I have often wondered who came up with the idea to associate vanilla with plain. That’s a really puzzling concept because there is nothing plain about vanilla seeds; their unique flavor and aroma is about as complex as it gets and is the result of a combination of several hundred different chemical compounds. And it is, of course, delicious. I mean, who doesn’t like vanilla?
Now, when I use vanilla I generally reach for the bottle of extract but to add some sophistication (in the form of visible black flecks of vanilla seeds) to these Christmas cookies here I scraped the seeds of out of an actual vanilla pod and added them to both the dough and the glaze. Both components are simple but very flavorful and overall make a very delicate and buttery, crispy cookie. I made the glaze from powdered sugar, vanilla seeds and heavy cream. Cream is great for a glaze because it results in a thick, velvety texture that more or less automatically forms a bit of a pattern when you spread it on with the back of a small spoon. That’s my way of decorating a cookie artfully because I’m not really much use with a piping bag! :)
- ¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- pinch of salt
- 1½ inches vanilla bean
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 1 inch vanilla bean
- ¾ cup powdered sugar
- 1 – 4 tablespoons heavy cream
- Whisk flour and salt together in a bowl. Set aside.
- Scrape the seeds out of the vanilla bean piece.
- Beat butter and sugar until well combined and creamy.
- Beat in the vanilla seeds
- Beat in the dry ingredients.
- Bring the dough together into a ball by hand, wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
- Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Roll out the dough and cut out the cookies.
- Bake the cookies on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper until they are lightly browned (12 – 15 minutes).
- Let the cookies cool.
- Scrape the seeds out of the vanilla bean.
- Whisk powdered sugar, vanilla seeds and heavy cream together. Start with 1 tablespoon of cream, then add more until you have a spreadable but not runny consistency.
- Spoon the icing onto the cookies and let it dry.
Food Photography and Styling: I started this shoot with the plate of cookies sitting on just a smooth fabric but that was missing something and I think the wrinkled fabric that is mirroring the texture in the icing of the cookies was it. It broke up the uniform surface and added interest to the photo. To create a winter feel I kept the white balance fairly cold and at the same time the minimally diffused light kept the atmosphere still cheerful and inviting enough. As always, I used my strobe to light the set.
For info on what type of camera and lighting equipment I used head on over to my FAQ page.