sparkling like diamonds, these vanilla bean-flecked bullseye cookies have even Frosty the Snowman rubbing his tummy in glee!
Ahh. I can smell the sugar in the air. You know it's Christmas baking season when your fridge is jam-packed with hunks of sweet butter and your pantry's shelves are sagging under the extra weight of sacks of flour, sugar, nuts and chocolate!
You may recall I made a whole whack of cookies last year and dispensed these in Christmas Cookie Boxes to my friends and colleagues last year. There were some real winners:
At the top of the list of favourites from the cookie box were the Tiffany Snowflake Butter Cookies I (laboriously) made. I'll be making them again this year, as well as the Vanilla Bean Sable Cookies rolled in sanding sugar. They were sparkly, crispy and butterly delicious.
Here's a little slideshow of last year's Christmas Cookies
Other cookies I made, in order of wow factor and yumm-o points:
- Sparkly Green Tea Christmas Trees
- Cocoa Nib and Pecan Cookies recipe here & pictures in the slideshow above
- Bah Humbug Black Sesame Sables
- World Peace Cookies recipe here and pictures here
- Almond Cocoa Nib Sticks
- Pistachio Cocoa Nib Thins
- Fruitcake Cookies
I just noticed that I hadn't made any sugar cookies last year, so this year I plan to do that. As well, I'd like to deviate a little bit from cookies and make some other confections...perhaps with pecans and I'm going to try my hand at experimenting with green, red and white marshmallows! Stay tuned for the results of my experiment!
I recently had the immense pleasure of receiving another new cookbook. This gift was from my friends J & M. They know I love chocolate and they know I love baking. You can't go wrong with that combination in my opinion. The new cookbook is Jacques Torres' A Year in Chocolate. All I can say is "Wow!" The illustrations and recipes are mouth-watering and I have bookmarked a whole bunch of recipes for more intense scrutiny and perhaps experimenting in the very near future.
A recipe that caught my eye was for "Chocolate Diamonds". The picture reveals a cinnamon-spiked vanilla centre and a chocolate cookie ring glistening with sparkly sugar. They looked like a perfect Christmas Cookie. I had to make some!
Torres calls for cake flour instead of all-purpose flour to ensure a tender cookie.
Never to leave a recipe alone, I adapted it and instead of cinnamon, I threw in two whole vanilla pods into a double-batch of the recipe. I cut up the fresh beans and tossed them into my Bullet and whizzed them with some of the sugar until I had a fine powder. I added this to the creaming mixture and was happy with the flavour in the finished product.
VANILLA BEAN CHOCOLATE DIAMONDS
adapted from Jacques Torres' A Year in Chocolate
- 1 pound (4 sticks) plus 3 1/2 T unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 3 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 vanilla bean [I used the whole bean and ground it into a powder with some of the sugar]
- 6 cups cake flour
- 1/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon [I omitted this]
- Place the butter and 2 1/2 cups of the sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle. Cut the vanilla bean crosswise into thirds. Split one-third in half lengthwise and, using the edge of a small, sharp knife, scrape the seeds into the butter and sugar. Reserve the remaining 2 pieces.
- Begin beating the mixture on low speed, then raise the speed to medium-high as the sugar begins to incorporate into the butter. Continue beating for about 4 minutes, or until the mixture is very pale in colour and fluffy.
- Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl and divide the mixture in half. Transfer one-half of the mixture to another bowl.
- To the half remaining in the mixer bowl, add a scant 3 cups of the flour, the cocoa powder, and the seeds of 1 of the remaining pieces of vanilla bean. Beat on medium speed until well combined. Scrape the dough from the bowl into a clean bowl, cover, and refrigerate for 1 hour. Wipe the bowl clean with a paper towel.
- Transfer the other half of the dough to the cleaned mixer bowl. Add the remaining 3 cups flour, the cinnamon, and the seeds of the remaining piece of vanilla bean. Beat on medium speed until well combined. Scrape the dough from the mixer bowl into a clean bowl, cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment
- Remove both doughs from the refrigerator. Transfer the cinnamon dough to a clean, flat work surface and, using the palms of your hands, form it into a rope about 3/4 inch in diameter.
- Lightly flour a clean, flat work surface. Place the chocolate dough in the centre of the floured surface. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough about 2 inches wide and the same length as the cinnamon rope. Using a paring knife, trim one of the long sides of the chocolate dough to make a neat, straight edge. Using a pastry brush, lightly coat the top surface of the chocolate dough with water to help the two doughs stick together. Place the cinnamon rope on the trimmed edge of the chocolate dough and begin rolling the chocolate dough up and over the cinnamon rope to enclose it completely. Trim the other long side to make a neat, straight edge to finish the roll, and press together to seal securely. If necessary, brush a little water on the seam edge to ensure that it stays closed. If the dough is very soft, place the roll in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
- Place the remaining 1 cup sugar on a clean surface. Lightly brush the entire exterior of the roll with water. Lay the roll in the sugar and then roll it back and forth to coat it generously. If necessary, add more sugar, as you want a thick coating.
- Using a sharp chef's knife, cut the roll crosswise into 1/2-inch thick slices. Place the cookies, cut side down, on the prepared cookie sheets, spacing them at least 1/2 inch apart.
- Bake for about 15 minutes, or until just lightly coloured. Remove from the oven, transfer to wire racks, and let cool completely.
- Store, in an airtight container, for up to 1 week.