In 1954, Mrs. Warren L. Jacques of Dayton, Ohio, entered this recipe in Pillsbury’s 5th Grand National Recipe and Baking Contest, and she titled the recipe, “Peppermint Candy Cookies.” A cake took home the grand prize of $25,000 that year, and Mrs. Jacques’ recipe was just a senior winner. It has since become a Christmas classic and the $25,000 cake is long forgotten.
If you like butter balls, these are a slightly sweeter version with a cream cheese-peppermint candy center. Instead of rolling the cookies in powdered sugar, they get rolled in a mixture of powdered sugar and crushed peppermint candy. The peppermint flavor is mild. If you really like peppermint you can add a bit of peppermint extract or a Tbsp. of Peppermint Schnapps to bump it up, but I like it as is. Some newer versions leave the nuts out of the recipe, but I think they add another layer of flavor that also cuts the sweetness.
To me, this recipe is so perfect I don’t think it can be improved upon, except for mixing methods. In 1954, there were no food processors available to home cooks. I used a mini-food processor to mix the filling and a 7-cup food processor to mix the dough, including chopping the nuts right with the dough. Much easier. But don’t ruin your blades on the hard peppermint candy. Instead, put that in a small freezer bag and pound with the flat side of a meat mallet.
|Peppermint Candy Fudge-Filled Butter Balls |
Adapted from Pillsbury/Mrs. Warren L. Jacques, Dayton, Ohio
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1 cup (8 oz., 2 sticks) unsalted butter*, soft
1/2 cup sifted confectioner’s sugar
1/4 tsp. Diamond kosher salt*
1 tsp. pure vanilla powder or extract (I used my homemade vanilla powder.)
2-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, whisked first, then scooped and leveled
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
In work bowl of food processor, pulse butter, confectioner’s sugar, salt and vanilla till smooth. Add walnuts and pulse till almost finely chopped. (Walnuts will continue to be chopped with additions of flour.) Add flour, 1/2 cup at a time, pulsing till combined after each addition. Continue to pulse till dough comes together. Chill while preparing filling. (Dough may be refrigerated for up to 3 days before baking.)
When ready to bake, heat oven to 350F; set out baking pans lined with parchment. Shape chilled dough into balls, using a rounded teaspoonful of dough for each. Make a deep hole in center of each.
Fill each hole with about 1/4 tsp. of filling. Seal.
Place on baking sheets and bake 12-15 minutes until set but not brown. While warm, roll in reserved candy-sugar mixture. When cool, reroll in candy-sugar mixture. Yield: about 42 cookies
PEPPERMINT FUDGE FILLING:
1/2 cup finely crushed** candy canes or other peppermint hard candy
1 cup sifted confectioner’s sugar, divided
2 Tbsp. cream cheese or Neufchatel
1 tsp. milk or cream
1 drop red food coloring
Combine crushed candy and 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar; reserve. In bowl of mini-food processor, combine cream cheese, milk, remaining 1/2 cup of confectioner’s sugar and 3 Tbsp. of reserved candy mixture; process till smooth. (If mixture is too dry add another tsp. of milk.)
*If you use salted butter, then omit the salt.
**Place candy in a freezer bag; seal; pound with the flat side of a meat mallet till candy is finely crushed.
Each time you make a ball, pinch off a small piece for sealing the top. After you fill the hole, take the small piece of dough and flatten it in your hands. Lay the flattened dough across the filled holes and gently press edges to seal.
1/2 cup of finely crushed peppermint candy = about 5 small candy canes