My 6-year-old daughter who loves all things sweet and baked, is allergic to tree nuts. That means that she can only look longingly at pecan pie, pralines, sandines, and all other variety of goodness that includes my beloved pecans. So I am always looking for ways to bake her treats that are traditionally made with nuts but with other goodies mixed in instead.
One of my absolute favorite holiday cookies is the Russian Tea Cake, which is a sweet, buttery bonbon studded with walnuts and dusted with powdered sugar. It is a simple but perfect little bite, and I like to make them every year. This year, however, my daughter really wanted to try one, so I grabbed some ginger and oranges, browned the butter and used sprouted wheat flour. These little gems are melt-in-your-mouth delicious and have a deceptively nutty flavor. Best of all, my baby girl was so happy she could finally have one of mommy's favorite cookies.
1 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar, plus extra for dusting finished cookies
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
1/4 teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia (optional)
2 tablespoons crystallized ginger, minced (optional)
pinch of fine kosher salt
1 1/2 cups sprouted wheat flour
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1. Brown the butter: Cut the butter into 1/4-inch cubes and place in a small saucepan. Place the pan on the stove and turn on the heat to medium - standing at the ready with a wooden spoon. When the butter starts to bubble and sputter, gently stir it and keep stirring until the butter turns a bronzed color. Do not let the butter burn. When the butter had browned turn off the heat, pour the butter into a small heat safe bowl. Place the bowl in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes.
2. Make the cookies: In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl using a study wooden spoon) cream the powdered sugar together with the browned butter. Beat in the vanilla, ginger, orange zest, and fiori di sicilia (if using). Turn off the mixer or stop stirring.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sprouted wheat flour, unbleached flour, and salt. Turn the mixer back on, and add the flour 1/4 cup at a time, beating each time until the flour is fully incorporated. If using the crystalized ginger, stir it gently into the cookie dough. Gather the dough into a ball, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Line your baking sheet(s) with parchment paper.
4. After the 30 minutes has passed, remove the dough from the refrigerator and unwrap. Using a teaspoon or your hands, roll small pieces of the dough into 1-inch balls. Place about 1 inch apart on the prepared cookie sheets and place the sheet(s) in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350F.
5. After 30 minutes, remove the cookie sheet(s) from the refrigerator and place directly into the oven. Bake the cookies for about 12 minutes or until they look firm and have started to brown. Remove from the oven and place the baking sheet on a cooling rack set over a sheet of foil or parchment paper, and let cool for 15 minutes. Remove the cookie sheet from the cooling rack, then toss the cookies with powdered sugar. Put each cookie directly on the cooling rack to cool completely. After the cookies are completely cooled, toss them once again in powdered sugar. They are now ready to serve or give away as presents.