Pistachio Butterballs

I am sure you are familiar with Mexican Wedding Cakes, also referred to as Russian Tea Cakes and Butterballs – those round, crumbly, buttery orbs covered with a generous shower of confectioner’s sugar. These cookies seem to make the rounds at various holidays and are always a hit. They contain nuts, usually walnuts, pecans, almonds or hazelnuts. I had never seen a version made with pistachios and I found that they worked perfectly. And I happen to love the pale green color the natural pistachios lend to this cookie. These appear in Unforgettable Desserts, where you will find all sorts of other delectable desserts from cookies to cakes to pies and tarts.

Makes about 40 cookies

3/4 cup shelled, raw, unsalted, green pistachios, rubbed clean of papery skin

1 1/2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar, divided

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at cool room temperature, cut into pieces

1 teaspoon almond extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

Place pistachios, 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar and salt in bowl of food processor fitted with metal blade. Pulse on and off to break up nuts, then process until nuts are finely ground. Add butter a few pieces at a time, pulsing on and off to incorporate, then run machine until mixture is smooth; pulse in almond extract. Add flour and pulse machine on and off until incorporated, scraping the dough down once or twice. Process until the dough begins to form a ball. Remove dough from machine, form into a very flat disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours or until firm enough to roll into balls. Dough may be refrigerated overnight. You may freeze dough up to 1 month; defrost in refrigerator overnight before proceeding.

Position racks in upper and lower third of oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two jellyroll pans with parchment paper.

Roll dough between your palms with lightly floured hands into 1-inch balls and place on prepared pans 2-inches apart. (I measure a couple to make sure I am on the right track).

Gently flatten just enough so that they don’t roll off the sheet.

Bake for about 18 to 22 minutes or until just turning light golden brown around the edges and on the bottoms. Cool pans on racks for 5 minutes, then sift remaining 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar over warm cookies. After cookies have cooled completely, roll them in the powdered sugar on the cookie sheet to cover completely. Store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks, along with the confectioner’s sugar. Roll them around again right before placing on a serving tray.

Tip: The exotic, elusive flavor of pistachios is greatly enhanced with a light toasting. If you skip this step, the cookies will work, but the pistachio flavor will be muted.