Today is my Dad’s birthday. My first memory of making tea is maybe when I was seven or eight-years-old and proudly (under) steeping a cup of Constant Comet for my dad and bringing it to him in his study. We lived in Bozeman, Montana at the time when the winter days were frigid and short on daylight. Every year since I can remember, I have baked Russian Tea Cookies (also called Mexican Wedding Cakes) for my Dad’s birthday. They are his favorite. And he always asked for me to bring a cup of black tea for him to drink alongside his pile of powdered sugared butter balls.
When we first started Whidbey Tea Company and were brainstorming our first few blends, we of course wanted a couple of black teas. In my research, I came across a Russian Earl Gray. And BAM! A blend of my Dad’s favorite things and childhood nostalgia. So today, I proudly (and correctly) brew my Dad a cup of Whidbey Tea’s Russian Earl Gray with his plate of Russian Tea Cookies.
So what makes it a Russian Earl Gray? Just a hint of citrus. To me, this added lemon combined with bergamot oil is a perfect pairing to help cut the butter in the tea cookies.
For the perfect steep: boil your water, steep between 2 - 5 minutes. Add some milk, sugar or honey if that’s your cup of tea. Then, sip, nibble, and sip some more.
And, here is my go-to family recipe for Russian Tea Cookies. Enjoy!
Mexican Wedding Cakes Recipe:
- 3/4 cup walnuts (can also use pecans)
- 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature - if you use salted, skip the salt below!
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Additional couple of cups powdered sugar for rolling
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and place rack in center of oven.
Toast Nuts: Place nuts on a baking sheet and bake for about 8 minutes, or until lightly brown and fragrant. Cool. Once the nuts have cooled completely either chop into small pieces (can use a food processor with a tablespoon or two of flour, or a nut grinder).
In the bowl of your electric or hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Beat in the vanilla extract. Add flour and salt and beat until combined. Stir in the nuts. Cover and refrigerate the dough for about one hour or until firm - don’t skip this step!
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Form the chilled dough into 1 inch balls and place them about 2 inches apart on the baking sheets. Bake for about 12 minutes or until the edges of the cookies start to brown. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool for about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, put about 1 cup powdered sugar in a shallow dish (I use a baking or casserole dish). Take the still warm cookies and roll them in the sugar, one at a time. Place on a wire rack to cool. Most of the powdered sugar will “melt” into the cookie. Once cool, roll one more time. They should now have a nice white coat!
Let cool completely before storing. Use a sheet either wax paper or plastic wrap to separate layers if you need to stack the cookies. Can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a couple weeks.
Makes about 2 dozen cookies.