Swedish Heirlooms

What’s you favorite Christmas cookie? According to an unofficial IM-based poll of my office, my coworkers love rainbow cookies, sugar cookies, spritzes, and gingerbread the most. These cookies are my favorite.

I’m going to keep this short since it’s Christmas Eve and there are hazelnuts to toast, cakes to bake, fudge to eat, wine to drink and margaritas and tacos to devour (it’s a holiday tradition, don’t ask). These cookies aren’t  festive and multicolored; they arent shaped like trees; and they aren’t filled with mulled spices. They’re just simple and delicious and remind me of Christmas.

Russian Tea Cakes, Mexican Wedding Cookies, Swedish Heirlooms–they’re all the same basic cookie; ground nuts and butter rolled into balls and coated with powdered sugar. This version, which uses ground almonds bolstered with almond extract, is my Grandma’s. Why they’re called Swedish heirlooms, I have no idea; we’re not even remotely Swedish. But they are delicious. Buttery and shortbread-like, slightly crumbly and obviously almondy enough to suggest marzipan, but with enough restraint that they’re not in dangerous almond-overkill territory.

I hope everyone out there is enjoying their Christmas Eve and has some good food, drink, and family on their roster. Hopefully each of you gets a bit of your favorite Christmas cookie. Save a few for Santa. Or don’t; it’s up to you 🙂

Swedish Heirlooms

Recipe from Grandma Howitt. Makes about 3 dozen.

The trick to getting these cookies (or any powdered sugar–covered cookies) nice and snowy is to roll them in powdered sugar twice; once while warm and once after they’re cooled.

1 c. unsalted butter (2 sticks), room temp
1 c. powdered sugar
1 1/4 c. almonds, ground finely
1 t. almond extract
2 c. flour
powdered sugar for rolling

  • Heat oven to 325°F
  • Cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until smooth
  • Blend in all the other ingredients on low speed until just mixed
  • Shape into walnut-sized balls and place  about 1.5″ apart on a prepared cookie sheet (they won’t spread much!). Flatten slightly
  • Bake 15 minutes or until slightly brown and just barely soft on top
  • While they are still warm/hot, roll once in powdered sugar and place on a cooling rack
  • After they’re cool, roll once more in powdered sugar
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