It’s the middle of fall. Halloween is next week, and daylight saving time is nearing on Nov. 3. These two events will make life at Lake Tahoe feel more like mid-autumn, a time for baking holiday cookies. The colder temps at night call for tea or hot chocolate paired with a popular “snowball cookie,” also known as a “butterball cookie.” And, thanks to their white powdered sugar, it’s a reminder that we do live at a famous ski resort town and our time will come.
During my past pre-winter days in Eugene, Ore. when we got a dusting of snow, I made a big batch of butterball cookies and sent them to relatives. Sadly, the receivers weren’t thrilled and told me they were broken into pieces. On the upside, they stayed intact for me and were devoured by my roomies. These cute, rounded, mound-shaped cookies require few ingredients, butter, nuts, flour and powdered sugar. They are mini delights for fall and winter, as well as fairly inexpensive to make.
Years later at Tahoe, my late neighbor, a good-hearted mountain man from Poland, asked me to use my computer to book a holiday flight for him to go to Europe for an annual family visit. When he was gone I missed his generosity. After all, he walked my dog on black ice, shoveled the deck when the snow was miles high (OK, feet), and reminded me to go to the lake and count my blessings when I was in a grumpy mood. Once home from Europe he brought me a sweet gift. It was a box of sugary butterballs. So, I dedicate these buttery cookies with a Mediterranean flair to the neighbor who understood the word gratitude and paid it forward many times.
Mediterranean Snowball Cookies
1 cup European-style butter
2 capfuls of macadamia nut oil
1 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, premium brand
1/2 cup macadamia nuts, finely ground
2 capfuls of pure vanilla extract
2 1/4-2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Optional: finely chopped dark chocolate chips and orange and chocolate sprinkles for fall and/or Halloween
In a mixing bowl, mix butter, oil, and sugar until smooth and well blended. Add nuts and vanilla. Add flour cup by cup. Chill for 30 minutes. Use a plastic tablespoon to form each ball of dough into a uniform rounded ball and place on an ungreased cookie sheet (Warning: Due to high altitude try a test cookie to ensure you use enough flour. It could vary and you will use a bit more. Cookies should not spread but stay true to ball shape.). Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes. Do not over bake. Roll in sugar when warm and again when cool. Makes 22-24 cookies.
These cookies, from the first one to the last, boast a sophisticated appeal. The texture is light, but the cookie remains in a perfect mound that almost melts in your mouth. The rich taste is memorable, and, because they are small, eating two guilt-free is a reality. Baking a batch of these snowballs brought back Oregonian memories when I made these on the cheap — without a mixer, exotic oil, nuts and the pricey powdered sugar. I adore these versatile snowball cookies this time of year — and so will you.
Count your blessings, big and small — and little cookies can give anyone a big boost.
Cal Orey, M.A., is an author and journalist. Her books include “The Healing Powers” series (Vinegar, Olive Oil, Chocolate, Honey, and Coffee) published by Kensington. (The Healing Coffee is offered by the Good Cook Book Club. The Healing Powers of Coffee, Vinegar, Olive Oil, and Honey are sold at Walmart stores nationwide. This autumn, the author is revising and updating the 2nd edition of The Healing Powers of Olive Oil. Her website is www.calorey.com