This is a family favourite cookie that our family started making for Christmas around 1970. It comes from the Five Roses Cookbook – the first cookbook I remember using at home with Mom. I probably was about 12 years old and she felt this was something I could do on my own. I had already mastered brownies! My Mom was a fantastic baker making delicious traditional Hungarian delicacies, but she also liked contemporary baking. One of my favourite memories is baking with my Mom, most often at Christmas, when I would make my way home from British Columbia.
Enter this recipe for Butter Balls, a most uninspiring name for a shortbread-type cookie. Of course we made a few changes and I’ve tried a few variations since. This recipe incorporates those variations: walnuts and chocolate chips were the Surprise that Mom and I did, and the Twist was substituting with pistachios & toffee bits that I started in about 2016. The Measurements are Imperial because Canada hadn’t adopted Metric yet.
2.5 cups all purpose flour
1/4 – 1/2 t salt (depending whether your butter is salted or not)
1 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 egg yolks (egg yolks only to make cookie more delicate)
1/2 cup chopped nuts (walnuts were traditional, but pecans or pistachios are great)
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips or Skor toffee bits
In large bowl cream butter and sugar by hand, mixer or food processor. Add egg yolks and mix well. It is a stiff dough, so a Danish whisk is very good.
Mix the salt into flour, then gradually add to butter mixture. Hold back 1/2 cup of flour to make sure you need it all. But remember dough will be stiff, but moist. Mix well so that all flour is incorporated. Add chocolate chips and nuts or toffee bits until fully incorporate.
If you have time, chill the dough — this ensures that the flour is fully hydrated and chills the butter again which makes your cookies flakey.
Shape dough into 1 inch balls by rolling in palm of hand. Place cookies on lightly greased pan or parchment paper or reusable baking sheet (cucina/silplat). Leave spaces between cookies as they do expand.
Bake at 325F for 20-25 minutes. They will turn a very light brown and there maybe be some cracking. Check your cookies to see if they have baked through the middle. Place on a cooling rack.
When cool, either roll or use a small sifter to dust with icing sugar.
With every bite of cookie, I think of Christmases past, baking with my Mom, and sharing these with family and friends.