Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Memories of My Sister's Baking - and she's still at it!


This is from yesterday's SeriousEats.com and I thought the photo was adorable and had to share it all with you. My sister made Russian Teacakes...and we often get on the phone and share with each other what holiday treats we're making each year and it is a rare Christmas indeed that I don't make these...maybe I'll try them in another shape with some little additions to make them just this cute.



Mexican wedding cakes, snowballs, kourambiedes, Armenian sugar cookies, Viennese crescents, sand tarts, Russian teacakes—as varied as this international sampler of cookies may sound, they really do amount to basically the same thing: a buttery, usually nutty, melt-in-your mouth treat, liberally coated with confectioners' sugar.

But my favorite variation? Moldy Mice Cookies, a buttery pecan cookie smothered in confectioners' sugar, which to the best of my knowledge first cropped up under this name in a 1950 Junior League cookbook entitled Charleston Receipts.

So what's with the name?

I have two theories: first, if you squint really hard at the cookies, they sort of resemble tiny mice covered with mold. Second (my favored theory), it's a clever deterrent technique employed by bakers who want to hoard the cookies for themselves. I wouldn't blame them: these rich, tender cookies are simply delectable.

Moldy Mice Cookies
- makes about 3 dozen cookies -
Adapted from Charleston Receipts.

Ingredients
1 tablespoon superfine sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup flour, sifted
1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
sifted confectioners' sugar for coating, to taste

Procedure
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Note: I've actually revised the original recipe a bit, adjusting the temperature from the suggested 425°F for 15 minutes to 350°F for 17-19 minutes; I found that this yielded a softer, more delicate cookie.

2. Beat sugar and butter until it becomes fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the vanilla and mix until incorporated. Combine nuts and flour; mix well then add it to the butter mix little by little, until incorporated (don't overmix!).

3. Shape dough by hand into little oval-shaped nuggets about the size of your thumb. Bake for 15 minutes or until lightly golden around the edges. Let cool on sheet for about 2 minutes then transfer to a rack to cool for about 30 minutes. Dust with confectioners' sugar. If not served immediately, then dust the cookies in more confectioners' sugar and tap off excess directly before serving.

About the author: Jessie Oleson is a Seattle-based writer, illustrator, and cake anthropologist who runs Cakespy, an award-winning dessert website.

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Tags: A Cookie a Day 2009, Cakespy, cookies, desserts, holiday sweets, nuts, pecans

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