Vanilla Bean Sugar Cookies

EASTER SUGAR COOKIES

I love ALL things vanilla! It’s my most favorite flavor and smell and when made right, nothing beats a good vanilla sugar cookie. This recipe comes from an amazing cookbook that I picked up a few months back entitled, Pure Vanilla: Irresistible Recipes and Essential Techniques by Shauna Sever. If you love vanilla this is one cookbook you’ll want to add to your collection. It’s filled with delicious recipes for cookies, cakes, puddings and even candy!

I followed this recipe as is however, instead of just using pure vanilla extract I also used vanilla paste because I really wanted to bring out and highlight the vanilla flavor of this cookie. I used two teaspoons of vanilla paste and one teaspoon of pure vanilla extract in the cookie dough. I did have to restrain myself from throwing the whole bottle in! The combination of vanilla paste and extract really made for an exceptionally flavored cookie! I highly recommend investing in a bottle of vanilla paste if you haven’t already done so. It is a little pricey nowadays but in desserts that are very vanilla forward such as these cookies, it’s really worth using.

While most cookies are incredible when they come right out of the oven, I have found that these cookies actually improve in flavor as they cool and “age“. As they cool the vanilla notes really pop and the texture becomes that perfect combination of sandy, chewy and crispy. I thought that the next day, they were even better and more perfect. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/4 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
  • 1/4 cup vanilla sugar*
  • colored sanding sugar

*If you do not have vanilla sugar, plain granulated sugar is also fine to use.*

Instructions

Position racks in the upper and lower third of the oven. Preheat to 350ºF. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cream of tartar and salt. In another small bowl, whisk together the oil and egg.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, granulated sugar, confectioners sugar, and vanilla on medium-high speed until fluffy and pale in color, about 2 minutes. Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually beat in the oil/egg mixture until smooth. Slowly add in the dry ingredients and mix on low-speed until smooth. The dough will be soft.

Roll dough into balls, about 1 tbs in size and place them about 2″ apart on the baking sheets. Pour the vanilla sugar onto a plate and dip a flat bottom glass into the sugar to coat, press into each ball to flatten to about 1/4″ thickness. Re-sugar the glass after every cookie. Sprinkle the cookies with colored sanding sugar.

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until cookies are pale golden and just beginning to lightly brown at the edges. Rotate the cookies sheets from top to bottom and from front to back about halfway through baking. Allow cookies to cool on the pan for about 2 minutes and then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

**Tip** – Make vanilla sugar by taking used, scraped vanilla beans and submerging them in granulated sugar. Store in a tightly sealed container and within a few weeks you will have vanilla sugar which is perfect to use in all baking applications.

“How-To” Baking – Making Sugar Cookies

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Making sugar cookies can either be fun or make you want to pull your hair out! Follow these simple steps to create beautifully decorated sugar cookies every time.

  1. Make the dough ahead of time – Sugar cookie dough works best when it is fully chilled. Make the dough at least a day before you’re ready to roll and cut. The dough will keep in the fridge for 3-4 days or in the freezer for up to a month. Here you will find a basic sugar cookie dough recipe from Williams-Sonoma®.
  2. Do not over-cream the butter – Over-creaming the butter will cause too much air to be incorporated into the cookie dough which in turn will cause them to expand and spread when baking and then collapse during cooling. Work the butter just enough so that it is incorporated with the other ingredients.
  3. Roll to the proper thickness – The perfect thickness for a sugar cookie is 1/4″. This will allow the cookies to be sturdy enough for decorating but not too thick where they taste icky. To help roll out the dough to the proper thickness you can purchase rolling pin guide rings that slip right on to your existing rolling pin. You can find them here .
  4. Chill the cookies – After the cookies are cut out, place them back into the fridge to chill. This will help to prevent spreading during the baking process.
  5. Do not overbake – Bake the cookies until they are a light sandy blonde color. Allowing the cookies to bake until “golden brown” will result in rock hard cookies that will continue to harden as they age.
  6. Use royal icing to decorate – Basic royal icing is simply a mixture of powdered sugar and egg whites with added flavorings. If the icing is too thin, add more powdered sugar. If the icing is too thick, add in more egg whites or water. To help the icing dry more quickly add in an acid such as lemon juice or cream of tartar. Here you will find a simple royal icing recipe to get your started.
  7. Ice the cookies properly – First, using a thicker batch of royal icing, outline the edge of the cookies and then allow them to dry. Then, using a thinner batch of royal icing, “flood” the cookies inside of the outline and use a small offset spatula to spread the icing around. Decorate and then allow the cookies to fully and completely dry before packaging them.

Sugar Cookie Tip – Do NOT use overly intricate cookie cutters when making sugar cookies. The cookies won’t bake evenly and the tiny pieces will burn before the rest of the cookie is fully baked. Instead, use simpler cookie cutters such as Christmas trees, snowmen, bells, etc. and then embellish and make them fancy during the decorating process. Try using sanding sugar, dragées, or even small candies to make them pretty. If you’re feeling ambitious, try some of these cool decorating techniques from the Food Network® kitchen: Sugar Cookie Decorating Techniques

“Shrewsbury Cakes” – aka Sugar Cookies

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Years and years ago back when I was in college, my husband (then boyfriend) took me to Busch Gardens and Colonial Williamsburg for a few days one summer. It was hotter than Hades the week we were there. I am talking stifling, sweltering, oppressive heat and humidity. Colonial Williamsburg was particularly torturous as there is very little shade, dust kicking up everywhere, and the smell of hot horse poop everywhere. Needless to say, I couldn’t have been more cranky that day. After a few hours I had enough so we decided to grab a snack, take a break, and relax. That is when I discovered not only the best ginger ale I ever tasted but also, “Shrewsbury Cakes”.

Shrewsbury Cakes are really nothing more than sugar cookies but with a slight citrus note to them. They are absolutely delicious and I was in love at first bite. I ended up going back to the “Raleigh Tavern Bake Shop” where we found them and buying a whole bunch more to take home with us. They were THAT good! I also came across a little cookbook as well which contained all kinds of colonial era baking recipes and as luck would have it, the Shrewsbury Cakes were in there. Score!!

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The below recipe is taken right from, “Recipes from the Raleigh Tavern Bake Shop” by The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. The only changes that I made to the recipe was to replace vanilla extract with vanilla paste and I decided to use vanilla sugar instead of plain granulated sugar. Other than that I followed the recipe as written, increasing the baking time by 8 minutes because I made larger sized cookies than what was called for. The recipe listed a yield of 36 cookies, I was able to get 24 cookies using my medium cookie scoop.

The cookies are light, slightly crisp on the edges, and absolute perfection. You will not be disappointed with this recipe. They would be a terrific addition to your Christmas cookie list, just use some red and green colored sugar to roll them in and you will make Santa Claus one happy little elf!

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (or vanilla sugar)
  • 1 1/2 tsp grated orange peel (or 1/2 tsp dried orange peel)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (or vanilla paste)
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 tbs milk or half and half
  • 2 cups sifted all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cream of tartar

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cream the butter, shortening, and sugar.

Add the orange peel and vanilla extract.

Add the egg and milk.

Combine the sifted flour, baking soda, salt, and cream of tartar then sift together. Slowly incorporate to the wet ingredients. Mix until well combined.

Scoop the cookies into 1″ balls and then roll them in sugar. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until very light golden brown. (Remember to increase the baking time for larger sized cookies)

Cool the cookies on the pan for about 5 minutes then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Enjoy!

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