These aren’t just sugar dipped cookies. These crumbly melt in your mouth cookies are dipped in Homemade Vanilla Icing Sugar and the dough is made with nothing less than the same vanilla sugar. I always have Homemade Vanilla Sugar in my pantry. In my pantry, there also sits, a bottle of my homemade vanilla extract. These cookies are best made with Homemade Vanilla Sugar which is not difficult to make. Store bought vanilla extract, though undeniably flavourful, cannot be compared to the purest vanilla taste that can only come from the gooey pulp and seeds of vanilla pods.

Homemade Vanilla Sugar.


To taste the difference between vanilla extract and Homemade Vanilla Sugar.

Make 2 glasses of yogurt drink, ‘Sweet Lassi’ (for full recipe and other flavouring options, click on this blog post, Ice Cold Yogurt Drink Flavoured With Fruit, Vanilla, Condensed Milk Or Just Sugar). Basically, it is a 2:1 yogurt to ice water. Flavour one with extract and one with the Homemade Vanilla Sugar. The difference is pronounced.


The yogurt drink made with vanilla extract
has a pronounced scent, one that is associated with something out from a bottle. It is an appetising scent nonetheless. It taste delicious but after a glass of it, you will realise that you can’t drink too much of it without feeling a bit ill because of all the add-ons that goes into the making of bottled vanilla extract.
The yogurt drink made with HomeMade Vanilla Sugar is lightly perfumed and has a clean yet definitive taste of vanilla. Very delicious, pure and very drinkable. You would want to reach out for another glass. 

Why do I want to make Vanillekipferl?
Well, I had my first Vanillekipferl in Vienna a few years back and had quite forgotten about them until a month ago. I was then at a pasticceria ordering a cup of cafe latte when I spotted 6 pieces of the sugar dusted u-shaped cookies sitting on a little plate. They looked lost amongst the more colourful macaroons, cakes, mousse and pastries. Why where there just 6 I wondered. Where they leftovers from yesterday? Did no one else realise those cookies were delicious? I had never seen them on sale at local bakeries. Then again, I was not looking out for them. I ordered some with my coffee. Were they good? Oh yes. As soon as I bit into it, the cookie crumbled in my mouth and the confectioner’s sugar melted away. Very satisfying. I had to recreate it at home so I could have more!

Recipe testing begins.
Looking through my european cookbooks and online, it became obvious that these cookies were a favourite in many european countries and there are many versions of it. Some use  walnuts. Others almonds. The cookie might go by different names but they were essentially the same. All the recipes I had viewed had asked for either vanilla essence, vanilla extract or more popularly in my european cookbooks, sachets of commercial ‘vanilla sugar’. Since Vanillekipferl is a vanilla cookie, I decided that to bake the best ‘vanilla testing’ cookie, it has to be made with Homemade Vanilla Sugar. After 3 bakes of Vanillekipferl, I had a crumbly, ‘melt-in-the-mouth’ cookie that I was very pleased with. Then, curiosity got the better of me. Every recipe I had seen used vanilla essence, vanilla extract or store-bought sachets of ‘vanilla sugar’? How would cookies baked with those taste?

Cookies baked with Homemade Vanilla Sugar VS Cookies baked with Vanilla Extract VS Cookies baked with store-bought sachet of ‘vanilla sugar’.

Cookies baked with Homemade Vanilla Sugar. I am obviously bias and have no shame in saying this is the best option.

Cookies baked with Vanilla Extract tested like a regular cookie that was flavoured with well, vanilla extract. I could not make a vanilla flavoured sugar to dust over the baked cookies with liquid vanilla extract so regular icing sugar went over it. It paled by far when compared to cookies baked with HomeMade Vanilla Sugar and even the store-bought sachet of ‘vanilla sugar’ tested better.

