christmas cookie redux: pistachio russian tea cakes

The third in my trio of revamped Christmas cookies. The conclusion of this epic trinity, it’s like The Matrix Revolutions, except I’ve never seen that movie, and it most likely… isn’t.

However, these cookies are worth anything a $300 million science fiction action franchise that garnered $1,623,968,843 at the box office could buy you. These Pistachio Russian Tea Cakes are divine.

I’m a big fan of Russian Tea Cakes, or Mexican Wedding Cookies; in fact, they may be my favorite Christmas cookie. The lightly roasted walnuts or pecans, the powdered sugar that always makes me choke because I practically eat it steaming hot and fresh off the rack, and the heavy-meets-light dessert of a shortbread cookie coated in airy sugar. Like I said, I’m a big fan.

So when I had the inspired thought to add in some pistachios in place of other, less festive nuts, I could only hope that these cookies would turn out as deliciously as if I had stuck to the classic ingredients. They did.


It’s a simple cookie to make; the toughest part is properly timing the initial immersion into powdered sugar, and heck, that’s easy. It’s so easy, I figure I should pair these simple cookies with some simple photography. And what’s simpler than a Polaroid OneStep? No, not that cute one with the stripe. The plain black one. The one with curved corners. The one that takes 600 film, and was dubbed a ‘cheap’ Polaroid, despite all Polaroid camera film being insanely expensive? Yah, that one.

At a job I had a few years ago, we found a box of these cameras, as well as packs and packs of film. Being the voracious hound that I am, I wasted much of the film in the first day, taking ‘arty’ shots of door hinges, shadowy walls, and my coworkers’ gap-toothed grins. Being a voracious hound, I was also a voracious fool.

Because one day, Polaroid stopped making film. Prices for remaining film went up up UP like a super secret rocket being test driven by the military. And I began to value my remaining film more. And more. I went from hound to hoarder in several months flat. And yet… I’m on my last pack of film now. Sure, The Impossible Project has made film buying a possibility again, but it isn’t really the same thing. And so, here are three shots for you that are representative of the End of an Era.

I especially like that spidery thrill that pops out of images in the top right corner of the first two images. I’m telling you, the End of an Era.

And now for that easy-peasy cookie recipe…

Pistachio Russian Tea Cakes {original recipe}


1 c. butter, softened
1/2 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/4 c. flour
3/4 c. pistachios
Two pinches salt


If your pistachios are pre-salted (mine were), wash them off and dry them. Finely to roughly chop them – I used a handy dandy nut grinder.

Mix the butter, sugar, and vanilla until incorporated in a large bowl. Add in the pistachios, flour and salt (perhaps a bit more if your pistachios were not pre-salted).

Shape the dough into balls roughly 1 inch across, placed 1″ apart on a cookie sheet or baking stone. Bake in a 400 F oven for 10 to 14 minutes – don’t let them brown. Remove from oven and cool for a few minutes. Roll them in powdered sugar, being careful as they will still be quite hot. After letting them cool entirely, coat them in sugar again.

Devour. These are so delicious, and I think they make Christmas come faster, they’re that festive and good. Bring on the holidays!

– – –

By the way, I made a fun gingerbread house the other day as a masters degree victory celebration. I entered it over at Movita’s Ginger 2011 Ultimate Smackdown, take a look.  You’ll notice that I came in last place in my heat (by a long shot) because I obviously don’t have as many friends as the other contestants, and I also don’t have a vote-grubbing Facebook account. Damn, sucka. At least I voted for myself like eight times, take that! Wait, that just makes it more sad, doesn’t it.

I never thought I would make a real gingerbread house that didn’t cave in on itself immediately, thereby extinguishing its residents and my goodwill all at the same time. This one hasn’t fallen down yet, squeee! Happy holidays!



98 thoughts on “christmas cookie redux: pistachio russian tea cakes

  1. Yes – pistachios. We make almond versions of these, but maybe I’ll throw everyone a curve ball and try this pistachio mix.
    I love the blue gingy house. I want a blue for realsies house. Every house here in AZ is cream or brown. It’s nauseating. I’m going to tick my neighbors off soon and coat my house in some bright beautiful shade of blue!


