How Not to Make Russian Teacakes

Kitchen mishaps happen to us all, but I seem to be having a rash of them lately. Thanksgiving week it was the turkey and the oven. Last week it was the half recipe of the chocolate olive oil cookies. This week it was Russian teacakes.

Rich and Calvin help with all the other cookies we bake for Christmas gifts, but Russian teacakes are mine. I make the dough by myself, and I do the baking and powdered sugar coating by myself. I have a system and it is my alone time in the kitchen every Christmas season.

It is both calm and restful to me as I work my way through my tried and true system. I make the dough one day and leave it to chill until I have a block of uninterrupted time. On baking day, I get into a rhythm of baking and coating hot cookies in powdered sugar. In about an hour I have a double of batch of snowy, powdered sugar covered, buttery cookie balls.


This year the process was not so calm and restful. I looked into the oven while the first batch was baking to find the pan full of flat, buttery puddles. I guess I didn’t put enough flour in the dough. The cookies usually start out as balls, and they bake up into slightly bigger balls. Not these. I had mixed up the dough almost a week before, so I had no idea if I had put all the flour in. I doubled the recipe, which meant I needed four cups of flour. I guess I lost count.

I should have used the mise en place method, which is French for “put everything in bowls that you will have to wash later since you don’t have a staff of apprentice chefs to wash them for you.” Or, if you want to be particular, it means measure everything out before you start. I don’t usually do this, but I do get all the ingredients out that I need, and I put them back in the cabinet as I use them. Obviously that didn’t help me keep track of my cups of flour.

To save the dough I added a cup of flour. Then I baked one cookie to see if that was the answer. It seemed to be, but the dough was too warm for the ball to retain its shape as well as it should have. I really wanted to get the cookies done that day, so I portioned out all of the dough into balls and chilled them for a few minutes. That was so much easier than chipping off hard blocks of chilled dough that I may do it that way all of the time. Not the forgetting a cup of flour part, but the chilling the dough balls instead of the big batch of dough part.


I now have most of a double batch of Russian teacakes, ready for gifting. And I have twenty cookies’ worth of buttery crumbs that will be delicious on ice cream. With the crumbs from the failed batch of chocolate olive oil cookies we should be set to have an ice cream sundae party when the family is here at Christmas. It’s the baker’s version of making lemonade out of lemons.


9 thoughts on “How Not to Make Russian Teacakes

  1. I am glad that extra cup of flour saved the day! Its reassuring to read about other’s kitchen mishaps. Then when my cookies go flat or brownies are soupy, I don’t feel like I need to throw in my spatula. 🙂 It is funny though, how recipe goofs do seem to come in bunches. I think after 3 you are finished for awhile! Now you can enjoy the process and the results.

    • I have to share my mistakes, or I’ll fall down in a flour-covered heap on the kitchen floor. Not really, but I hope I can give someone else a laugh or a smile. Or encouragement. I so hope I am at the end of my baking issues. Not sure what my problem is these days! Probably I just need to make a point to concentrate on one task at a time instead of three or four!

  2. i. am. CRYING i am laughing so hard at your cover photo!! not in a bad way, either: i think the first thing i thought was “WOW: i wonder if those are like, some sort of fancy pecan napoleon!” i love it. just love it.

    • Ha! I am laughing that you were laughing! I was really perturbed at the time, but I can only laugh about it now. And I love your thought about napoleons. Thanks for giving me the vote of confidence that I meant to do them that way. 🙂 I just had to document the flatness. And it was dark when I baked them. I covered the cooled pan of flat cookies and took the picture the next day in the daylight. Dedication, or craziness?

  3. Sarah,
    You’re so right! Reading “which is French for “put everything in bowls that you will have to wash later since you don’t have a staff of apprentice chefs to wash them for you.”” had me cracking up!
    I’m glad you were able to salvage the batch! Over the weekend I doubled a waffle batter, like I usually do, and the next morning (overnight sourdough sponge recipe from KA) I dumped in the rest of the stuff, started stirring, and realized that I’d started off with a doubled recipe and had to get everything back out and add the second half.
    I’m happy to laugh alongside you!

    • So glad I could bring a smile and laugh to your day, Kirsten! I was just a tiny bit proud of that line and hoped people thought it was funny.

      Trouble with double or halved batches seems to be a common issue – I guess we are all just a bit distracted. I would certainly have to use a sticky note to remind me I made a double batch after an overnight rest. I obviously have a hard time paying attention for just a few minutes! 🙂

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