Friday, December 13, 2013

Very Vanilla Sandwich Cookies

I feel like I'm just playing catch up lately.  We came back from Rome and flew straight back into the rush of life, but I'm not so sure I was ready.   Maybe I'm still in a food coma from all the pasta I ate on vacation and with the rush of the holidays and my oldest's (ninth!) birthday I feel like December is whizzing by at world record speed.  I need everything to Slow.  The.  Heck.  Down.  Already!

Seriously.  I'd like to actually enjoy the holiday season without feeling like I'm three steps behind at every turn.  I know I'm not alone in this feeling, right?  Can we write a big letter to Santa asking him to just slow the Earth turning for the next 14 days.  We can all sign the letter so that it looks super official.  We'll just ask for the world to go a little teensy bit slower so we can all have a few more minutes each day.  I promise I don't need anything else this year except this little wish for a bit more time.  Is that too much?  You're all with me, aren't you?

I don't know if Santa will come through for me, so in the meantime I'm trying desperately to dig myself out of a mountain of Christmas presents and shipping boxes that need to make their way back to the States (probably not in time, I'm so sorry family!) and cards that I have every intention of signing, addressing and sending today.  But instead I'm blogging so you can guess how much progress I'll be making on the gift and card projects.  Oh and baking.  There's that too.

Peanut butter chocolate chip cookies for my oldest to share with his class for his birthday.  Dark chocolate and cherry pannettone for me to share with my friends on the drive for a mini-girls weekend at the Cologne Christmas market a few hours away.  And cookies for my little one's class advent get together (that's what they do here in Germany- Advent, not Christmas).  For this party we were asked to bring something from our cultural heritage.  I decided to go with a very American sugar cookie jazzed up a bit.  I was nervous about these cookies because they're a bit sweeter than European tastes generally go for, but they were (thankfully) a hit. 

Now I just have to decide what cookies to bring to the office cookie swap next week.  Oh, and get working on that letter to Santa.  I really only need a few more minutes.

Very Vanilla Sandwich Cookies
Makes about 2 dozen cookies sandwiches.  Adapted from Pure Vanilla by Shauna Sever.
For the printable, click here.

These cookies are just about the most perfect bite of vanilla ever.  Tender and crisp shortbread-like cookies sandwiched around a light vanilla butter cream- what's not to like?  You can keep the cookies plain and simple or jazz them up by rolling the edges in colored sugar before refrigerating the dough.  I think the sparkly version is perfect for a holiday party, personally.  I didn't do much to change to original cookie because it's so darn good.  I added pinch of cardamom for just a bit of depth to the cookie and swapped out the white chocolate filling (I am just not a fan of white chocolate) for a simple butter cream.  The cookies are the perfect thing to keep in the freezer for when you want to slice off and bake just a few, as even without the creamy filling they're quite good.

Another note, since moving to Germany I have not purchased a stand mixer.  I bought an inexpensive hand mixer and have used that occasionally, but the majority of the baking I have done has been completely by hand.  I swear my right arm muscles have never been as strong.  I will give directions for these cookies using a stand mixer but you can get them whipped up using even the weakest of hand mixers or the power of your own biceps.

For the cookies:
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tbs vanilla extract
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp cardamom

For the vanilla bean butter cream:
4 tbs butter at room temperature
1 vanilla bean
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract

Optional: colored sanding sugar for decorating

In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar and vanilla on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add the egg and egg yolk and beat until well blended.  Reduce the speed to low and stir in the flour, baking soda and cardamom until the dry ingredients are thoroughly incorporated.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and divide it in half.  Roll each half into a log about 8 inches long and 1 1/2 inches in diameter.  If you are dressing up the edges in colored sugar, pour about 1/4 cup sugar onto a piece of waxed paper or flat platter.  Roll the dough logs in the sugar to coat the outside.  Wrap each log in wax or parchment paper and refrigerate until firm, 1-2 hours (you can freeze the dough for up to 6 months at this point as well).

When you're ready to bake the cookies preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment or a silicone liner.

Slice the dough into 1/4 inch rounds and place the cookies about 1 inch apart on the baking sheets.  Bake until the cookies are firm and the edges just begin to turn golden, about 12-15 minutes.  Let the cookies cool for about 2 minutes on the baking sheets and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

While the cookies cool, make the vanilla butter cream.  Beat the butter for about 2 minutes until it  becomes creamy.  Slice the vanilla bean in half lengthwise.  Using the back of your knife, scrape the vanilla bean caviar from the pod.  Add the vanilla caviar to the butter along with the powdered sugar and beat the mixture on low speed.  Gradually add the granulated sugar and then the vanilla extract until fully combined, light and fluffy.

Spread a heaping teaspoon of butter cream on the bottom of one cooled cookie and then top with another cookie.  Repeat with the remaining cookies and cream  Store the filled cookies in the refrigerator in a sealed container (alternately, you can store the unfilled cookies at room temperature and the butter cream in the refrigerator until ready to fill).

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