I saw these cookies some years back on Cream Puffs in Venice, a blog that I used to follow religiously. Ivonne, like many of us who have been blogging for a long time, doesn’t post very often, but if you go to her site you still have access to her recipes for baked goods and Italian inspired dishes. The recipe for this cookie originally came from Rick Rodgers’ book Kaffeehaus. This is an Austro-Hungarian Christmas cookie and during the holiday season In Vienna you will see these crescents piled high in pastry shop windows all over town.
Yes I know it’s Easter tomorrow, but I was looking for a simple cookie that could be served with a limoncello mousse being prepared by a friend. The cookie is crisp, yet buttery and fragrant with vanilla. Of course there are vanilla cookies that you could make using extract, but it is worth your while to buy a vanilla bean and bake these. If you have any of the vanilla sugar left over be sure to save it for another cookie or coffeecake.
Vanilla Crescents (from Rick Rodgers)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup (3 1/2 ounces) natural sliced almonds
Pinch of salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at cool room temperature
3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 large egg yolk, or more as needed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 vanilla bean
To make the cookies: Process the flour, almonds, and salt in a food processor fitted with the metal blade (or in batches in a blender) until the almonds are very finely chopped, almost a powder. Beat the butter in a the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer fitted with the paddle blade on high speed until smooth, about 1 minute. On low speed, gradually beat in the confectioner’s sugar, then return the speed to high and beat until the mixture is very light in color and texture, scraping down the sides of the bowl often, about 2 minutes.
Using the tip of a small knife, scrape in the seeds from the vanilla bean, reserving the pod. Add the yolk and mix. Remove the bowl from the stand. Using a spoon, stir in the flour mixture to make a stiff dough that holds together when pressed. (If the dough is crumbly, add a bit more beaten egg yolk.) Gather the dough up into a thick disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Meanwhile, make the vanilla sugar: Process the sugar, vanilla bean, and reserved vanilla pod in a blender until the bean is very finely chopped (it won’t be completely pulverized) and the sugar is ground to a powder. Sift through a wire sieve into a medium bowl to remove any large pieces of vanilla. Set aside.
Position racks in the center and top third of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Using about 2 teaspoons of dough for each, roll the dough between your palms to soften (it will be crumbly at first, but will come together with the heat of your hands). Roll into a 3-inch rope with tapered ends, form into a crescent, and place on the sheets.
Bake until the cookies are a light golden brown around the edges, 15 to 17 minutes. Cool for 2 minutes on the sheets. Roll the warm cookies in the vanilla sugar to coat. Reserve any remaining vanilla sugar. Cool completely. If necessary before serving, give the cookies another toss in the reserved vanilla sugar. Yield: about 3 dozen