Lemony with subtle almond notes, these melt-in-your-mouth snowball cookies are the perfect holiday cookie. Made with cold butter, the dough comes together in seconds in the food processor, and the recipe yields at least 30, making it perfect for gifting all season long.

A plate of lemon-almond snowball cookies.

A few weeks ago, I set out to make Viennese crescents, a buttery, almondy, powdered-sugar-dusted cookie my mother made often at the holidays when I was young.

Upon looking at the recipe, which called for softened butter and a mixer, I wondered if I could use melted butter instead and mix by hand or cold butter and my food processor. A Google search led me to this Stella Parks recipe for Mexican wedding cookies, which were nearly identical in makeup to the crescents, and which I learned go by many other names: Russian tea cakes, snowballs, butterballs.

But what I found most interesting about the article was this: Stella writes that the use of “powdered sugar gives the dough an especially light texture without the need for any creaming—a technique that’s meant to aerate doughs made dense by granulated sugar.” As such, she uses cold butter and a food processor — boom!

I made the crescents immediately using Stella’s method and, for simplicity, I rolled them into balls. They turned out beautifully, not unlike shortbread with that buttery, melt-in-your-mouth consistency.

After a few experiments, I swapped in almond flour for the freshly toasted and ground almonds, which made the process even faster without sacrificing any flavor, and I found the addition of lemon zest — and a lot of it — made them even more irresistible.

This dough comes together shockingly quickly and yields at least 30 cookies, which places it squarely into that low-effort, high-yield category of holiday cookie recipes we all could use a little more of in our lives this time of year.

How to Make Snowball Cookies, Step by Step

Gather your ingredients: flour, butter, confectioners’ sugar, almond flour, salt, vanilla, and lemon zest.

Ingredients to make lemon-almond snowball cookies.

If you wish, measure out your ingredients.

Portioned ingredients to make lemon-almond snowball cookies.

Place the butter, almond flour, confectioners’ sugar, salt, vanilla, and lemon zest in the bowl of a food processor.

A food processor filled with the ingredients to make lemon-almond snowball cookie dough, not yet blended.

Pulse 10 to 15 times at 1-second intervals until you have a crumbly mixture.

A food processor filled with the ingredients to make lemon-almond snowball cookie dough, partly blended.

Add the flour and purée…

A food processor filled with the ingredients to make lemon-almond snowball cookie dough, partly blended.

… until the mass comes together around the blade.

A food processor filled with lemon-almond snowball cookie dough.

Transfer the mixture to a bowl.

A bowl of lemon-almond snowball cookie dough.

Use a scoop to portion the dough into roughly 30 balls or use a scale (my preferred method) to divide the dough into 20-gram portions.

A scale holding a 20-gram portion of lemon-almond snowball cookie dough.

It’s a little tedious using a scale, but it ensures the portions are uniform, which ensures the cookies bake evenly.

A tray of portioned lemon-almond snowball cookie dough balls.

Ball up the portions by rolling them between your palms.

A tray of rolled lemon-almond snowball cookie dough balls.

Place 12 balls on a sheet pan and bake @ 350ºF for 14-15 minutes.

A sheet pan topped with 12 lemon-almond snowball cookie dough balls.

The cookies will be mostly pale with light brown bottoms.

Just-baked lemon-almond snowball cookies.

Let the cookies cool for 2 minutes on the sheet pan, then transfer to a cooling rack. Sift confectioners’ sugar over the top.

Lemon-almond snowball cookies cooling on a cooling rack.

Repeat until you’ve baked off all of the cookies.

Lemon-almond snowball cookies cooling on a cooling rack.

Let cool completely before storing in an airtight container or…

Lemon-almond snowball cookies cooling on a cooling rack.

… serve immediately.

A plate of lemon-almond snowball cookies.
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Lemon-Almond Snowball Cookies


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Description

Adapted from several recipes, namely this Stella Parks recipe

Notes:

For best results, use a scale to measure. It’s the only way to measure accurately. 

Salt: I use Diamond Crystal kosher salt. If you are using Morton or fine sea salt, use 1/4 teaspoon. 


Ingredients

  • 16 tablespoons (226 grams) cold, cubed salted butter (unsalted is fine if it’s all you have) 
  • 3/4 cup (90 grams) confectioners’ sugar, plus more for dusting
  • zest of 2 lemons
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, see notes above
  • a scant 3/4 cup (75 grams) almond flour
  • 1 3/4 cups (226 grams) all-purpose flour

Instructions

  1. Place the butter, confectioners’ sugar, lemon zest, vanilla, salt, and almond flour in a food processor. Process 10 to 15 times at 1-second intervals until the butter is in small pieces and the mixture looks crumbly.
  2. Add the flour and purée until the mixture comes together forming a mass around the blade. 
  3. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. (Note: Do not use a dark-colored sheet pan, which potentially will cause the bottoms of the cookies to brown too quickly.)
  4. Use a scoop to portion the dough into roughly 30 small balls. Alternatively (and preferably), use a scale to divide the dough into 20-gram portions. Ball up each portion. At this point, if necessary, the dough balls can be chilled in an airtight vessel. 
  5. Place 12 cookie dough balls on a sheet pan and transfer to the oven. Bake for 14 to 15 minutes. The cookies will be very pale with browned bottoms. 
  6. Let the cookies cool for 2 minutes on the pan; then transfer to a cooling rack. Sift confectioners’ sugar over the top immediately. Repeat with the remaining dough balls. 
  7. Let the cookies cool completely before storing them in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week. 
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15
  • Category: Cookies
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: Amerian

Keywords: almond flour, lemon zest, confectioners sugar, vanilla