I just love Russian Tea Cakes! They look so wintery.... really pretty for a Christmas afternoon tea.
When I began researching them, they all seem to be the same recipe! I found them too floury and slightly undercooked in the centre. I wanted something different - something buttery and flaky. And with more flavour.
We started off by reducing the amount of flour. They do have very slightly more flattened bottoms - but not significantly. Worth it for the fabulous taste!
We also changed from using powdered sugar to using normal cake sugar (caster sugar, if you're in England....). I found them overly sweet otherwise, since the outside is covered in powdered sugar anyway.
For flavouring, I went with vanilla and cinnamon. I wanted them to taste a bit like some of the gorgeous little cookies that I remember from Europe.
On my first taste test using the recipe from the internet, I found that the centre of the cookie was actually underdone. I saw that the cooking time was quite short and at a high temperature. As the recipe is quite like shortbread, I went with a longer cooking time at a much lower temperature to make sure that the centre was properly cooked, whilst keeping the outside pale in colour.
I saw that people use many different kinds of nuts. I went with hazelnuts, just because they're my favourite. I chopped them quite finely since I didn't want to have large pieces of nut in my finished Russian tea cake.
The result? Delectable. This recipe makes just 12 little cookies - but of course you can bulk up the recipe to make more. Or in fact, you can halve it and just make six if you were having a fancy afternoon tea with many different choices.
These cookies are just as delicious the next day. I have to admit, they have never lasted longer than that..... but I think they would probably be fine for a couple of days at least. :-)
Russian tea cakes taste wonderful with black tea. I love them served with Ceylon tea with no milk or sugar. Amber perfection. Of course, they taste delicious with tea and milk! But they do go exceptionally well with a perfectly brewed Ceylon tea. In this case, it would be particularly important to keep the brewing time to just three minutes so that the tea remains smooth and mellow.
Russian tea cakes look very pretty served as part of a full afternoon tea. Try serving them with apricot tarts (the ones with the jam and pastry cream), small chocolate eclairs, a selection of finger sandwiches and, if you're serving cake as well, I would choose lemon poppyseed cake.