Cookies baked with store-bought sachet of ‘vanilla sugar’. This sachet of ‘vanilla sugar’ you might realise is largely artificial. These cookies tasted like those I had in Vienna and were delicious. It helped that I could add some of the ‘vanilla sugar’ into the icing sugar that went over the baked cookies. I would eat them again but I am quite sure it would make me ill if I had too, too many of it. They definitely can’t compare to those made with Homemade Vanilla Sugar which had a fresh, clean taste (nothing artificial!).

I have included instructions on how to bake using vanilla extract, store-bought sachet of ‘vanilla sugar’ and Homemade Vanilla Sugar. Having read the results of my baking experiments (a lot of trays of cookies), you decide which of the 3 you would rather use.

Vanillekipferl, European Sugar Dusted Cookies 

Prep: 20 minutes 
Cook: 15 minutes
Inactive: Chill dough for ~30 minutes
Level: Moderately easy
Makes: ~50 cookies
Oven Temperature: 340F (170C) oven shelf centre
Can recipe be doubled? Yes.
Make ahead? Cookie dough can be made up to 2 days ahead. Baked cookies keep very well, tightly covered, up to 2 weeks and perhaps longer!

Ingredients

Select 1 of the 3 options of sugar you will be using for the cookie
Option 1: Homemade Vanilla Sugar (made in bulk, extra keeps for ages and gets even more flavourful – you will only use 6oz (170g) in this recipe) 
2.2 lbs (1 kg) icing/confectioner’s sugar*
1 vanilla pod
Option 2: Vanilla sugar made with store-bought sachet of ‘vanilla sugar’
6 oz (170g) icing/confectioner’s sugar*
1 sachet store-bought ‘vanilla sugar’
Option 3: Regular sugar
6 oz (170g) icing/confectioner’s sugar*
*
To make icing/confectioner’s sugar, add a scant 1 teaspoon of corn flour to every 6 oz (170g) sugar and grind in food processor. Corn flour prevents icing/confectioner’s sugar from caking and is added to store-bought icing/confectioner’s sugar. In small quantities, corn flour bakes cookies that are a little lighter and crumbly.

Other ingredients
6 oz (170g) unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt (omit if using salted butter)
3 oz (85g) ground almonds/almond meal
10 oz(283g) all-purpose/plain flour
1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (use only if selecting Option 3: Regular sugar)
~2 Tablespoons milk

Method

Option 1: Homemade Vanilla Sugar
1. Split the vanilla pod down its length. With a butter knife or a teaspoon, scrape off the squidgy pulp/seeds into the sugar. Do not use a sharp knife to scrape off the vanilla as you might inadvertently scrape off the tough fibres from the pods which is inedible.
2. Grind sugar up in a food processor until it is well mixed and looks like dust. Excess Homemade Vanilla Sugar can be stored indefinitely and used in recipes for confectioneries or to make delicious vanilla flavoured yogurt or the yogurt drink I mentioned in my introduction.
3. The scraped out vanilla pod still has loads of flavour and can be stored with the remaining Homemade Vanilla Icing Sugar to further infuse the sugar.

Option 2: Vanilla sugar made with store-bought sachet of ‘vanilla sugar’
1. Mix the sachet of ‘vanilla sugar’ into the 6 oz (170g) of icing sugar.
2. Divide into 2 equal weights of 3 oz (85g) each: 1 quantity to be used in cookie dough, 1 quantity to be dusted over baked cookies.

Option 3:Using regular sugar
1. Proceed directly to instructions below.

Cream butter and sugar
1. Before you start mixing. Ensure that the butter has soften -when you press on the butter with your finger, it should leave an indentation but it should not feel at all ‘melty’. If it has soften too much, you have to put it back in the refrigerator to firm up a little. If not, the butter will not cream up well.
2. With the whisk attachment on the mixer, cream the softened butter with 3 oz (85g) of sugar on medium speed until it is light coloured and creamy.
3. Turn off the mixer, mix the batter quickly with a spatula to fully incorporate.

