A holiday favorite, snowball cookies live up to their namesakes by floating to the buffet table in clouds of powdered sugar. Inside that fluffy exterior is a buttery treat, studded with pecans. The cookies don't require many ingredients and they're simple to make. For a twist, add some distinctive flavors to the snowballs.
The basic formula for making any kind of snowball cookies is the same. Use about 2 parts each flour and chopped nuts. The classic snowball contains pecans. To these ingredients, 1 part softened butter is added, along with a scoop or so of granulated sugar, and a splash of vanilla. If you don't want nuts in your snowball cookies, omit them from the recipe, but keep the proportion of flour to butter at about 2 to 1.
Rolling the Snowballs
Beat the ingredients at low speed until they're well combined. After you've formed 1-inch balls from the dough, place them on ungreased cookie sheets. In an oven set to about 325 degrees Fahrenheit, the snowballs turn lightly golden within about 20 minutes. After the cookies cool slightly, roll them in the covering of your choice. It's best not to rush this final stage, because snowball cookies are on the fragile side when they're still warm.
Mixing It Up
Instead of vanilla, consider mixing a few spoonfuls of lemon, orange or lime juice into the dough, as well as the fruit's zest. Alternatively, switch pecans for almonds, and use either almond paste or almond extract -- or both -- in place of the vanilla. To vividly evoke Christmas, make mint extract the main flavoring, and roll the cookies in crushed candy canes instead of sugar. Or emulate the family recipes which call for hiding a treat within each snowball. Maraschino or liqueur-soaked cherries can be inserted into the uncooked balls, with the dough then re-smoothed over the hole.
Not surprisingly for cookies named after snowballs, powdered sugar is the traditional covering for these buttery treats. When they've been out of the oven for about 5 minutes, roll them in a shallow bowl of powdered sugar, then give them a second roll after they're completely cool. If the balls are still fragile from the oven, you might have to settle for sifting the powdered sugar over the cookies. Alternatives to a powdered sugar coating include crushed candy canes, cocoa powder, or a cinnamon and granulated sugar coating.
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