Snowball Cookies are old fashioned festive cookies that seem to be made all over the world. So you’ll find them in the guise of Russian Tea Cakes, Mexican Wedding Cookies or Polvorones, Italian Wedding Cookies, Snowdrop Cookies, Butter Ball Cookies, Melting Moments, German Kipferl (though they’re crescent shaped),etc.
No one seems to know the origin of this cookie but the general thought is that they perhaps were European and then travelled the world taking on local flavours and ingredients. As far as I can see the same goes for the Snowball cookies made in India. I’m not an authority on this but I’ve come across Snowball Cookies being made only by Christian communities in Goa and in Kerala (especially southern Kerala)
They’re usually made at Christmas time and I have no doubt that they were brought into these communities during colonial times. In Goa, it is made more like the Indian shortbread cookie, Nankhatai, with ghee as the choice of fat and no nuts. In Kerala it is made with butter and cashewnuts are the choice of nuts.
Snowball Cookies are very simple shortbread like cookies that are very buttery, not very sweet and covered in powdered sugar giving them an appearance of having been dusted with snow hence the name. They’re usually made with flour, powdered sugar, a lot of butter, flavouring (vanilla or almond) and finely chopped nuts. They may be simple but they’re very rich and and definitely festive fare.
Of course, the Goan Snowball Cookie doesn’t have nuts, and a lot of the time they’re made with Dalda (a hydrogenated vegetable fat). I’ve never used the stuff (and never will), so I’ve made these with ghee.
You could always use butter instead. I’ve seen these Snowball Cookies made in different ways here in Goa, sometimes without the glace cherry decoration but rolled in icing sugar or without the icing sugar coating but with the ruby red cherry bit decorating the top.
I chose to add the chopped glace cherries to add some festive colour and also rolled them in icing sugar.