The next two days, I will be baking from sunup to sundown (actually, I’ll most likely be baking long after sundown, but you get the idea). I make cookie platters, which I always give out on Christmas Eve. I like my platters to have a considerable variety, so it takes a while to bake all of the different types. Everyone has a favorite sort of cookie and there isn’t a whole lot of overlap in preference, so I end up making a lot of cookies. I decided to start my cookie platter baking tonight with a cookie that tends to keep pretty well.
I asked everyone what their must have Christmas cookies were. My dad’s request was for Russian Tea Cakes (also known as Polvorones, butterballs and Mexican Wedding Cakes). When my mom first went gluten-free I was able to successfully convert one of her favorite cookies, Alfajores, with great success. The ingredients found in Alfajores are very similar to those in Russian Wedding Cakes, so I was fairly confident that these were going to turn out. You can never know for sure until you try though, so tonight I gave it a whirl. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) the cookies were such a hit that I don’t have enough for my platters and will have to make more tomorrow (and hide them so I have some left for Christmas).
I have an old recipe that was given to me by my great-aunt. Her husband was part Russian, so I’ve decided that her recipe must be authentic (I have no idea if it really is, but she was making them long before I was born, so she had them perfected). The recipe was very easy to adapt and I actually like the consistency of the gluten-free cookies better than their gluten-filled counterparts.
Gluten-Free Russian Tea Cakes
Adapted from an old family recipe
- ½ pound unsalted butter (2 sticks), at room temperature
- ¼ cup (heaped) sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 cups gluten-free featherlight rice flour blend (I use Authentic Foods’: Bette’s Featherlight Rice Flour Blend)**
- 1 teaspoon xanthan gum**
- ½ cup chopped pecans
- Powdered sugar, sifted (for dusting)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Line two cookie sheets with parchment.
- Cream the butter, sugar and vanilla together.
- Add the flour and xanthan gum and mix until combined (I usually mix this with my hands).
- Add the pecans, being sure to mix well.
- Roll into Tablespoon sized balls.
- Bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees. (The cookies will start to turn slightly golden… and I mean very slightly… they should not brown).
- Cool slightly on the cookie sheets and then roll in the sifted powdered sugar.
- Once the cookies are completely cooled, you can roll them in powdered sugar again.
** To make conventional cookies, substitute all-purpose flour for the gluten-free flour, adding an extra 1-2 Tablespoons and omit the xanthan gum.
The dough for this cookie isn’t very sweet. The cookies get most of their sweetness from the powdered sugar coating.