For most people, Easter means it’s time for chocolate bunnies and colored eggs. And while those things are fine, for me this season is about all things lemon. This year I decided to riff on one of my favorite cookies, the Mexican wedding cookie, also known as the Russian tea cake, pecan butterballs, snowballs, and many other names.
The delicious simplicity of these treats begs for a burst of lemon, and by adding a healthy dose of lemon zest, these nutty shortbread-like cookies become a “lemon wedding cookie.”
You also can add a drop or two of yellow food coloring to make the cookies yellow and more in keeping with Easter colors.
Nutrition information per cookie: 90 calories; 60 calories from fat (67 percent of total calories); 6 g fat (3 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 10 mg cholesterol; 8 g carbohydrate; 0 g fiber; 4 g sugar; 1 g protein; 15 mg sodium.
Lemon wedding cookies
Start to finish: 1 hour
Makes 3½ dozen cookies
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1½ cups powdered sugar, sifted, divided
¼ teaspoon fine-grain salt
Zest of 1 very large or 2 small lemons
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 drop yellow food coloring (optional)
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup lightly toasted pecans, finely chopped in a food processor or nut chopper
In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add ½ cup of the powdered sugar, then beat well. Add the salt, lemon zest and vanilla and beat until creamy. Add the food coloring, if using. A little at a time, beat in the flour just until mixed.
Add the nuts, using a silicone spatula to stir them in. Place the dough in a small bowl or a plastic bag and chill for 30 to 60 minutes, or place in the freezer for about 15 minutes. At this stage, the dough also can be frozen for up to one month.
Meanwhile, heat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the remaining one cup of powdered sugar in a medium bowl.
Once the dough has chilled, divide it into ½-inch balls. Arrange the balls on the prepared baking sheet, leaving one inch between them. Bake on the center rack for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the cookies are set on top and lightly golden on the bottom.
Let the cookies cool for two to three minutes on the cookie sheet. A few at a time, place the cookies in the bowl of powdered sugar and toss gently to coat well. Transfer the coated cookies to a rack to cool completely. Once cool, repeat the coating process with the bowl of powdered sugar. Store in an airtight container.