Grain-Free Russian Tea Cakes

By • December 2, 2013 • 14 Comments

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Author Notes: You might know these cookies by any number of names: Russian tea cakes, Russian tea cookies, Mexican wedding cookies, polvorones, or any other family names for the little nutty balls of flour and butter, swathed in powdered sugar. For many of us, these cookies are the cookies for December. Here's a version -- grain-free and gluten-free -- that everyone can eat.

Update: a few folks made the cookies as written and complained they didn't hold together. I made them again, as written, and realized the psyllium husk had somehow been left out of the recipe. The psyllium helps absorb some of the liquid and hold together as balls. So do try the recipe as it is written now!

Additionally, there was some question about the almond flour. This recipe calls for finely ground almond flour, which is much finer than the almond meal most commonly sold in stores. If you have almond meal, you can grind it finer in a powerful blender.

Finally, before you bake the cookies, put the balls of dough on a baking sheet, then place the baking sheet in the freezer for 15 minutes. This helps with all cookies!
glutenfreegirl

Makes 18 cookies

  • 180 grams finely ground almond flour
  • 100 grams tapioca flour
  • 1 teaspoon psyllium husk
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup coconut oil, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup dates, pitted
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  1. Combining the dry ingredients. Whisk together the almond flour, tapioca flour, psyllium husk, and kosher salt until they are fluffy together.
  2. Making the dough. Put the coconut oil, dates, honey, and vanilla extract into the bowl of the food processor. Whirl them up until they are a coherent mixture. Add the flour mixture until the batter comes together in a moist ball. Add the walnuts and pulse the food processor until the nuts are folded into the batter. Refrigerate the dough for at least one hour before baking.
  3. Preparing to bake. Heat the oven to 325° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  4. Baking the cookies. Roll the refrigerated dough into small balls. Put 12 of them onto a baking sheet. Bake until the edges of the cookies start to brown, about 12 to 15 minutes. Finish baking all the cookies. When the cookies have cooled enough to touch, roll each one in the bowl of powdered sugar. Put them onto a cooling rack, set over another baking sheet. (This saves having to clean the counter of powdered sugar.) Eat!
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Stringio

3 days ago Elizabeth

I was a bit worried about these cookies given all the warnings in the reviews -- but they turned out wonderfully! I'm making these for a gluten free friend and am glad to find a recipe that's not just a poor imitation of the traditional flour recipe (really, I don't know that I'd know which was which in a blind taste test). I'm not sure why mine worked, but here's a brief description of what I did:
- The almond flour that I used was from the bulk bins at Whole Foods. It very fine, almost like corn meal. I ran out though and used about half a cup of Trader Joe's almond meal, which looks noticeably less fine.
- I didn't have psyllium husk and used 1 tsp of guar gum instead.
- I kept the dough in the fridge for an hour and a half, then shaped it into balls and froze for 20 minutes.
- I made much smaller balls, with a yield of 49 cookies instead of the recipe's 18. They expanded a bit in the oven into the roughly inch or so diameter balls I expect from Russian tea cakes.

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5 days ago Kathy

Epic fail. Followed the recipe (with psyllium) to a "T" and even refrigerated before baking again. Flat, sloppy mess. What a waste of time & money

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12 months ago smores

Were you up all night with a sick toddler and your eyes weren't as clear as they should be again?

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12 months ago Jana

The recipe calls for powdered sugar, so these cookies are *not* refined sugar-free as described in your blog post.

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12 months ago Ellie

psyllium! The secret binding agent. Thanks for testing again, and happy holidays.

Shauna_and_danny_ahern_-_photo_credit_sarah_bunch

12 months ago glutenfreegirl

Shauna James Ahern is cooking up a good life, gluten-free. Her most recent book, Gluten-free Girl and the Chef was named one of the best Cookbooks of 2010 by the New York Times.

Okay, folks, I made the cookies again. They did spread a little, but into tidy flatter cookies, not puddles. That made me realize that somehow the psyllium husk had been left out of the recipe! So use 1 teaspoon of psyllium husk and the cookies should stay in balls. Also, do make sure you have finely ground almond flour, instead of almond meal. And, try freezing the balls of dough on the baking sheet before you bake the cookies! That should take care of it.

Shauna_and_danny_ahern_-_photo_credit_sarah_bunch

12 months ago glutenfreegirl

Shauna James Ahern is cooking up a good life, gluten-free. Her most recent book, Gluten-free Girl and the Chef was named one of the best Cookbooks of 2010 by the New York Times.

I'm sorry that people are having problems with the cookies! These are the correct measurements. I made the cookies four times before I posted them. Someone suggested that the Bob's Red Mill almond flour might be too coarse, which is a good guess. These recipes really only work with finely ground almond flour, such as the one manufactured by Honeyville or Nuts.com. They are far more finely ground than almond meal, which is like little crumbles of nuts. Almond meal doesn't absorb liquid well, which may be why they seemed crumbly. However, tomorrow I'll make the cookies again and see if I can detect anything new!

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12 months ago Marie

I also measured by weight, refrigerated the dough for about 2 hrs, baked on parchment. I wish glutenfreegirl would check the ingredients list.

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12 months ago Ellie

So, I added quite a bit of white rice flour to the dough I had left, and managed to get more of a cookie out of the next baking. They are super crumbly though. I still wonder if the Bob's almond flour was too coarse or why this failed. I measured the starches carefully by weight, chilled the dough, used parchment, etc but got the puddles.

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12 months ago Marie

just finished my first batch. They flattened out and did not stay in a ball shape. they are very crumbly. There must be something wrong with the ingredient list. Very disappointed.

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12 months ago Ellie

Mine turned to puddles too. I think there is something off about the ratio of fat to starch. Or it could be that different grinds of almond meal/flour make the difference? Perhaps puddles happen when it's too coarse? I am in the process of adding a bunch of rice flour to try holding these together, they taste too good to throw out!

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about 1 year ago Anne13

Granted, I made mine smaller, but cut the baking time accordingly and they're still not holding their shape. I've checked my oven temp, so something else is wrong. Any ideas? They're just melting into little puddles.

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about 1 year ago Kaye

The powdered sugar sticks better if you roll the cookies in it while they're still hot, then roll once more when they've cooled.

Shauna_and_danny_ahern_-_photo_credit_sarah_bunch

about 1 year ago glutenfreegirl

Shauna James Ahern is cooking up a good life, gluten-free. Her most recent book, Gluten-free Girl and the Chef was named one of the best Cookbooks of 2010 by the New York Times.

True. That works too.