Vanilla Crescents

Vanillen Kipferln

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Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Makes about

    42

    cookies

Appears in

These crescents are the Austro-Hungarian Christmas cookie, and during the holidays you will find mountains of the little vanilla-sugar-coated treats in Konditorei windows. Crisp yet tender at the same time, they are at their very best when made with a vanilla bean instead of extract. Vanilla sugar is a staple European grocery item, but it’s not so easy to find here. One way to make it is to bury a vanilla bean in confectioners’ or granulated sugar (depending on its final use) for a couple of weeks, allowing the bean to slowly release its scent and flavor into the sugar. My method is for those bakers who don’t always think ahead, and gives a stronger vanilla flavor.

Ingredients

Cookies

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup natural sliced almonds
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at cool room temperature
  • ¾ cup confectioners’ sugar
  • ½ vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 1 large egg yolk, or more as needed

Vanilla Sugar

  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ vanilla bean

Method

  1. To make the cookies: Process the flour, almonds, and salt in a food processor fitted with the metal blade until the almonds are very finely chopped, almost a powder. Beat the butter in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer fitted with the paddle blade on high speed until smooth, about 1 minute. On low speed, gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar, then return the speed to high and beat until the mixture is very light in color and texture, scraping down the sides of the bowl often, about 2 minutes. Using the tip of a small knife, scrape in the seeds from the vanilla bean, reserving the pod. Add the yolk to the dough and mix. Remove the bowl from the stand. Using a spoon, stir in the flour mixture to make a stiff dough that holds together when pressed. (If the dough is crumbly, add a bit more beaten egg yolk.) Gather the dough up into a thick disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  2. Meanwhile, make the vanilla sugar: Process the sugar, vanilla bean, and reserved vanilla pod in a blender until the bean is very finely chopped (it won’t be completely pulverized) and the sugar is ground to a powder. Sift through a wire sieve into a medium bowl to remove any large pieces of vanilla.
  3. Position racks in the center and top third of the oven and heat to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  4. Using about 2 teaspoons of dough for each, roll the dough between your palms to soften (it will be crumbly at first, but will come together with the heat of your hands). Roll into a 3-inch rope with tapered ends, form into a crescent, and place on the sheets.
  5. Bake until the cookies are a light golden brown around the edges, 15 to 17 minutes. Cool for 2 minutes on the sheets. Roll the warm cookies in the vanilla sugar to coat. Reserve any remaining vanilla sugar. Cool completely. If necessary before serving, give the cookies another toss in the reserved vanilla sugar.

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