I’ve received many gifts from my Grandma O’Neill over the years, including these Candy Cane Snowball Cookies.
Writing this post is incredibly bittersweet to me, because Grandma O’Neill passed away last Sunday, after a long and difficult battle with Parkinson’s disease. The last time I called her was to tell her that I’d made a batch of snowball cookies inspired by a recipe of hers. She was too ill to talk at the time, but her caretaker assured me that she’d heard me and was smiling.
I am incredibly blessed to have grown up seeing all four of my grandparents every single week. Every Sunday after church, my dad would take my sisters and me over to Grandma and Grandpa’s, where our afternoons followed a specific pattern: arrive and give hug; raid Grandma’s special Starburst dish; proceed to quality test whatever else Grandma had baked that day (hopefully her fluffy Snickerdoodles or Swedish Tea Cakes).
I credit my grandmothers for my love of baking and sweets, and after years of begging, one Christmas my Grandma gave her family one of the best gifts we’ve received: a cookbook of her treasured recipes.
Accomplishing this book was no small feat. In addition to gathering the recipes from assorted slips of paper strewn throughout the house and documenting the mental adjustments she’d made over time, Grandma also had to learn to use Microsoft Word and convince family members along the way to help her type the recipes on the days when her Parkinson’s disease was not cooperating. Her cookbook, which she affectionately named Lovin’ From The Oven, took my Grandma the better part of a year to complete.
Whenever I need inspiration, I flip though Grandma’s cookbook. A few weeks ago, I was out of fresh ideas for Christmas cookies, so I turned to her book, where I spied her recipe for Swedish Tea Cookies, one of my childhood favorites, complete with her handwritten edit. (Don’t forget the flour!)
About These Peppermint Snowball Cookies
Swedish tea cakes are a cookie of many names, including Mexican wedding cookies, snowball cookies (the name I’m using today, since it sounds the most holiday-ish), Russian Tea Cakes, and probably a few I haven’t heard yet. My family mostly calls these snowball cookies “Grandma’s bomb butter powdered sugar cookies.” Yes, my family still uses “bomb” as an adjective. And yes, Grandma’s snowball cookies/Swedish tea cakes/Mexican wedding cookies/whateveryouwanttocallthem are bomb.
These candy cane snowball cookies follow Grandma’s original recipe, with a few festive updates. Instead of rolling the snowball cookies in the traditional powdered sugar, I dunked them in melted white chocolate, then sprinkled crushed candy canes over the top. The combination of white chocolate with the crunchy candy canes is reminiscent of peppermint bark (one of my favorite holiday treats), and a touch of peppermint extract added to the dough ups the candy cane cookies’ flavor.
In place of walnuts (what Grandma usually used, though her recipe only specifies “nuts”), I used almonds, as I felt their smoother flavor would be a more natural combination with the white chocolate. After tasting them, I honestly think the cookies could go either way (almonds or walnuts), so feel free to use whichever nut you prefer.
I baked these candy cane snowball cookies and planned this post for today, prior to my Grandma’s death; I had no idea that I would lose her in the meantime, and that I’d be writing this post in honor of her memory. I’m not going to read much into the timing, except to say that I’m grateful for the opportunity to share about the wonderful woman that she was. I am immeasurably blessed to have grown up knowing a woman as strong, generous, and loving as she was, and to be able to stay connected to her through her recipes.
How to Store These Peppermint Cookies
- To Store. Store leftover cookies an an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
More Delicious Holiday Cookie Recipes
- Perfect Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies
- Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Melt in Your Mouth Orange Cookies with Cranberries
- Candy Cane Snowball Cookies
Grandma, thanks for teaching me to love by your example. If there’s a heaven, I know that you are in it. I hope you are enjoying a big ol’ plate of snowball cookies with a glass of wine right now and keeping an eye on your 35+ grandchildren. We miss and love you, and we always will.
Candy Cane Snowball Cookies
- 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks) at room temperature
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon pure peppermint extract
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup toasted almonds, pecans, or walnuts, toasted and finely ground (I used almonds and love the way their flavor turned out with the white chocolate. My grandma used pecans)
- 6 ounces chopped white chocolate or white chocolate candy melts, do not use white chocolate chips as they contain stabilizers and may not melt properly, and ensure that cocoa butter is the primary ingredient in the brand you select
- 2/3 cup crushed candy canes or peppermint candies, I crushed mine in a food processor
- With an electric mixer, beat the butter, powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and peppermint extract in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in the flour and salt, then the nuts until evenly blended. Divide the dough in half, form each half into a disk, then wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat mat. With a cookie scoop or spoon, portion the dough and roll into 1-inch balls. Place the balls 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the cookies are just set but not yet brown. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely (if you would like to roll some of the cookies in powdered sugar to make a traditional version of snowball cookies without the chocolate and peppermint, do so now while the cookies are still warm. Leave any cookies you'd like to top with chocolate plain and let cool.)
- In a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, melt the white chocolate. Ensure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water and that the water doesn't bowl. Alternatively, you can melt the chocolate in the microwave in 15-second bursts, stirring between each and watching carefully so that the chocolate doesn't burn. When the chocolate is nearly melted, remove it from the heat (or microwave) and stir until smooth.
- Dip the tops of the cookies into the white chocolate, then immediately sprinkle with crushed peppermint candies while the chocolate is still wet. Transfer to a plate to let the chocolate set. Enjoy!
- Store leftover cookies an an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
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Just for fun: here are my Grandma and Grandpa, circa 1960. Weren’t they a beautiful couple? My Grandpa passed away four months ago, so it’s comforting to hope that they are holding hands again.