I feel like I'm still digesting my Christmas feast but I must say I'm not yet sick of my holiday cookies. I made twelve different types this year (!) and if I had to pick a favorite, this would probably be one of them. Most commonly called "Italian wedding cookies" but sometimes "butter-balls," "Mexican wedding cakes," or "Russian tea cakes," recipes for these sweet treats vary. Not only is mine easy to mix and practically foolproof to bake, the secret to its perfect taste is in the vanilla extract–the four-and-a-half teaspoons almost seems like a typo–and the hint of salt that balances their sweet, nutty flavor.
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups finely ground almonds, pulsed in a food processor
4 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/3 cup confectioners' sugar for rolling
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
2. Cream butter in a bowl, gradually add 3/4 cup of confectioners' sugar and salt. Beat until light and fluffy. Add almonds and vanilla. Blend in flour gradually and mix well.
3. Shape into crescents by hand about a teaspoon of dough for each cookie. Place on un-greased cookie sheets, and bake for 15-20 minutes. Cookies should remain pale on their tops and slightly golden on their bottom. Do not brown.
4. Cool slightly (cookies will crumble if handled when too hot), then carefully roll in extra confectioners' sugar. Place coated cookies on racks and let cool completely before storage.