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Vanilla Cookies

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Make some dough when you have a spare 20 minutes, store it in the freezer, then have fresh-baked vanilla cookies whenever you want.

Vanilla Cookies

This recipe makes a definitive sugar cookie, richly scented and flavored through the use of vanilla seeds, vanilla sugar and vanilla extract. Vanilla sugar is easy to make by simply splitting open a vanilla bean and storing it in your sugar canister indefinitely, but, of course, regular sugar also works fine.

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup vanilla sugar, plus extra for rolling
3 vanilla beans
1 large egg
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Beat together in a large bowl the butter and 2/3 cup vanilla sugar until light and fluffy. Slice the vanilla beans in half lengthwise and, using the tip of a spoon, scrape out the tiny oily seeds from each bean. Add the seeds to the sugar mixture and set the vanilla beans themselves aside for another use.

Add the egg and vanilla extract to the sugar mixture as well and beat until combined. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and beat again briefly.

Stir together the flour, baking powder and salt. Beat this into the sugar mixture until just combined. Dough will be very soft and sticky.

Set out onto the counter a piece of waxed paper about 16 inches long. Place blobs of the cookie dough in the middle of this sheet running lengthwise, until you have a sort of log of dough about 12 inches long. Gently wrap the waxed paper around the dough and twist the ends before storing it in the freezer for at least 1 hour and up to 6 weeks.

When you're ready to bake, set the oven racks at the upper middle and bottom positions. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cover your cookie sheets with parchment paper and put the extra vanilla sugar in a small bowl.

Cut the dough in 1/2-inch crosswise slices and roll each slice in the sugar (don't skip this step, as it really makes a difference in the cookies' texture). Arrange the slices on the cookie sheets, doing no more than 8 or 9 slices per cookie sheet.

Bake at 375 degrees for 4 to 6 minutes, then reverse the cookie sheets, putting the one from the upper middle rack on the bottom rack and vice versa. Bake another 4 to 6 minutes. Cookies are done when they have puffed and spread and are pale golden. Do not overbake, as cookies will continue to cook on the cookie sheets out of the oven.

Remove from heat and allow cookies to cool for a few minutes on the cookie sheets, then remove from cookie sheets to cool fully on wire racks. Makes about 2 dozen 3-inch cookies.

Storage: These keep for up to 3 days in an airtight container, but the texture is best the same day they're made.

Catherine S. Vodrey

Thursday, November 29, 2001

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