Vanilla Shortbread Cookies

Vanilla shortbread cookies. Photo by Amy McCann

These cookies are wonderfully simple, but also rather sophisticated. The more-than-normal quantity of vanilla they contain delivers a fantastically rich flavor and an unexpectedly darker hue.

I made these over the holidays for our consumption, as well as for socially-distanced gift deliveries. I also made a log of the dough for a family with young children and delivered it as a DIY gift with colored sugars, sprinkles, parchment for baking and instructions. Mom sent me the pictorial evidence of their efforts (and enjoyment) the following day.

This recipe makes about 24 cookies based on a dough log that is about 2 inches in diameter. You can stretch it further if you make skinnier logs which, of course, result in smaller cookies and slightly less time in the oven.

The dough keeps in the fridge for several days or in the freezer for several months. You can slice the frozen dough and bake it immediately; if baking frozen, just give the cookies a few additional minutes in the oven.

1½ sticks butter, softened

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1½ tablespoons vanilla

2 cups flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

Additional equipment: spray oil, wax paper for wrapping the dough log, parchment for baking, decorative sprinkles or sugars, if desired.

Soften the butter in the microwave: In 30-second increments, zap it on 50% power. You want the butter to be soft, not melted. Place the softened butter in a large mixing bowl with the sugar and cream together. Add the remaining ingredients and mix them until a smooth dough forms.

Spray a large sheet of wax paper with oil to prevent the dough from sticking and turn the dough out onto the sheet. Using the wax paper, form the dough into a long log, roll it up and wrap it at both ends like a taffy. Note: if you desire smaller cookies or find the log unwieldy, you can make two smaller logs. Place the dough log in a large zip-seal bag and refrigerate it for at least an hour until it is very firm.

Heat your oven to 350 F. Line a baking tray with parchment. Remove the dough from the fridge and, using a serrated knife, slice the dough into thin discs of approximately ¼ inch. Decorate with sprinkles or colored sugars if desired (or not — plain is just fine) and bake for 12-15 minutes until the edges are browning.

Cool and enjoy!


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