My grandma is an awesome lady — I wish I knew her better.
She’s still alive n’ kicking, but my grandma has Alzheimer’s disease and hasn’t recognized me for a long time now. I visit her occasionally and I see her at family dinners, but I could and should visit her more often.
Especially since my grandma has one of the kindest hearts and sweetest dispositions you could ever hope to find in a person — she loves animals and people and I remember someone in my family once telling me that the most terrible cuss they’d ever heard her say was “hell’s bells”!
From what I know from the stories she’s told me, she grew up just a block from where I grew up and attended the same school (back when it was a high school — by the time I went there it had been switched to an elementary school and the high school had been moved to a bigger building down the hill).
I went to the same university as she did, but she majored in social work while I did an English degree.
My grandma even belonged to a sorority (back when sororities did charity work instead of drinking with frat boys) and worked with the YMCA to help underprivileged children.
I remember once she gave me a bottle of pale green glittery nail polish for Christmas, and, upon seeing it, my teenage self exclaimed, “Grandma, this is wicked!”
“Oh… well,” she said, “If you don’t like it, I can always take it back.”
Then I had to explain to her that wicked meant awesome, kind of like how bad can mean good. I think she was a little perplexed, but accepted the fact that I liked her present after all.
Ironically, my grandma wasn’t the family cook — that was one of my grandpa’s passions — but this is her cherry snowball recipe.
My mom pulled it out of an old recipe file a few days ago and immediately I knew I had to make it and share it — the season, the timing, the fact that I was looking for one more Christmas cookie recipe — everything aligned.
Grandma’s Cherry Snowballs
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1/4 cup icing sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 & 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup almond meal
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 45 ~ 55 maraschino cherries
- granulated sugar or icing sugar, to finish
Sift together the all-purpose flour, almond meal, and salt. Set aside.
Cream the butter and icing sugar together until smooth. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and stir to incorporate.
Stir in the sifted flour and almond meal, then mix until the dough just comes together. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes to make the dough easier to handle.
Preheat the oven to 325°F/160°C. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Set them and the maraschino cherries by your working area.
To form a cookie, pinch off a tablespoon-sized piece of dough and work it into a flat, round disk. Use your thumb to press an indent in the middle of the disk and place a maraschino cherry in the indent. Wrap the dough around the cherry to encase it, then smooth out any seams in the dough.
Repeat with the rest of the dough and cherries until all the dough is used up.
Bake the cookies for 30 ~ 35 minutes, or until the dough appears to be firm and dry — do not let the cookies get too golden!
Remove the cookies from the oven, wait 2 minutes for them to cool a little, then roll the hot cookies in granulated sugar to coat them evenly. Work quickly.
If rolling the cookies in icing sugar instead, wait until the cookies have cooled for 30 minutes before rolling them.
Makes about 45 ~ 55 cherry snowball cookies.
I know there are thousands of snowball cookie recipes out there, but this one is special to me because it’s my grandma’s.
So, have a safe and happy holiday, and make sure to give your grandparents a big hug when you see them.