Perfectly simple--that's what you could call these instead of Vanilla-Bean Sugar Cookies, accent on the "perfect", because they are. They're not glamorous. No sprinkles or chocolate chunks or candy...just a wonderfully buttery, sugary crunch and an intense vanilla flavor. This is the kind of cookie you can eat with anything, anytime of day. They're amazing with a cup of tea or coffee, delightful as an accompaniment to ice cream or sorbet and hold up really well in a lunchbox too. If you're a vanilla person, you're especially going to flip for these!!
Sometimes I get caught up in a pattern of making desserts with lots of ingredients, like chocolate chip pecan pretzel espresso cookies, which while yummy, can often feel like overload, and so I rarely make them more than once. It's the classics, like these sugar cookies, that stick around and haunt you, calling out to be made over and over. I first made these about 20 years ago and I seriously don't think a year has gone by when I haven't made them at least once--that's the kind of good we're talking about.
And naturally, like all the best recipes, these are easy to make. Plus, you can make the dough several days ahead, should you be so inclined. There are just so many good things to say about them, but I'll stop going on and on and get to the nitty gritty so you can make these little babies for yourself! So... first, you make a simple batter, loaded down with the seeds of 2 vanilla beans.
Then you form the whole thing into a log and chill it for several hours or up to 3 days. When you're ready to bake the cookies, you roll the log in sugar so that the edges of the baked cookies have an extra crunchy sweetness.
Next, you simply slice and bake--Check out all those specks of vanilla beans!!
The cookies are not too big, not too small and have the amazing capability of being able to be both crunchy and chewy at the same time.
Your kitchen will smell amazing! And as the cookies sit around in a tin for a few days, the vanilla flavor gets more pronounced, so try, try to resist eating them all at once!!
And they make an adorable little gift! In fact, the only bad thing I can say about these cookies is that they disappear too fast!! Make them yourself and you'll see what I mean!!
Vanilla-Bean Sugar Cookies
Makes about 3 dozen cookies
Prep Time: 15 minutes (plus at least 4 hours chilling time); Bake Time: 10-12 minutes
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 tablespoons cold vegetable shortening
- 1 cup sugar, divided
- 2 vanilla beans
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
1. Into a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.
2. In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter, shortening and 3/4 cup of the sugar together for a couple of minutes until the mixture is light and fluffy. Split both vanilla beans down the middle and scrape the seeds into the batter. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat well. Add the sifted dry ingredients and beat until just combined.
3. Rip off a large sheet of wax paper (or parchment) and turn the dough out onto it. Form it into a log that's about 10x2 inches and roll it up in the wax paper. Chill the dough for at least 4 hours until it's completely firm. You can also chill this up to 3 days before baking. Just make sure it's wrapped well in the wax paper and an additional layer of aluminum foil.
4. When you're ready to bake, preheat oven to 375ºF and line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
5. Place the reserved 1/4 cup sugar on a shallow platter. Unwrap the dough log and roll the whole thing in the sugar. You may have to use your hands to press on the sugar and not all of the sugar will stick, which is fine. Transfer the dough to a cutting board and cut the dough into 1/4- inch thick slices. Place the cookies at least 1/2 inch apart on the cookie sheets.
6. Bake trays one at a time in middle of oven for 10-12 minutes or until the edges of the cookies are golden brown. Let cool for a few minutes on the cookie sheets on a wire rack and then use a spatula to transfer cookies to the rack to finish cooling.
7. Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.
Note: Recipe adapted from an old issue of Gourmet Magazine.