Wednesday 19 December 2007


tiffany snowflake cookies

a bowl of cute vanilla pod mini-snowflakes

this was cakebrain's first stab at decorating intricate snowflake cookies with royal icing

After my fortuitous excursion to Williams-Sonoma, where I picked up a set of Snowflake Cutters, I am now ready to make my Tiffany Snowflake Butter Cookies. I decided against making Snowflakes out of gingerbread for the following reason: I am not fond of it. It's an excellent medium for structural integrity in framing a house, as is the royal icing needed to spackle it together. However, I feel that those very qualities make it inedible and a waste of holiday calories.

the honking big snowflakes are my favourite, but they're a pain to decorate. as you can see in the background, my royal icing flooding skills leave a little to be desired.

As well, I have a negative conditioned response to gingerbread because years ago when I was still in university, I decided to make a gingerbread house. I had all the extra baked gingerbread scraps to eat. I brought them with me in my purse to munch on in the movie theatres (shhh...don't tell!), I gave some to friends and I nibbled gingerbread for snacks. By the end of the week I was so done with gingerbread for the rest of my life. Besides, I had a cute little gingerbread house that nobody wanted to eat because, well it was too cute. By the time I thought I should eat it, it didn't taste so great anyway. So when other people smell gingerbread, they think, " homey and comforting"; while I think, "eew...not gingerbread again! gag"

you can see the real vanilla bean specks in the cookie
This yummy and flexible Vanilla Butter Cookie recipe hasn't failed me yet. I use it for sables (sorry, how the heck do you make the French accents in blogger? I have yet to figure it out and have been mangling/anglocizing all of the words--a sorry situation for an English teacher) and roll logs of it in sanding sugar...then I slice and bake. I keep the logs in the freezer just in case I need a couple of fresh-baked cookies. You know, when you want to (impress and) provide guests with the lovely baking smells from your oven as well as the cookie itself when they visit you. Only it was as easy as Pillsbury. How sneaky, eh?
when in doubt, pipe dots. as you can see, piping isn't my forte either

I also use the dough for cutouts but you just have to refrigerate the dough a lot to ensure crisp shapes. Refrigerate a little before rolling and refrigerate until firm after placing on the cookie sheet. Then bake until golden brown. Don't underbake or the cookies will taste insipidly blah.
pretty enough to decorate the tree--but that would be a waste of a perfectly good cookie
This time, I'm adapting the recipe so that I can make use of the stash of Vanilla Bean Pods I have leftover. As well as ramming the empty pods into a bottle of vodka to make vanilla extract, I've been saving pods for grinding. I grind up the pods with a little of the granulated sugar (hey, that's vanilla sugar!) The cookies are speckled with the tiny vanilla seeds and the slightly larger specks of ground vanilla pod. You can triple your vanilla pleasure by adding a little vanilla extract too.
Vanilla Pod Butter Cookies
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg plus 1 egg white, beaten
1 dried vanilla bean pod (for grinding with the sugar)
2 ½ cups sifted all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon coarse salt
½ cup fine sanding sugar
  1. Split vanilla pod if it is fresh and scrape out the seeds for creaming with the butter. Place empty pod in food processor with granulated sugar to grind. Sift out the larger chunks of the bean. If you have a stash of dried vanilla pods, use that and supplement with 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.
  2. Put butter and vanilla seeds into mixer with paddle attachment, mixing until seeds are distributed thoroughly. Add the granulated sugar/vanilla pod mixture into the bowl and continue beating on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Mix in whole egg and vanilla extract, if using. Reduce speed to low. Add flour and salt and mix until combined.

For logs:

  • Halve dough; shape each half into a log. Place each log on a 12-by-16 inch sheet of parchment. Roll in parchment to 1 ½ inches in diameter, pressing a ruler along edge of parchment at each turn to narrow log. Transfer to paper towel tubes to hold shape, and freeze until firm, about 1 hour.
  • Preheat oven to 375ºF. Brush each log with egg white; roll in sanding sugar. Cut into ½-inch thick rounds. Space 1 inch apart on baking sheets lined with parchment. Bake until edges are golden, 18 to 20 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks. Store in airtight containers at room temperature up to 3 days.
For intricate snowflake cutouts:
  • Halve dough; create discs and wrap one in plastic wrap.
  • Take the other disc and roll out the dough to the desired thickness (usually 3-5 mm) out between two pieces of parchment paper. I place the whole sheet of parchment/rolled-out cookie dough onto a plastic cutting board and pop it in the refrigerator to firm up (about 30 minutes).
  • Take other disc out and roll out as above. Pop that into the refrigerator to firm up too.
  • When the rolled dough is firm enough, take it out and use your snowflake cutters to make as many cuts as possible. Transfer to a parchment-lined cookie sheet. With the tiny cutters, you can now make more cuts into the cut cookies on the parchment. This way you won't have to transfer delicate snowflakes and avoid tons of frustration.
  • Do leave a proper amount of space between the cutouts (about 1 inch) to allow for a little spreading. Lift off the surrounding dough carefully. You may need a pointy knife, thin spatula or other such tool to assist you in this endeavour. I use the tip of a plastic kiddie chopstick to poke out the dough from tight crevices. If you leave marks, you can always flip the cookie upside down onto the parchment to bake.
  • Place snowflake cookie-laden cookie sheet back into the fridge to firm up again before baking.
  • Ball up the remaining dough and do it all over again.
  • Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the cookies on the middle rack until golden, about 18-20 minutes--more or less depending on the size of your snowflakes. Just keep an eye on the first batch for an indicator.
  • Decorate with royal icing, if you wish

****Please check out a Sugar Cookie variation from my 2008 Xmas cookie boxes here.


Patricia Scarpin said...

So you had a gingerbread od?? :)
Nest time send the scraps my way! :)

Your cookies look fantastic, you are so talented!

Cakebrain said...

Thanks for the sentiment Patricia-- if I ever make gingerbread again, you'll be the first one to get the gingerbread odds and ends!

Meg said...

If you use Windows, change your keyboard layout to US-International and you can type all the little french accents you want by just hitting the accent you want (' " ` ^) and then the letter you want it over.
Try adding French as a language with US-International as the keyboard layout, and then you can hit Left-Alt+Shift to change back and forth between French and English.


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