Yes, the annual Christmas dinner debate is over. The only discussions were minor because I announced I was going “back to basics”: old-school 80’s appetizers like almond-stuffed dates wrapped in bacon, and pimiento cheese with crackers (DC is a southern town!). Ken chimed in with a request for a mushroom crostata and Kurt requested country paté, but “would deal” with a new chicken liver paté I made for my last mommy dinner.
Standing rib roast with mashed potatoes (though Jeff lobbied again, unsuccessfully, for the lemon poppy seed version), roasted root vegetables and popovers. Salad with thinly sliced raw beets and apples, toasted walnuts and a buttermilk-crème fraîche dressing– très français.
I offered a new sangria mold (white vs. our traditional red), but Grace was cautious because of the number of desserts. NUMBER OF DESSERTS. Sans Rival (a traditional Filipino dessert made of cashew meringue layers sandwiched with buttercream), Paris Brest with hazelnut praline, and myriad cookies. We are a table of twelve this year…
I LOVE baking my Christmas cookies! Every member of my family has a favorite cookie (or two), and I end up with at least half a dozen types of cookies, plus a plate of my toffee. Today, I’m making Grace’s favorite.
Her favorite has changed over the years. For a long time, she had to have sugar cookies, but only without frosting (she likes them crisp). These days, she opts for these Nutty Angel Fingers. That’s what my Christmas 101 book calls them, and they are similar to Mexican wedding cookies, Russian tea cakes, Greek kourabiedes.
I think these are her new favorite because they are crumbly-crunchy, not-too-sweet, nutty, and, most of all, BUTTERY RICH. I make many batches of these so Grace can take them home.
I use either pecans or walnuts when making these; today I’m using pecans because my freezer is overflowing with them. I grind the nuts in a food processor, vs. chopping them by hand.
Nutty Angel Fingers (adapted from Christmas 101)
- 2 cups (1 lb) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 1 1/2 TB vanilla extract
- 4 cups flour
- 1 lb pecans, ground in food processor
- extra confectioners sugar for rolling
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line cookies sheets with parchment paper.
Using a stand mixer and flat paddle, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes, then add the vanilla and mix briefly to combine.
Take the bowl off the stand and add the flour, mixing til well blended. Add the ground nuts and mix again I started with a rubber spatula, but switched to a wooden spoon; the nuts make the dough very stiff!
Pinch off a walnut-sized balls of dough, forming them into 2 1/2 inch logs, and place on lined cookie sheet.
Bake for 20 minutes, turning sheets around half-way through the time, until cookies are lightly browned. Let cookies rest on baking sheet for 5-6 minutes or until cool enough to handle (they should still be warm).
While cookies cool, whisk 1 cup of confectioners’ sugar into a shallow dish or pie plate. When cookies are ready, roll in the sugar and place on a cookie rack to completely cool. Re-roll in sugar if needed before serving.
I get about 8 dozen cookies (4 cookie sheets), but yield will vary depending on how big you roll the logs. These freeze very well, so you can always have them on hand throughout the holidays.