These easy-to-make crispy vanilla bean shortbread cookies are flavored with vanilla bean seeds inside and out and make a wonderful winter and Holiday season treat. The icing is made with heavy cream for extra richness.
I have often wondered who came up with the idea to associate vanilla with plain. It’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?
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 used vanilla bean paste* for both the dough and the icing.
Even though both the cookies and the icing are very simple, they are very flavorful and make a great Holiday season treat.
*RECIPE NOTE: Instead of using paste, you can also scrape the seeds out of a vanilla bean instead.
How to make the cookies:
Step 1. This recipe starts with 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour. Whisk the flour together with a pinch of salt in a bowl and set aside.
Step 2. Add 6 tablespoons unsalted butter and 1/4 cup granulated sugar to a mixing bowl.
Step 3. Whip butter and sugar together until creamy.
Step 4. Whip 1/2 tablespoon vanilla bean paste into the butter/sugar mix.
Step 5. Whip in the flour/salt mix. Continue to whip until the dough becomes crumbly, then bring it together by hand.
Step 6. Form the dough into a disk, wrap it in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.*
*RECIPE NOTE: You can make the dough up to one week ahead and keep in the fridge. When you’re ready to bake the cookies, take the dough disk out of the fridge and let it warm up on the counter until soft enough to roll out easily (about 30 minutes).
Step 7. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F., then roll out the dough* and cut out the cookies.
*RECIPE TIP: You want to roll out the cookie dough without adding additional flour and to do that I recommend rolling it between two sheets of plastic wrap.
Step 8. Bake the cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat until they start to brown (12 – 15 minutes). Let cool.
How to make the vanilla icing:
Step 1. In a mixing bowl, add:
- 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
- 1 to 3 tablespoons heavy cream (start with 1 tablespoon)
Step 2. Whisk everything together and add more cream as needed to get a spreadable but not runny consistency. Spread the icing onto the cooled cookies using the back of a small spoon.
How to store the cookies:
You can leave the cookies sitting out at room temperature for several hours. If you want to keep them longer, I recommend transferring them into a freezer bag and freezing them. To thaw, simply let them sit on the kitchen counter for about 15 minutes.
What is vanilla bean paste?
Vanilla bean paste is a syrupy mix of vanilla bean seeds and concentrated vanilla extract that is sold in small bottles.
How to store vanilla bean paste after opening the bottle:
Store the bottle at room temperature, in a cool, dark area. Don’t put it in the fridge or the freezer.
How to store a vanilla bean:
Store vanilla beans in an airtight container at room temperature in a cool, dark area, such as your food pantry.
What if I don’t have a vanilla bean or vanilla bean paste? Can I use vanilla extract instead?
Yes! Use the same amount of extract as you would of vanilla bean paste. I.e. 1/2 tablespoon for the cookie dough and 3/4 teaspoon for the icing.
More delicious cookie recipes:
- Spiced Linzer Cookies with Dulce de Leche
- Linzer Cookies with Ginger Cardamom Raspberry Jam
- Pumpkin Spice Hazelnut Cookies
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Crispy Vanilla Bean Shortbread Cookies
For the cookies:
- ¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- pinch of salt
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- ½ tablespoon vanilla bean paste (or the seeds of half a vanilla bean)
For the icing:
- ¾ teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or the seeds of one third of a vanilla bean)
- ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
- 1-3 tablespoons heavy cream
For the cookies:
- Whisk flour and salt together in a bowl. Set aside.
- Whip butter and sugar until well combined and creamy.
- Whip in the vanilla bean paste.
- Whip in the dry ingredients.
- Bring the dough together by hand, shape into a disk, then wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
- Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Roll out the dough between two sheets of plastic wrap and cut out the cookies. (After the first round of cutting out the cookies, you can gather the scraps and roll them out again).
- Bake the cookies on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat until they are lightly browned (12 – 15 minutes).
- Let the cookies cool.
For the icing:
- Whisk powdered sugar, vanilla bean paste 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 dry.