This may be what compelled Columbus to cross the ocean blue ……. or what drove old Thomas Edison to keep tinkering until his wires finally crossed correctly …….. perhaps even Einstein burned the midnight oil for many moons determined to perfect his formula – E=mc².
Me? Not such grandiose endeavors. No, instead I’m confounded by crazy culinary conundrums! For example, last week it was crinkly, crackly sugar cookies. I get an idea like this in my head and it just carries me away until I get it “right”. I try this and I try that, keeping a few ideas from this attempt and throwing out a bunch from that endeavor. These are the times my husband refers to me as “the crazy chemist in the kitchen”.
I’ve always been drawn to cookies with soft chewy insides and crisp, crackly exteriors, you know the kind I mean; with such deep crevices they resemble mini replicas of the Grand Canyon! I have a delicious sugar cookies recipe in my collection, but these cookies always emerged from the oven smooth, pale and ……..well, just not what I had in mind! So I messed around with my recipe a bit; each attempt just not “cutting the mustard”. So………… I checked out Mr. Google and came across this recipe – exactly what I was looking for! I added a fun twist* of my own and, I must say, the results are wonderful!
*I’ve been on a bit of a “vanilla bean” kick lately and decided to try an experiment. Vanilla beans are very expensive and I don’t often make this “splurge”. I was gifted with a small supply of these treasures about a year ago and have been hoarding them for a special occasion. I decided that figuring out these Crispy, Crackly Sugar Cookies was worth celebrating, so I broke out the treasure trove! Instead of the usual technique of splitting the bean and scraping out the tiny seeds, I cut up a whole vanilla bean and threw it in my food processor along with a quarter cup of sugar. I let the processor whirr for 4-5 five minutes until the bean had disintegrated and become part of the sugar. I used this “vanilla sugar” in the cookies – resulting in quite phenomenal vanilla flavor!
Crinkly, Crackly Vanilla Bean Sugar Cookies
1 vanilla bean, cut into about 6 small pieces
½ cup granulated sugar
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup granulated sugar
3 large egg yolks
¼ teaspoon fine salt
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
¼ cup granulated sugar, for rolling (no, no, don’t you roll in the sugar – it’s for the cookies! 🙂
1. Place cut up vanilla bean and the 1/2 cup sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Start by pulsing on and off about 10 times, then let machine run for several minutes until beans are in tiny flecks and incorporated into the sugar.
2. Heat the oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Line several sheet pans with parchment paper.
3. Combine butter, vanilla bean sugar and granulated sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl sides and bottom. Add yolks and salt and mix on medium speed until smooth, about 30 seconds.
4. Add flour, baking soda, and cream of tartar. Mix on low speed until dough comes together.
5. Scoop dough by rounded tablespoons and roll between your hands until smooth. Roll dough in granulated sugar to coat and place on parchment-paper-lined baking sheets. Bake cookies until they are golden brown, about 15 to 16 minutes. Immediately transfer to a rack to cool completely.
Adapted from Chow