Ah Christmas Cookies. Most of my favorites aren’t very complicated to make, but it is the fact that they are only made and consumed but once a year that makes them so special. My husband likes ginger snaps (his great grandmother’s recipe). The kids like sugar cookies. My favorite kind of Christmas cookie are Kifflings, a.k.a. pecan balls, or mexican wedding cakes.
To make the perfect kiffling, you combine, confectioners sugar, softened butter, finely chopped pecans, flour and vanilla. Note, only butter and real vanilla. No posers for this nugget of glory. You roll the sand colored dough into small balls the size of marbles and bake them until just golden. Once they’ve cooled, the balls are bathed in a luxurious bath of confectioners sugar. My mother used to serve them stacked on a plate lined with a paper doily, They looked like a pyramid of pearls. *sigh*.
I usually make a batch or six for Christmas, but since I’m the only one in my family who eats them, I passed this year. It was a feeble attempt at fitting in my jeans come January 1, 2010. Still, I was jonesin’ for a fix.
The little cookie with the powdered sugar coating can be deceiving. One must be careful when eating other’s Kifflings for sometimes, they aren’t Kifflings at all. Sometimes, evil bakers corrupt the purity of the kiffling by removing the nuts and including nasty additives such as anise or other spices.
Such was my conundrum on New Year’s Eve. My dear friend C had invited our family to spend the night with her family. C’s sister L was also there and the pair are known for baking a ton of Christmas cookies. I spied their efforts early on in the evening. There tucked away in the corner of the dining room was a large silver platter laden down with a multitude of confectionary treats. Nestled in with the sugar cookies, the bird’s nests, the fruit bars and peppermint bark, sat several pearly white balls.
Oh, my mouth watered. Were my needs about to be met? My desires quenched? I was giddy with the anticipation, I restrained myself until we had finished the appetizers and the main course, but after the table had been cleared, I could wait no more. I had to know.
Standing the kitchen, I quizzed my hostess. Nodding my head toward the dining room I inquired, “Are those kifflings or anise balls?”
C looked quizzical.
L looked a tad taken aback. It is probably worth noting that although L and I had heard many stories about the other via C, this evening was the first time we’d ever met in person.
I was puzzled at their lack of response to what I thought was a simple question. Had I committed a faux Paz? Was it considered rude to enquire as to the nature of the cookies? Did I rush dessert? I hadn’t had THAT much rum. Did I slur my words?
C asked, “Did you say cotton balls?”
Now, in the wrong hands, kifflings can taste like cotton balls, but I knew that C was a more than capable baker. I never meant to imply incompetence with my question. Maybe this year the baking hadn’t gone as she planned. Perhaps L had made the kifflings and C was not happy with the results? That would explain the look on L’s face. Oh my. Well, it seemed the best path was to barrel through with the truth and move on.
“No, are those kifflings or anise balls?”
L’s face broke in to a wide grin and she started to giggle. “Oh, I thought you said a$$ balls.”
I’m really not sure what happened next as the whole room (fortunately all grown-ups) broke out in uproarious laughter.
Eventually, I found out that the cookie I was eyeing was a German cookie who’s name sounded more like a sneeze than a delicacy (pfeffersnoozen or something of the like).
Not only did I NOT get my kiffling fix, I lost all my mascara and made my stomach hurt with all the laughing over a$$ balls.
Oh well, there’s always next year.
Pecan Ball Recipe
This recipe includes nutmeg, but that’s because it is from McCormick Spices and they just want you to use lots of spices in everything :). http://www.mccormick.com/Recipes/Desserts/Pecan-Cookie-Balls.aspx By all means use their vanilla, but skip the nutmeg. It is unnecessary.
Image courtesy of McCormick Spices. http://www.mccormick.com/
I have no affiliation with McCormick Spices other than being a loyal consumer of their pure vanilla extract.