    1. sarah, almond versions sound good to me too! Russian tea cakes of any sort are yummy in my book.

      I love your idea to paint your house, haha! That sounds like a terrific plan, I’m sure your kids won’t be embarrassed or anything;)

      Merry Christmas, xo

  2. What tasty cookies! I love pistachios, but I’ve never been that into Russian tea cakes. That has probably changed since I devoured the crescent cookies I made this year. I can’t fathom baking another batch of cookies, but these look like great ones to try.

    Sad day about Polaroid. They were so much fun!

    Your gingerbread house looks awesome. I would have voted for you at least 8 times. We made one too, but it looks like a 3 year old did it. It’s REAL ugly. Happy Christmas!

    1. Brianne, I was going to say “but but but your crescents!” but you said it for me:) I loved those, mmm so spicy! I can’t fathom you baking any more cookies either, you were mad busy.

      Yes, quite sad about Polaroid. I feel it’s a very special moment to take a picture with my Polaroid camera! Although I went a bit wild the day I took these, and took like seven or eight at once. Very unlike me.

      I’m sure your ginger house looks much better than anything a 3 year-old could do. Not to knock little kids or anything… Happy Christmas to you too! xo

  3. I love Russian Teacakes and make them every year. I’ve already made all of mine, but I believe one last batch using pistachios may be in order!

    Merry Christmas!

    1. TisaLira, I make sure to eat them every year, but some years rely on others to do the ‘making.’ That may have changed, now that I’ve stepped into pistachio tea cake territory – there’s no turning back!

      Happy holidays!

  4. These look so so yummy. Now I just have to convert the measurements to grams, and go to the supermarket to get some pistachios. I was just wondering what to have with a nice cup of tea too…. yummy.

    1. Laura, hah, sorry to force conversion upon you – I should have taken my science class teachings to heart and remembered metric units more accurately:)

      Speaking of tea, good idea. Off to the kitchen…

    1. valentinedee, I’m actually not a big fan of nuts either – don’t even get me started on cashews;) Still, it’s all about the sugar in this recipe, I think. The nuts are just a vehicle for sugarsugarsugar!

      Happy holidays:)

  5. What a great recipe! And great Polaroids! I was obsessed with Polaroids just a short while back – bought an old school camera off of Craigslist plus a bunch of expired film. The photos were all tinged yellow once developed – they were awesome :)

    1. Kathy, I love your Polaroid story – I’ve seen some nice old instant film cameras for sale for cheap lately, but haven’t been able to spring for them. My heart is telling me I should the next time I come across one, though:) I want yellow-tinged pictures, too!:)

  6. These really do look delicious! I like the color and texture of what you’ve made here :) If you have a chance, look at my blog where I’ve posted a new recipe called “Christmas Holiday Pancake Ornaments.” They truly are delicious!

  7. Wow, the cookies look fantastic, and the ginger bread house reminded me of what I want to do with my girls tomorrow. Also, I can’t wait to show your pictures to my youngest, she will love them as much as I did. Great work, can’t wait to see more.

    1. lucindalines, I hope your gingerbread house turned out to be the stuff of dreams, and that your girls had a fun time, too!

      Thanks for the kind words, happy holidays!

    1. btypes, as do I! I had a few more ideas, but was unable to try them out due to my schedule. Good thing I can count on the holidays to roll around again next year !

    1. Edmee, I didn’t notate how many it made because I had eaten so many already that I didn’t remember. Cookie coma:) But I made around 22 or 23, I believe. It definitely depends on how big you make them!

  8. I’m stoked to try this recipe. I’ve always wanted to make Russian Tea Cakes but just haven’t yet. ‘Tis the season, huh? As for your gingerbread house, it’s fab! Thinking about the time it takes to apply each of those wafer shingles makes me just want to eat them instead :) Happy holidays!

    1. mybakingempire, you haven’t made these before, jiggawhaaaaa?!? Just kidding. I’ve never made brownies before, which are a much more common baked good:)

      So glad you like my ginger house! Those shingles were actually white chocolate melts – which I’m not a big fan of, so I wasn’t too tempted to eat them:) They actually went on pretty quick.

      Happy holidays!

