My mother, the queen of Christmas cookies (even years after her death), made dozens and dozens of varieties every year. Some of my earliest cookie memories were of her Christmas snowballs. Buttery and nutty and melt-in-your-mouth tender, they were delicious! What really intrigued me was the creamy-sugary glaze hiding beneath the powdery dusting of confectioner's sugar that gave them their name. It seemed inexplicable how each cookie was neatly and evenly glazed—that is, until my mom shared the secret. Now I'm sharing it with you.
Why It WorksDouble-dipping in powdered sugar is the key.
- Toasting the nuts before grinding them reduces moisture and improves flavor.
- An extra-long bake time and the addition of baking soda removes all traces of pastiness from these cookies.
- Dipping the cookies in confectioner's sugar while still hot allows their residual heat to melt the sugar and form a glaze around the cookie, no extra work required!
- 1 cup slivered almonds (4 1/2 ounces; 130g) (see note above)
- 1 scant cup all-purpose flour (4 1/2 ounces; 130g)
- 1/2 teaspoon (3g) baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon (1g) salt
- 4 ounces unsalted butter, softened (1 stick; 115g)
- 3 tablespoons (35g) granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon (5mL) pure vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups (about 200g) confectioner's sugar
Adjust oven rack to center position and preheat the oven to 325°F. Spread the almonds out on a pie plate and toast until golden, about 8 minutes. Let cool, then transfer the nuts to a mini food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Transfer to a small bowl and whisk in the flour, baking soda, and salt.
In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter with the granulated sugar and vanilla until creamy, about 4 minutes. On low speed, add the nut mixture and beat until evenly combined, scraping up the bottom and sides of the bowl once or twice, about 1 minute.
Line a large sturdy baking sheet with parchment paper. Scoop level tablespoons of the dough into balls and gently roll. Arrange the balls 1 inch apart and freeze until just firm, about 10 minutes. Bake until lightly golden on top and deep golden on the bottom, about 22 minutes.
Place the cookie sheet on a rack to cool for 10 minutes. Put the confectioner's sugar into a shallow bowl. Working with no more than 2 cookies at a time, roll them in the confectioner's sugar. Return them to the baking sheet and let them cool completely, undisturbed, until the glaze is set, about 1 hour. Sift the confectioner's sugar to remove any crumbs and re-roll the cooled cookies. Store cookies in an airtight container between sheets of waxed paper for up to 2 weeks.