Hazelnut Crescent Cookies

With the holiday season officially upon us, I have moved into heavy baking mode. This time of year, I especially love to bake cookies and other treats for giving to family and friends. I have stacks of recipes, old and new, to try out. I would love to share these recipes with you and hopefully give you some ideas for your own home-baked gifts. So, I am giving you my own little holiday baking guide, beginning with these cookies that remind me of my mother.

As a child, especially around the holidays, I frequently asked my mother to make one of my favorite cookies. She called them Sand Tarts. I loved helping her make them, especially shaping them and rolling them in confectioners’ sugar. After I began my own baking adventures, I came to realize that these cookies have many different names. Most frequently, I have seen them referred to as Mexican Wedding Cookies, Italian Wedding Cookies or Russian Tea Cakes. I’m not sure why those are all given a nationality in their names, but I suppose it just proves their worldwide appeal.

Hazelnut Crescent Cookies | Bake or Break

I don’t know what happened to my mother’s recipe for those cookies. I have looked through many of her collected recipes but I haven’t found it yet. I’ve been putting off making similar recipes because I really wanted to make the one I remember. Finally, I decided not to wait any longer and turned to a comparable recipe I found in Cook’s Illustrated‘s Holiday Baking issue.

This recipe suggests trying different nuts, like almonds, pecans, hazelnuts. As most good Southern women would, my mother made hers with pecans. In my mind, they wouldn’t taste quite like hers anyway, so that’s why I went with hazelnuts. Well, that, and the fact that I’ve come to love hazelnuts this year.

As for the final result, they’re not exactly like Mama used to make, but they are very good. Flavor-wise, these are such simple cookies. To me, there’s just something about the simple combination of butter, flour, and nuts that is so appealing. The only downside is that with such subtle flavors, it’s far too easy to eat far too many.

Hazelnut Crescent Cookies

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Yield: about 48 cookies

Hazelnut Crescent Cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 cups toasted hazelnuts, finely chopped*
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup superfine sugar**
  • 1 & 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 & 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

Instructions

Preheat oven to 325°.

Mix 1 cup nuts, flour, and salt. Set aside.

Place remaining cup of nuts in a food processor and process about 10 to 15 seconds until the nuts resemble coarse cornmeal. Stir into flour mixture.

Using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and creamy. Beat in vanilla. Add flour mixture and beat until dough is cohesive, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.

Take one tablespoon of dough at a time and roll into a ball. Cookies can be baked as balls or can be rolled between palms and shaped into crescents, rings, or small bars.

Place cookies on baking sheet. Bake about 15 minutes, or until tops of cookies are pale golden and bottoms are just begining to brown.

Cool on baking sheets about 2 mintues. Transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling to room temperature.

When cookies have cooled, roll each in confectioners’ sugar to coat completely. Shake off excess. sugar.

Cookies can be rolled again in confectioners’ sugar before serving.

Notes

Recipe adapted from Cook's Illustrated.

*Feel free to substitute pecans, walnuts, almonds, etc.

**Don’t have superfine sugar? Process regular granulated sugar in a food processor about 30 seconds.

http://www.bakeorbreak.com/2007/12/hazelnut-crescent-cookies/
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16 Comments

  1. EAB December 2, 2007 Reply

    What a coincidence that I stumbled upon this. I’ve been living abroad for the past few months and have been feeling nostalgic for holiday baking (and, more specifically, for cookies like these). My mom and I usually make these every year using her old family recipe. We call them “sand tarts” as well and always make them with pecans. With a splash of extra vanilla thrown in, they are the best!

  2. jennifer December 2, 2007 Reply

    EAB, what a wonderful coincidence! I don’t know if it’s just the cookie or the memories, but these are definitely the best.

  3. Gigi December 2, 2007 Reply

    Just lovely! I know these as mexican wedding cookies. It doesn’t matter what there name is; as long as they taste great and bring back all of our wonderful Christmas memories.

  4. JEP December 2, 2007 Reply

    I’m going to make those cinnamon roll cookies—thanks for listing the recipe!

  5. Ivonne December 2, 2007 Reply

    These are one of my absolute Christmas favourites! Beautiful!

  6. jennifer December 2, 2007 Reply

    Thanks, Gigi and Ivonne!

    JEP, you’re welcome! I hope you enjoy them.

  7. Julie O'Hara December 3, 2007 Reply

    I love these too, and I’m trying to decide which recipe to go with. Are yours crisp or soft inside? I really like the soft, nearly underbaked variety.
    Thanks,
    Julie

  8. jennifer December 3, 2007 Reply

    Julie, these cookies are wonderfully soft inside. I like all cookies a bit underbaked anyway. I’m not a big fan of crispy cookies. If you make them, let me know what you think!

  9. Julie O'Hara December 4, 2007 Reply

    Thanks so much, Jennifer. The first thing I want to know about a new cookie recipe is, are they soft or crispy!
    Julie

  10. Nan December 4, 2007 Reply

    Oh, I loved these!! I hope you saved some for me! This was a specialty in our childhood, huh?

  11. Karen I December 13, 2013 Reply

    Should I assume that the 1 cup of nuts that was processed to meal consistency is added to the dough? I reread the instructions 3 times. This sounds just wonderful and know my husband will adore these cookies. Thanks so much for posting it.

    • Author
      Jennifer McHenry December 13, 2013 Reply

      Hi, Karen. Yes, mix that in with the flour mixture. I’ve clarified that in the recipe. Thanks!

  12. Tina December 16, 2013 Reply

    hi there, sorry if this is already written somewhere but i can’t seem to find it. approximately how many cookies will one batch make?

    thanks so much!

    • Author
      Jennifer McHenry December 17, 2013 Reply

      Hi, Tina. If you use a tablespoonful of dough per cookie, you’ll get about 4 dozen cookies.

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