  9. That stuff would be delicious with some good coffee :D

    I love how simple the recipe is. I could probably root around my pantry for 20 minutes and find everything I need, so that means I know what I’m doing.

    1. Tony, yes, yes I believe it would. I prefer tea myself, but there’s nothing like a nice hot beverage and a cookie. Or five. Or twelve.

      I bet you could root around, prep the cookies, and start baking them all in 20 minutes. They’re that easy!

  10. I’m running out to the store right NOW!!! Russian Tea cakes are my favorite cookie and pistachios my favorite nuts. It’s a win-win situation! Thanks for the inspiration!

    Merry Christmas!

  11. The pistachos probably add an interersting to the cookie. Looks lovely and great photos. Yes, I loved the knife handle detail, too!

    1. Jean, they definitely added a sort of smoky component to the cookie – I bought pre-roasted pistachios as that’s all I could find in my grocery store, which really brought out their flavor nicely.

      I’m glad someone out there likes my lovely Nordic knife – the Royal Pewter (Kongetinn) pattern from Norway:)

  12. Those cookies look delicious! I love pistachios but have never had a Russian Tea Cake. Will definitely be making a batch in the near future.

    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

    1. whitneybg, ooh, you simply must try them! They go by a myriad of names, so you’re bound to run into them somewhere. In your kitchen, perhaps??:)

  13. Holy smokes. I’m almost tempted to post a photo of my Year Nine gingerbread house jsut to prove to you how very awesome and talented you are, but I don’t know if my dignity can bear it after the walloping I’ve been giving it lately.

    Also, pistachios make EVERYTHING better, so I wholeheartedly approve of your variation here.

    Do you know what else I love that is Russian? Tolstoy. And the Dreamworks musical Anastasia. BECAUSE THAT IS COMPLETELY TRUE AND AUTHENTIC AND RUSSIAN!

    “A ruble for this painting! It’s Romanov, I swear! Count Yusopov’s pajamas! Comrade, buy the pair!”

    1. Hannah, oh dear Hannah. A familiar face in a sea of non familiars. I feel nearly zelted, but at long last I have found you. And here you are, extolling the virtues of the Russians, and of Russian-inspired musicals. I heart you.

      I want to see your Year Nine gingerbread, I do I do! Anything is good when walloped (er??), so I say post it!

      It is a Christmas miracle, it is snowing heavily here today after weeks of ugly brown warmness. I will go dance about in the street and sing some lines from a musical or two:)

      Happy holidays, dear, xo.

      1. Oh my beautiful creature, thank you for your just-like-a-hug reply that makes me so the-opposite-of-zelted that I wan to sing and dance and praise the heavens that led us to each other :) Particularly when there are so many people here extolling your virtues, and you haven’t forogtten lil ole me! :)

        Hmm, I’ll see if I can track down a photo then! Surely there’d be one somewhere in the archives where I found the childhood photos I just posted :D

        Merry, merry Christmas my darling! Mine is 39 minutes from ending so yours is surely just starting; I hope yours involves much deliciousness, laughter, snow angels, musicals-singing (which did you choose?) and laughing until you cry over a slow-motion video of yourself leaping around the kitchen at 9pm. Wait, that last one was probably just my brother and me….

        1. How could I forget lil ole you? That brings to mind the musical ‘Little Me,’ which I was once in – a curse, as its songs jump into my mind, uninvited, at least once every two days:)

          I had a truly lovely Christmas, involving mucho mucho deliciousness, moderate laughter, no snow angels (wah), and no videos of myself (darn). The other day I ended up choosing my go-to musical number… the introductory piece from Ragtime. So very good! “Listen to that ragtime…. raaaaaaagggtiiiiiiiime (ragtime! ragtime!)….”

  14. What a great idea to use pistachios! These are ny favorite Christmas cookie as well for my family and as small gifts…just made 4 batches on Wednesday. NOW I might have to make 1 more batch using your “twist” on the traditional recipe. Happy Holidays!

    1. existencehappens, these are a great gift idea, but I don’t think mine would last long enough to be gifted. Hence, I suppose, why you just made four batches! Let me know how you like these if you make them!

      Happy holidays:)

    1. Sicily Home Holidays, thank you so much! Ooh, Sicily, how I long to go there… the closest I’ve been was to Napoli, and that’s not even very close…

      Happy holidays!

