In the world of Christmas cookie baking, these sweet Italian Snowballs stand on a pedestal above all others, in my humble opinion. I used to make them with my Nana, and when we’d roll them into little rounds, the smell of nuts and sugar would fill the kitchen. They’d come freshly baked out of the oven, and while they were still warm, we dipped them in powdered sugar. It would melt ever so slightly, creating a soft, sweet patina on the cookies. Dabs of melted powdery sugar would stick to my fingertips as we put them on the serving tray, one by one.
My Nana is gone now, but her yellowed recipe card still remains. What a treasure. She liked to use Brazil nuts, and now I experiment with different nuts; for example, pecans, walnuts, or hazelnuts work quite well. Nana’s recipe collection holds many treasures and memories. I like to think about her filling out the little recipe cards or clipping a favorite out of the newspaper. Very old school, but that’s what makes it so endearing.
For this recipe, I used pecans because, well, ’tis the season!
Italian Snowball Cookies
- ¾ cup butter (12 Tbsp.) (170 grams)
- ½ cup granulated sugar (100 grams)
- 1 egg
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 2 cups pecans - finely chopped
- 2 cups all-purpose flour (300 grams)
- ¼ tsp. salt
- ½ cup (or more) powdered sugar for dusting
- Preheat oven to 350 ° F
- In a food processor, pulse nuts until fine. If you don't have a food processor, chop on a cutting board. Set aside
- Beat together sugar and butter until creamy. Use a hand mixer or beat by hand. Beat in egg and vanilla until uniform and creamy.
- Sift the salt into the flour, and then, one cup at a time, add the flour to the butter mixture and stir by hand. Take your time and let the flour absorb the butter. Add the rest of the flour and continue to mix by hand until uniform. Fold in the nuts. Again, take your time. The dough may seem a bit dry at first, but given a few minutes, the flour will absorb the butter and will make a smooth dough.
- Line a cookie tray with parchment paper or grease with butter. Roll the dough into small balls, about 2/3 inch or 1 heaping teaspoon (20 grams per cookie if using a scale). Place the balls on the cookie tray and bake for 20 minutes until light brown. It will make about 50 cookies.
- Remove cookies from oven and cool until warm. Put the powdered sugar in a bowl and a few at a time, roll the cookies around to coat completely.
- Serve right away or store in an airtight container for up to a week.