These nutty, shortbread-like beauties are popular around the globe--they're also known as Russian tea cakes, Italian butternuts, and Viennese sugar balls.
3/4 cup pecan halves or pieces
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, plus extra for garnish
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick, or 8 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
Nonstick cooking spray
In the bowl of a food processor, add pecans, confectioners' sugar, and salt, and process to a fine meal.
Add half the butter pats and pulse briefly three or four times. Add remaining butter and pulse again, until butter is smooth. Add vanilla before the machine stops.
Add flour and process until dough is evenly blended; it will gather into a ball on the blade. Scrape dough into a bowl and refrigerate 15 minutes.
Heat oven to 350°.
Between your palms, roll dough into 11/4-inch balls and place on lightly greased baking sheets, leaving 2 inches between cookies. Refrigerate 15 minutes.
Bake cookies 20 minutes, or until bottom edges begin to brown. Transfer cookies to a rack to cool.
When they're barely warm, roll cookies in confectioners' sugar. Roll again when completely cooled.