Battle of the Snowballs


I know I talk a lot around here about being an expat, but it's pretty central to the whole, you know, Recipe Box Project, and it's also pretty central to my life these days. When you first move to a new country, everything is new, so you end up making a lot of major assumptions that inevitably turn out to be wrong. It's been four years and 4 months since we made that fateful move, and at least once a month I still find myself flummoxed by something Scottish. Luckily I've gotten a lot better at thinking on my feet and covering up my confusion. The three most recent times this has happened are as follows:

I went to the doctor to see if I could get medicine to kick a wicked cold before taking a long-haul flight to the US back in October. The doctor prescribed some antibiotics and then entreated me to make sure I was 'using my old bus oil.'

'My what?'
'Old bus oil.'
'Uh... I think I'm fresh out of that. Do you think they have any in the pharmacy? And also, how do you prefer to use it? Just, you know... always looking for new ways to utilise my... old... bus oil.'
'O L D B U S O I L.'

As much as I thought I was doing a kickass job pretending to have a masterful hold on the conversation, she clearly didn't believe me, because she finally wrote down 'Olbas Oil' on the corner of my scrip. Turns out it's basically just Vicks VapoRub in oil form so it's easier to dispense. Who knew?


Yesterday I got called for a customer satisfaction survey by my bank. But the whole survey was about Pride of Britain and how much my feelings about my bank had improved based on my knowledge that the bank was sponsoring Pride of Britain. The only problem? I have no idea what Pride of Britain is. The surveyor was pretty devastated at my super non-committal answers and I couldn't really find a way to say 'I have NO IDEA what you're talking about' without sounding like a jerk, so I just kept answering the questions and hoping that my completely blasé responses don't mess up their data too much.


Last month I was walking Holtzmann when an older man and his 4-ish year old grandson stopped me with an adorable request: 'may I touch your dog?' While the 4-year-old petted Holtzmann, the grandfather asked me how much she cost.


'Excuse me?' I asked, hoping I had misheard.
'How much does a dog like that cost?' he repeated, making the international sign for money with his thumb and first two fingers.
'Oh, well, I mean, we got her from a friend-of-a-friend, and we've had her so long I don't really remember what we paid for her, it was the cost of her shots and food, you know...' I prattled on because I didn't want to be having the 'how much is your dog worth?' conversation, and eventually he cut me off, laughing heartily.

'No, no, not cost- how much does she cost?'
I looked at him blankly, when his grandson finally looked up.
'Cast, miss! Like how much fur does she leave around?'

Finally I figured out this was a Scoticism (I guess?) for shedding. Luckily it wasn't the first time I've caused a Scotsman to burst into hysterical laughter at my misunderstandings, so I wasn't nearly as embarrassed as I would have been a few years back. (Although by now I guess I really have no excuse).

So on the brink of our fifth Christmas in Scotland (how did that happen?), here are two more biscuit recipes for you, perfect for this wintry weather we've been having lately. While both recipes are called snowballs, they come from different sources in the Recipe Box, and, since my supermarket has stopped selling pecans less than two weeks before Christmas, the one that calls for them is made with pistachios, giving them a festive green colour. Also, the recipe for the pistachio version doesn't include instructions to roll them in powdered sugar, but, like, why else would they be called Snow Balls? So I rolled them and I regret nothing- without it, they were pretty much just shortbread balls anyway.


The verdict:
Snow Balls 1: pistachio shortbread balls

2 spoons out of five. The dough for these was so beyond dry I had to add extra moisture to it and mix it like crazy to get it to stick together, and all that extra handling made them tougher than I wanted them to be. But the flavour of the pistachios really came through and they were pretty similar in texture to Italian Wedding Cookies, so if you love those, these are gonna be a treat for you.

snowballs 2: soft walnut cookies

4 spoons out of five. They're the perfect balance of chewy and cakey, and the toasty nut flavour really makes it perfect for this time of year.  

One year ago: crazy crust apple pie
two years ago: Christmas tree cakes

the recipe:

Pistachio Shortbread Balls

the directions:

Preheat oven to 165C/325F.
Beat butter until fluffy.
Add all other ingredients except water, beating until mixture resembles coarse meal.
Taking a spoonful of the dough, form a walnut-sized ball.
If mixture does not stick together, add water a few drops at a time, stirring frequently JUST until dough comes together enough to barely hold together as a ball.
Place balls ½-inch apart on cookie sheet and bake 8-10 minutes until light golden.
Once balls have cooled completely, roll them in powdered sugar and serve.

the ingredients:

1 c butter
2 tbsp vanilla
8 tbsp sugar
4 c pecans or pistachios, chopped fine
4 c flour
1-2 tbsp warm water as needed
Approx ½ c powdered sugar for rolling

The recipe:

Soft Walnut Cookies

the directions:

Preheat oven to 200C/400F.
Sift together flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt, then set aside.
Cream butter until very light and fluffy.
Add powdered sugar gradually and cream until fluffy.
Add egg and vanilla, scraping sides and mixing until incorporated.
Add sifted dry ingredients and mix just until it comes together.
Add walnuts and mix until uniform texture.
Chill 30 minutes.
Roll dough into balls the size of walnuts.
Bake 7-9 minutes until golden at edges.
While cookies are baking, prepare a small bowl of powdered sugar.
As soon as cookies come out of oven, dip the tops in powdered sugar. 
Tap off any excess and allow to cool completely on a cooling rack.
Once cool, dredge in powdered sugar again.

the ingredients:

2 ½ c flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cream of tartar
½ tsp salt
1 c butter
1 ½ c powdered sugar, sifted, plus more for rolling
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla
1 ½ c walnuts, ground or chopped fine