The dough for these flavorful melt-in-your mouth cookies is based on that for the iconic Russian Tea Cake. (Arguably these are Extra-Russian Tea Cakes, what with the buckwheat flour and all...) You may serve them simply dusted with powdered sugar, like traditional RTCs, or poke each cookie gently with a stick (wooden spoon handle), while it’s still hot, to make “thumbprints” to fill with jam. How’s that for versatile?
Volume measures are given for all ingredients, but measuring with scale is not only easier, but more apt to get you the best results possible (put a link here or something?)
This recipe is inspired by the recipes in my latest book, Flavor Flours (Artisan 2014). —Alice Medrich
36 to 40 cookies
1 1/3 cups
(130 grams) walnuts or pecans
plus 1 tablespoons (70 grams) buckwheat flour
(65 grams) oat flour
plus 2 tablespoons (55 grams) white rice flour, preferably superfine, OR ½ cups plus 2 tablespoons (55 grams) Thai* rice flour
(100 grams) sugar
(60 grams) cream cheese, cold, cut in chunks
Combine the nuts, buckwheat flour, oat flour, rice flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda in a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process until the nuts are finely ground -- or leave up to half of them a little coarser for texture if you like. Add the cream cheese, butter, water, and vanilla. Process just until a smooth soft dough forms. Scrape the bowl and blend in any stray flour at the bottom of the bowl with your fingers.
Scrape the dough into a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least two hours, but preferably 24.
Preheat the oven to 325° F. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven.
Shape slightly more than level tablespoons of dough into 1 1/4-inch balls. Place 2 inches apart on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake 15 to 20 minutes, until the cookies are well browned on the bottom (you’ll will have to tip one up gently and have a peek underneath) -- if in doubt bake a minute or so longer. Rotate the pans from top to bottom and front to back halfway through the baking time to ensure even baking.
When the cookies are done, set the tray on racks. For thumbprint cookies, immediately press the handle of a wooden spoon about halfway into the center of each hot cookie.
Let the cookies cool completely before storing or filling. Unfilled cookies may be kept in an airtight container for at least 2 weeks. Shortly before serving, use a fine-mesh strainer (or tea strainer) to dust the cookies with powdered sugar and, for thumbprints, fill depressions with preserves.
*Thai rice flour is even finer than superfine flour and weighs less per cup, so you need a greater volume to get 55 grams.
My career was sparked by a single bite of a chocolate truffle, made by my Paris landlady in 1972. I returned home to open this country’s first chocolate bakery and dessert shop, Cocolat, and I am often “blamed” for introducing chocolate truffles to America. Today I am the James Beard Foundation and IACP award-winning author of ten cookbooks, teach a chocolate dessert class on Craftsy.com, and work with some of the world’s best chocolate companies. In 2018, I won the IACP Award for Best Food-Focused Column (this one!).