It doesn't happen too often, but sometimes my engineering experience influences my baking. In the case of these cookies, I found myself comparing the cookie dough to concrete. No, I don't mean that these cookies are as hard as concrete. In fact, they are quite the opposite and melt in your mouth! You see, concrete is actually a mixture of different components (ingredients). You have your Portland cement, water and aggregates (rocks). Portland cement is the binding agent that when mixed with water and aggregates, cures to create concrete. This may seem crazy, but I had a whole semester-long class on concrete. What's even crazier is that it's actually a lot like baking!
In the case of these cookies, the flours and sugar are the Portland cement, the butter is the water and the pecans are the aggregates. I was having trouble with the cookies staying together. They would just crumble, which is a very common problem when baking gluten-free (especially without gums like xanthan and guar). I realized I had too much aggregate and the aggregate was too big. In other words, I had too many pecans and I didn't chop them fine enough. The cookie wasn't binding to the pecans properly. Anyone who knows how to cook, knows what a sieve is. Well, they are used in measuring aggregate for concrete too! I needed to change the sieve-size of the pecans.
After applying some civil engineering know-how to my cookies, I finally got them to turn out. They are delicate, buttery, and only slightly sweet, everything a snowball cookie should be. And everything concrete is not! Once again, I used my new gum-free, gluten-free flour blend (see recipe below) and it worked great. I took these into work and my co-workers seemed enjoyed them, if the powdered sugar trail from the break room was any indication! Whether you call these Russian tea cakes, Mexican wedding cookies or good old Snowballs, you will want to add these to your cookie tray this year (and hopefully not upset your tummy in the process!).
Pecan Snowball Cookies
Low-FODMAP, Gluten-Free, Gum-Free, Egg-Free
makes about 24 cookies
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cup Dianne's Gum-Free, Gluten-Free Flour Blend (see below)
2 tablespoons very finely chopped pecans
- Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Beat the butter and 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar until smooth. Beat in the vanilla and salt. Slowly add the flour and blend until fully incorporated. Mix in the pecans.
- Roll dough into 1" balls and place on prepared baking sheet. Bake 15 minutes. Let cookies cool completely on baking sheet before removing (it is important to do this - the cookies are very fragile when warm!).
- Place the remaining 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar in a small bowl and roll each cooled cookie in the sugar until evenly coated.
Dianne's Gum-Free, Gluten-Free Flour Blend
Thoroughly combine 2 cups brown rice flour, 1/2 cup sweet rice flour, 1/2 cup cornstarch and 1/4 cup tapioca flour. Measure flour by lightly spooning into the measuring cup and leveling off with the back of a knife.