This year I have joined the organizing committee for the Women in Physics (WiP) group. We do things like ordering food for large groups of people to eat while they watch a movie or play games. Occasionally we make people bring their own food, but given the lower attendance of such events, we try to provide at least a little enticement. Our most recent addition to the WiP lineup is a weekly lunch with the ladies out in the bright sunshine, and since no one would come more than once if there were no free food involved, I volunteered to make cookies, every week. While having an excuse to bake cookies every week is a reward by itself (because who in their right mind can resist tasting the batter, and then eating a test cookie just to make sure that bottle of arsenic wasn’t accidentally put back next to the vanilla). I also get reimbursed for all baking expenses. Yeeesssssssss… you see the beauty of the situation: I bake as many cookies as my little heart desires, I don’t have to eat all of them, but I get to eat some of them, and now I have a whole cupboard filled with WiP-subsidized baking supplies. It’s like my own little bakery. In my kitchen. And the cookies are free.
We are now on week 4 of WiP lunch in the sun. Weeks 1 and 2 were my favorite chocolate chip cookies that I actually made all by myself this time (usually Peter makes them even when they are for something entirely unrelated to him, such as astrophysics journal club) and week 3 was peanut butter cookies. This week is a flaky, nutty cookie that certainly scales well in the subtle category. I followed the recipe from Smitten Kitchen but added some salt because the raw cookie dough tasted a little bland.
Russian Tea Cakes
1 cup butter (2 sticks) at room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar for the dough plus 1 – 1.5 cups for covering the cookies
2 teaspoons vanilla extract or Gran Marnier
2 cups white flour
1/2 teaspoon salt or less to taste
1 cup raw walnuts, toasted in the oven for 5-10 minutes and ground to a coarse meal
Make the dough: Mix the butter until it has a nice smooth consistency. Add the 1/2 cup of powdered sugar and vanilla or Gran Marnier and mix with the butter. Add the flour and salt and mix until smooth. Add the nuts and again mix until smooth. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap or parchment paper in a block shape and refrigerate the batter for about 30 minutes so that it can be easily rolled into cookies.
Make the cookies: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. I had to bake the cookies in two batches, so cut the cold dough in half and start with that. Roll the dough into balls about an inch in diameter. This is easily done by cutting the block of dough into slices and cutting these slices into even pieces and rolling each piece into a ball. Leave about 2 inches between the cookies as they will expand slightly when baked. Bake the cookies for 16-18 minutes until golden on the bottom and only slightly golden on top. Let the cookies cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet and then roll each one in the 1 – 1.5 cups of powdered sugar. This is messy work. Let the powdered-sugar-rolled cookies cool on a cookie rack.