Vanilla often plays a supporting role in baked goods — a teaspoon or so gets tossed into a batter or dough without much thought. Here, it gets the attention it deserves and takes center stage, just in time for the holidays. While these cookies may look plain, they are anything but; their complexity is understated.
They might not be the first cookies to go on the cookie plate, but once everyone realizes just how delicately sweet, buttery, and tender they are, those chocolate-filled numbers may get left behind.
A Shortbread Cookie That's Anything but Vanilla
Sablés are round shortbread cookies that originate from France — the name refers to their sandy texture that's thanks to a good deal of butter and egg yolks in the dough. These sablés celebrate the delicate sweetness of vanilla. While extract could achieve the flavor profile here, this recipe goes a step beyond by using vanilla bean paste. Think of the paste as a happy medium between extract and beans — it's less cost restrictive than whole beans, but is a whole lot more special than the extract, thanks to the inclusion of those extra-aromatic vanilla bean seeds.
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Those little black specks also make these cookies stand out and claim their "vanilla-ness." They're dotted throughout the cookies themselves and are also featured in the glaze. Although the glaze is optional, I do encourage you to make it. It adds an extra layer of flavor to the cookies to truly make them "double vanilla" and dress them up just perfectly for the holidays.
Double Vanilla Sablés
Makes about 18 cookies
- For the cookies:
(1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
large egg yolk
vanilla bean paste
- For the glaze (optional):
vanilla bean paste
1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons
Make the cookies: Place the flour and salt in a small bowl and whisk to combine; set aside.
Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. (Alternatively, use an electric hand mixer and large bowl.) Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
Beat in the egg yolk, scraping down the sides of the bowl if needed. Beat in the vanilla bean paste. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture and beat until just incorporated.
Place 1 sheet of plastic wrap about 15 inches long on a work surface. Shape the dough into a 6 1/2-inch-long log that is about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Place the log on the plastic wrap at a long end, then roll up to completely wrap in plastic. Twist and tie the ends together.
Freeze until firm, about 1 hour. (The dough can be stored in the freezer for up to 1 month.) Meanwhile, arrange a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 350°F.
Unwrap the log and trim the rounded ends. Cut the log into 18 (1/4-inch-thick) rounds, rotating the log a quarter turn after every slice to keep the slices round. Place all the rounds on an ungreased, unlined baking sheet, spacing them at least 1 1/2 inches apart.
Bake until the cookies are lightly browned around the edges, rotating the baking sheet halfway through, 12 to 14 minutes total.
Place the baking sheet on a wire rack and cool 3 minutes. Use a flat spatula to transfer the cookies to the rack to cool completely.
Make the glaze: Whisk all the ingredients together in a small bowl until smooth. Dip the tops of the cooled cookies into the glaze and return them to the rack, glazed-side up; let the glaze set before serving or storing.
Make ahead: The cookie dough logs can be refrigerated for up to 1 week. They can also be frozen for up to 3 months. Unwrap frozen cookie dough and let it warm on the counter for 10 to 15 minutes. It should still be cold to the touch and firm, but slightly pliable. Slice the cookies into 1/4-inch-thick disks and bake as directed by the recipe, adding on an extra minute or two to the baking time.
Storage: Store the baked cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.