  15. Looks very delicious, something that I’ll be trying to copy one of these days. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

  16. This is a beautiful house.
    They look so delicious and yet simple! I am a big fan of Mexican wedding cookies, they are probably the first cookies that I ever made (years ago :))) and that came out nice and tasty :).

    1. viennafoodprints, thanks for instilling some gingerbread faith in me!

      How neat that you remember the first cookies you made ! I have no such recollection, but I bet these were one of the first that I helped out with in the kitchen when young. I remember messing up Spritz cookies year after year, too:P

  17. I am Russian and I feel very embarrassed to say I have never tried these. I think it will be the MUST for me to try cook these this year. Thank you so much.
    Have a blessed and yummy Christmas!

    1. Olga, having never sampled the true dessert cuisine of Russia, I know not whether these are truly Russian or not… it could be like French toast, perhaps:)

      However, for deliciousness’ sake, I hope you try these (in any form) soon! Happy, tasty holidays to you too:)

  18. These cookies look great! I’ll have to try and make them.
    If you like baking, I posted an easy recipe for frosting. If you don’t want to use rum, you can always use the juice from freshly squeezed lemons. Then you’ll get a white frosting which is great if you use something like snowflake-shaped cookie cutters : )

  19. WOW, that sounds great! I love baking too but I mostly stick to the classics, like oatmeal cookies with white chocolate and cranberries. I also tried making red velvet cookies, but the got far too dry.

    If you’re interested in health and weight loss, please check out my brand new blog were I describe my journey. I have already lost 17 lbs, 15 more to go!


    1. K, I’ve never turned red velvet cake into cookies – neat idea! I bet there’s a way to keep them moist. …hmm…

      Weight loss isn’t on my radar – I like to bulk up on a few extra pounds this time of year to combat the cold;) Best of luck meeting your goal.

  20. I am going to make these today. Congrats on being on the front page so we can all find you. Happy holidays. We wish you peace!!

  21. Wow! This looks delicious! I can’t wait to try this recipe after my holiday cooking is over.

  22. Votes shmotes! ;) I think your gingerbread house looks supercool, and it’s awesome that you made one at all.

    I love the sound of these pistachio cookies, it’s one of my favourite flavours and I even got a small packet for a Christmas present…I also love your polaroids! One of my dreams as a young child was to have a Spice Girls polaroid, such a pity they stopped making the film…till then instagram will have to do as a poor substitute :P

    1. Laura, yeah yeah wut wut, gingerbread!

      Gosh, I wish I had a Spice Girls polaroid camera…. I’ve seen them and dreamed about them, but I’ve been wasting too much of my time trying to acquire old bottles of Orbitz soda. Mmm, gelatinous pop:)

      I don’t go for the instagram, but then again, I have a smart-less phone. Yeah yeah, wut wut!

  23. Russian Tea Cakes are my favorite too! I never tried them with pistachios, though that is one of my fav nuts. I did make them one year using hazelnuts and those came out yummy also.

  24. Merry Christmas to you Emma! I have a special place in my heart for Russian Tea Cookies/Mexican Wedding Cookies/ Greek Christmas Cookies. It seems like most cultures know what a good thing these little guys are. And now you are adding pistachios – yeah!
    And your Poloroid story really struck a note of nostalgia in me. Those were my first camera’s as a little kid in the 70s. I think I need to bust them out and get shooting. That Impossible Project is rad!
    Wishing you a happy 2012!

    1. Erin, isn’t it amazing all the names these little cookies have? I didn’t know that the Greeks had adopted them as well – but I do like some of the other more frilly sounding names, such as snowballs.

      Get out those Polaroids! Film from The Impossible Project is a little pricey, but I think definitely worth it. They at first only had B + W, but they’ve recently introduced color, and it looks really wonderful:)

      Happy 2012 to you too!

  25. (dang, 101 likes and 96 comments!) Beautiful cookies! Mexican wedding cookies are popular in these parts. Maybe this would be totally sacrilegious but adding finely chopped dried cranberries could be extra festive. Love your trio of revamped cookies! Also, I think my old Polaroid might still be at my parents’ house…

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