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These are the Carmen Sandiego of cookies. They seem to pop up everywhere under different aliases, from Mexico (as wedding cookies) to Russia (where they're tea cakes) to Austria (look for Viennese sugar balls). Though my family has no relation to the American South, we happen to use the Southern moniker, Pecan Butterballs.
It's no surprise to me that these cookies were developed independently all over the world. First of all, they're so darn simple that anyone with a stash of nuts, a stick of butter, and some extra time on their hands would probably find their way to this recipe at some point or another. Second, they're delicious and the perfect accompaniment to that other ubiquitous item: tea.
Here's a tip, though: don't wear black while eating these cookies. Pecan Butterballs are crumbly, and one bite creates an explosion of powdered sugar and crumbs. If you think you might get away clean because you're only going to eat one Butterball, think again.
The nuttiness of the ground pecans combined with the mild sweetness of the powdered sugar makes for an addictive cookie. Their petite size lends itself to what I like to call butterball popping, an act in which unsuspecting guests fling cookies into their mouth like popcorn. Don't say I didn't warn you.