Greek Christmas Crescent Cookies
There are many names for the family of Christmas shortbread cookies made with nuts and coated in powdered sugar: Russian tea cakes, Mexican wedding cookies. In my family, we called them pecan puffs. Some call them snowballs.
Greek crescent cookies (kourabiedes) are another variation on this theme. Though they are often enriched with egg yolks, brandy, and orange water, the base formula of butter, powdered sugar, flour, and nuts is there. I found this streamlined recipe when I was paging through Yankee’s archives from the 1950s. It appeared in the February, 1958 issue in an article by Duncan MacDonald, then the magazine’s food editor and lifestyle maven. In an article celebrating the influx of European cuisines to post-war America, she included recipes for halva, loukoumathes, and these crescent cookies. You can make them with any nuts you like: hazelnuts, pecans, almonds, walnuts. In my tests, I combined all of the above, and the results were delicious. The cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for ten days and they also freeze well—just dust them with another coat of powdered sugar once thawed to room temperature.
Greek Nut Crescents (Kourabiedes)
- ½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/3 cup plus 2 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 ¾ cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 cups very finely chopped nuts, such as walnuts, almonds, or pecans (a food processor is ideal for this job)
Using a standing or electric mixer, beat butter until very creamy, about 2 minutes. Add 1/3 cup sugar, salt, and vanilla, and beat well. Add flour and nuts and beat until combined. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats. Break off a tablespoon-sized piece of dough, roll into a cylinder, turn it into a crescent shape, then transfer to the baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough. Bake until golden brown on the bottom, 20 to 25 minutes. When cookies are still warm, gently toss with the remaining 2 1/2 cups of powdered sugar to coat. When cookies cool completely, dust once more with the sugar. Yield: About 50 cookies.