Add egg yolk (and vanilla extract if following Option 3: regular sugar)
1. Add the egg yolk and vanilla extract (only if you are using regular icing sugar).
2. Turn the machine on to medium-low and mix for 1 minute.
3. Turn off the mixer and mix the batter quickly with a spatula to fully incorporate.

Add flour, ground almonds and salt (if using unsalted butter)
1. If you are using a KitchenAid, switch to the paddle attachment. Add the ground almonds, flour and salt (if using unsalted butter).
2. Turn on the mixer to medium-low and let the machine run until almost all of the ground almonds and flour have been incorporated.
3. Turn off the mixer and use a spatula to complete the mixing. Remember to scrape the bottom of the bowl as there would most likely be some flour there.
4. As the dough needs to adhere easily together, you would probably need to add ~2 Tablespoons milk to bring the dough together. With the machine running on low, add 1 Tablespoon of milk to incorporate. Add another tablespoon (or more) milk if necessary. Turn off the machine. The dough should not be crumbly and it should feel as if you would be able to roll the dough out easily into crescents.

Chill dough
1. Tear off an arm length’s worth of plastic wrap and lay it flat on your work top. Empty cookie dough onto it. Shape into a log.
2. Wrap with the plastic wrap but leaving a 1″- 2″ (2.5cm – 5 cm) air pocket of plastic on all 4 sides. Use a rolling pin or your hands to roll/push the dough out to fill the entire plastic wrap so that it looks vacuum sealed. Leave in the refrigerate to firm up slightly, ~ 30 minutes.

Shaping into cookies
1. Pre-heat the oven to 340F (170C), oven rack adjusted to centre position.
2. Remove dough from the refrigerator and onto your work surface. Cut the dough into 2, length-wise. Then, cut into smaller rectangles so that you can roll each cut piece into a short cigar. Fold cigars into 2 to form a crescent.
3. Should you find it difficult to roll or shape the dough because it is too dry or crumbly, moisten the dough with a little milk.


4. Lay the crescent with the sharp ends pointing inwards so that they are less likely to burn in the oven.

Baking
1. Bake a total of 15 minutes. Half way through baking, turn the cookie sheet back side front to encourage even baking.
2. Whilst waiting for cookies to bake, set up a process line to dip the cookies in the 3 oz (85g) icing sugar. Hot cookies hold in more icing sugar than cooled ones.
3. When the cookies have slightly browned around the ends, they are cooked.

4. Remove from the oven, cool just 1 – 2 minutes and with a cookie spatula, lift out one cookie at a time to the awaiting bowl of icing sugar.
5. Dip cookies top and bottom and set down on a cookie rack to cool completely.
6. To store, dip cookies again in any icing sugar leftover in the dipping bowl before piling them into air-tight cookie jars.

Tips

Baking with icing sugar means that your kitchen will very likely be powdered with a thin layer of icing sugar.

To minimise the clean up, here’s what you can do:

  • Keep windows closed and keep the fans turned off. Icing sugar is so light weight, you will be surprised at how far they can be carried off by drafts.
  • Stick to one work surface and line with clean, wet kitchen towels that have been wrung of excess water. This will minimise icing sugar from being carried off from your work surface onto the floor.
  • If you are grinding up sugar to turn into icing sugar or making Homemade Vanilla Sugar, once the food processor has turned the sugar into a fine powder, do not open up the processor. Leave it to settle, ~ 5 minutes, before opening or you will be sprayed with a huge puff of white sugar powder.
  • Before turning on the mixer to cream the butter and icing sugar, use a spatula to work in the icing sugar so that you minimise ‘fly away’ icing sugar when the mixer is turned on.
  • Clean up any spillage of icing sugar quickly.

WHAT’S COMING UP NEXT?

Something almost identical to this is served at a Japanese restaurant that I frequent. It is not on the menu (actually, I don’t think I have ever seen their menu) but if you tell them ‘an order of the special noodle’ this would be served to you. I call this my Japanese Inspired Cold Truffle Noodles With Sweet Dried Shrimps, Tobiko (flying fish roe) & Cucumbers.

 

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