The first food show I watched was Emeril Live. I’m not sure what got me started on it, but from the first episode I saw, I was hooked, never missing an hour. As a young girl not knowing fast food from fine dining, I never made any of the recipes; actually I probably didn’t even process whether or not they sounded good to me. I simply liked the fun nature of the show, the audience interaction, the band, the guests, “BAM!,” but mostly I liked that it brought me closer to my grandfather.
My grandparents lived out of town, so I didn’t get to see them as much as I would’ve liked. There were plenty of things to foster the relationship between my granny and me: cards, phone calls, sitting outside, shopping for frilly dresses. But a connection with my grandfather was far more elusive. Emeril Live brought us together. When he was in town we’d sit on the couch, sometimes with a snack in hand (what’s watching food TV without a snack?), and yell “BAM!” at the top of our lungs. It was our hour for a couple weeks each year. And today it’s one of the only ways I really remember him. I was eleven when he died and had few memories of him to begin with, memories that have faded more and more as the years have passed. Every time I see Emeril, now far more interested in his food than I was at the time, I feel a little jolt of my grandfather hit me. In talking to Mom about her parents over the past couple of years, I learned my grandfather loved to cook. He even made his own pasta and played around with herbs and spices. I wish we would’ve cooked together then or he was around now to see how often my kitchen is put to work, but I hope he knows that he still inspires me in cooking and baking.
Because of this, Emeril is still one of my favorite celebrity chefs. I have been wanting to post my adaptation of an Emeril recipe on the blog since before it began, so now it’s time. These Russian Tea Cakes remind me of the wedding cookies I’ve had throughout my life, most recently some from Archway at Christmastime. I really didn’t alter this cookie much. I used pecans, though walnuts or even macadamia nuts would be stellar.
It’s the perfect little bite of cookie. Just barely golden brown around the edges and on the bottom, they are firm and kind of crumbly when you take a bite. I left the nuts in a variety of small sizes, so you know when you’re biting into a nut and they add a lot of crunch to the cookie. The vanilla really comes through, too, which I love, so does the flavor of butter. They get two coatings of powdered sugar. The first one leaves the cookie peaking through while the second leaves you with a snowball in the palm of your hand just waiting to be eaten. Storing them, or even moving them, really, causes some of the sugar to fall off or melt into the cookie.
Russian Tea Cakes would make a great snack or dessert, as well as an amazing addition to a tea (they are tea cakes, after all) or brunch spread, particularly for the upcoming Easter holiday. This is one of the few recipes that I wouldn’t recommend freezing; they just don’t seem like the type of cookie that would hold up well in the frosty environment. That shouldn’t be a problem though, as their tiny shape and delicious flavor will have you whipping up a second (and crazy easy – no mixer required) batch in no time.
- 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- ½ cup confectioners’ sugar, plus 2 cups or more for rolling cookies
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup pecans, chopped into small pieces
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment.
- In a large mixing bowl, cream butter using spoon or spatula until light and fluffy, a mixer would also do the job. Add vanilla, then gradually add ½ cup confectioners’ sugar. Continue creaming the mixture until light and fluffy.
- In a medium bowl whisk together the flour and salt. Gradually add the flour to the butter mixture and stir to incorporate. Add the pecans and mix until a dough comes together.
- Shape dough into 1 to 2-inch balls, placing about 2 inches apart on baking sheets. They will not spread during the baking process. Flatten the tops of cookies slightly using fingers. Bake for 15-20 minutes, rotating halfway through if necessary until the edges and bottoms have just started to turn light brown.
- When the cookies have cooled just enough to handle, roll them in powdered sugar. Place them back on the cookie sheets to cool completely. When they have cooled entirely, roll them in the powdered sugar again, making sure they are completely covered.
- Cookies may be stored in an airtight container for up to one week.