling

Preheat oven to 350
Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar at low speed until it is smooth.  beat in the vanilla.  At low speed, gradually add the flour and salt.  Mix in the pecans with a spatula.  Roll approx 1 tbsp of dough into a ball the size of a large cherry.  Place onto cookie sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes.  When cool enough to handle but still warm, roll in the powdered sugar.  Cool on wire racks.


  1. I made the snowball cookies exactly like you described ( our polish family tradition too ) and I put my pecans in the chopper, which got them almost to a powder fine texture. Totally made the cookie grainier than moist. Didn't stop me from eating about 12 so far though. :/

  2. I had a list of 6 items and narrowed it down to 3; pb fudge, chocolate fudge, and the Hershey peanut butter cookies (requested by Tween). With Tween and Girl's b'days this week I feel like I've been baking every single day for school treats and b'day parties!

    I had to laugh at how you described you and your mother in the kitchen. That's how I am... everyone has to stay out!

  3. Saw your linky from Blessed Little Nest. (Mine is the "cake & cotton" linky today too) Thanks for the recipes! Yum. The Italian Wedding cookies are my mom's fav, and I'm a savory girl too so I'm gonna try them!

  4. these look so great Andrea!
    I hope you are enjoying the holidays.
    All my love,

  5. Wow, what a drool worthy post!!!

  6. I always admire your beautiful white pottery. Where do you find your pieces?

  7. Gosh, I have been slacking. I vow to pull out my (HEAVY ASS) mixer before the holiday :D

  8. Awesomest posts are written in your blog and interesting information for getting knowledge. Find everything in one online Shop fabulous festive sale, Women Fashion Clothing, Baby Baniya's new collection of Jewellery, Autumn/Winter fashion show in Delhi India. Thanks For this wonderful post and i like your blog.

  9. Oh how I wish I was one of your coworkers (lucky people!) :) Those wedding cookies are so yummy. I may have to try to make them myself. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Those look delicious and you packaged them so well! I love that you said that it is two sweaty women muttering for true!

    The Auspicious Life


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