What’s Christmas without the best Christmas cookie ever? A gluten-free Russian Tea Cookie (aka Snowball)!
No matter what you call these cookies – Russian Tea Cookies, Mexican Wedding Cakes, Snowballs, butterballs – I think we can all agree they the might be one of the tastiest, and completely underrated, Christmas cookies.
I mean, they look like SNOWBALLS – so seasonally appropriate! ❄️ PLUS they are made with tons of butter + powdered sugar, and absolutely MELT in your mouth. What’s not to love?
I seriously can’t be trusted around these cookies. If you put a plate in front of me, I inevitably will eat every last one, will give myself a belly ache that lasts for days, and won’t regret it even for one second. I mean, what’s Christmas without a Christmas cookie induced sugar rush?
Growing up, these were always my most favorite cookie. BY FAR. Every Christmas we would make an extra large batch, and I’d always lay in bed, dreaming of them, wondering why T’was the Night Before Christmas referred to sugar plums dancing in heads. Because for me, it was allllllll “Snowballs” allllll the time in my head (and my mouth 😳) during the month of December.
This recipe is a gluten-free adaptation of my grandma’s tried and true Russian Tea Cookie recipe, and let me tell you, that lady knew a thing or two about cookies. All of her cookie recipes are still our family’s go-tos – no fussing, no adapting (other than to g-freeify them 😉), just straight-up grandma goodness.
I’ve seen several variations on Russian Tea Cookies when it comes to the nuts that are used – pecans, walnuts, almonds, my friend Lynn even recommends macadamia nuts! – but my grandma always used walnuts, so that’s what I use and love! In my opinion, they add a delightfully nutty flavor and richness, but they aren’t too overpowering in this cookie.
Yup, Grandma knows best.
So what are the adaptations I made to grandma’s tried and true recipe to make these Russian Tea Cookies gluten-free? Not too many at all!
I added a TINY touch of extra xanthan gum to help bind everything together, as these cookies tend to be a bit of a crumbly mess even WITH gluten involved, and used just a touch less flour when I swapped in my gluten-free flour blend. That’s it! And it worked like a CHARM.
One important note about making these cookies, especially keeping the gluten-free crumble factor in mind: let the cookies cool a bit before their first roll in powdered sugar. You want to give the cookies a little time to set – if you roll them too soon they will completely fall apart – but you also want to make sure they are still a bit warm so the powdered sugar will stick. I recommend allowing them to cool for at least 3-4 minutes before starting to roll. If you’re like me, this will be a STRUGGLE (have I mentioned my lack of patience? 😂) but it is worth it to wait just a bit!
Shortbread-y, butter-y, powdered sugar-y, melt in your mouth goodness. Mmmmm. Mm.
If you need me over the course of the next few weeks, you know where to find me: right beside the cookie jar, likely covered in the powdered sugar aftermath of “snowball” bliss. 😁
- 1 cup butter, softened
- ½ cup powdered sugar, sifted + ¼ cup, separated
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 cups + 2 Tablespoons all-purpose gluten-free flour blend, sifted
- 1 teaspoon + ¼ teaspoon xanthan gum (omit 1 teaspoon if your blend already contains it)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup chopped walnuts
- In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except the extra ¼ cup of powdered sugar, and mix well with hands.
- Cover the dough with plastic wrap, and chill for at least 1 hour.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Roll the dough into 1-inch balls.
- Bake for 10 minutes on an ungreased cookie sheet until or cookies set but not brown.
- Allow the cookies to cool for at least 3-4 minutes, and then gently roll them in powdered sugar while still slightly warm.
- Before serving, and once completely cool, roll the cookies in powdered sugar one more time.
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