Buttery, melt-in-your-mouth Gluten-Free Russian Tea Cakes deserve to be enjoyed with your next cup of coffee or tea!
Pass the cookies, please.
Notice I said, “Pass the cookies” and not, “I’ll pass on the cookies”. There’s a BIG difference there.
Yes, I’m all about a healthy lifestyle and a healthy diet packed with fruits and veggies, but I’m not about deprivation. To wrap up our 5 Days of Healthy Cookies series I’m sharing another family favorite recreated without eggs or gluten. Because I’m tired of having to pass up one of my favorite cookies this time of year. I mean, who can resist? Buttery, melt-in-your-mouth, studded with pecans and dusted with powdered sugar. What more can I say? Shall we just skip to the recipe so you can join me in enjoying a Gluten-Free Russian Tea Cake with your morning cup of coffee or afternoon tea??
Russian vs. Mexican
So what makes these delectable little bites Russian Tea Cakes and not Mexican Wedding Cakes? It’s the pecans and they way they’re shaped. Russian Tea Cakes are made with pecans and rolled into balls while Mexican Wedding Cakes are made with almonds and shaped into crescents. Russian Tea Cakes are a popular cookie enjoyed during the holidays here in the U.S. and are sometimes called ‘snowballs’ because of their shape and powdery white sugar coating.
While they differ slightly with regards to their ingredients they’re made in the same way – chop the nuts finely, cream together the butter and vanilla, add the dry ingredients and the nuts and mix until the dough comes together then chill, shape and bake.Gluten-Free Russian Tea Cakes are the perfect addition to your holiday cookie tray (or your next cup of tea!) #realfood Click To Tweet
Shaping the dough into a disk then wrapping it and chilling for an hour makes the dough for these Gluten-Free Russian Tea Cakes easier to handle. As with all ball cookies, if the dough is just too soft to roll (sticks to your hands even after chilling) or too crumbly (doesn’t easily form a ball) then you’ll need to make some adjustments – adding a bit flour or powdered sugar to wet dough or a splash of water or milk to dry dough.
You want a supple dough that comes together easily when rolled between your hands. Another tip: Roll quickly to keep the outside of the dough ball from getting too soft. There’s a good amount of butter in these Gluten-Free Russian Tea Cakes to give them an almost crisp, shortbread-like texture (i.e. they’re lighter than their gluten-filled counterparts).
In case you’re wondering what I wrapped the dough with, it’s called Bees Wrap and it’s a more eco-friendly alternative to plastic wrap that I’ve been using in my quest to use less plastic in the kitchen. You can use it just about any way that you’d use plastic wrap and it’s reusable. Just wipe clean and dry before storing. (Pictured above is the Large size wrap which is 13″ x 14″)
Patience is a cookie virtue
The secret to these Gluten-Free Russian Tea Cakes isn’t just the butter or it’s about how you make them. Or more importantly, how you cool them. Like most gluten-free baked goods, the longer you allow them to cool (overnight is ideal) the better the texture of the crumb will be.
Because these cookies have no gluten or eggs to hold them together, they are going to be VERY fragile right out of the oven. Allow them to cool on the baking sheet for at least 15 minutes before transferring them to a wire cooling rack. Transfer them with a spatula and not your hands or you’ll risk crushing them!
Don’t worry, the longer they cool the firmer their texture gets. When testing them (all five batches!) I dutifully sampled them at several points during the cooling process and into the next day and found that their texture changed from very chalky right out of the oven to delicate and tender the next morning.
All that to say, have patience. Let the cookies cool before you dive right in.
Dust, don’t roll
99.9% of recipes for Russian Tea Cakes will have you rolling your buttery, pecan-studded ball in powdered sugar right out of the oven. The idea is that if you do it while they’re hot, the powdered sugar will melt and coat the cookies. Not only did I find this impossible to do this gluten-free version because of how tender they are when removed from the oven, but it’s also messy and you’re almost guaranteed to burn a finger or two.
So instead of rolling, just dust the cookies with powdered sugar. I used my grandmas old Foley 1-Cup Sifter (just like this one – complete with the label still intact) evenly dust them for the photos but your fingers or a little spice sifter spoon will work just fine.
Now it’s your turn
If you’ve been missing those sweet little bites around the holidays or just want something to make your next cup of tea even better, give these Gluten-Free Russian Tea Cakes a try!
- Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats and set aside.
- Place pecans in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse several times until nuts are finely chopped.
- Place butter and vanilla into the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand mixer). Mix on high until very creamy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Add flour, powdered sugar, salt, and pecans. Start mixer on low then gradually increase the speed to high. The dough will look very dry and crumbly at first but trust the process and keep mixing until it comes together into a smooth ball.
- Remove dough from bowl and pat into a disk 1-inch thick on a piece of plastic wrap (or a plastic alternative like Bees Wrap). Cover dough disk and place in the fridge to chill for 1 hour.
- While the dough chills preheat the oven to 400℉
- Remove dough from fridge and roll into 32 balls (slightly smaller than a golf ball).
- Place 16 balls on each of the baking sheets and bake on the middle rack (one sheet at a time) for 9-12 minutes or until balls are set, dry to the touch and lightly brown on the bottoms.
- Remove pan from the oven and allow cookies to cool on the pan for at least 15 minutes before carefully transferring them to a wire cooling rack with a spatula (not your hands).
- Dust cookies with powdered sugar then allow them to cool for several hours. This will ensure the best texture as they are very fragile when removed from the oven and will firm up as they cool.
- Store cookies at room temperature in a tightly covered container for up to 1 week or freeze for longer storage.
- Dust the cookies rather than rolling them in powdered sugar. This will keep them from falling apart before they’ve had a chance to fully cool and firm up.
- Dusting them with powdered sugar while they’re still a little warm will help the powdered sugar stick them better.
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- Serving Size: 1 cookie
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