I have complained many times about not having an oven in Tokyo. I often crave cookies, cake, cupcakes, muffins…basically anything I can’t make. The funny thing is that when we lived in Minnesota I did not bake much at all. I guess it is the same in food as in life- we always want what we cannot have.
So today, in my mother’s beautiful country kitchen, I decided to make these sweet little sugar cookies from Thomas Keller’s Bouchon cookbook. I will admit that I do not have the best history when it comes to baking, so I wanted to make sure I started out with something simple and fool-proof. My dad never fails to mention the fact that I rarely produce a good batch of cookies. Today was the perfect opportunity to change my bad baking reputation! And I succeeded…
There are many things I love about this recipe. I love cinnamon and sugar coating, how dainty and uniform the cookies look…but most of all I love the vanilla bean. The seeds from the vanilla bean are mixed into the dough and create beautiful black specks in the cookie and creates a delectable fragrance as they bake. And of course, when you bite into these tiny, crispy, buttery cookies, the delicate taste of vanilla makes this a very grown up version of a childhood favorite. Just that one simple step brings this sugar cookie to a level that is far away from the sugar cookies I have always decorated at Christmas time.
Fortunately for me (and any other baking-challenged individuals out there) the dough is simple to make and can be made in large batches to put in the freezer and use as needed. Baking these cookies was a special treat for a girl without an oven 9 months out of the year! It was even more special baking them in my mother’s kitchen.
Thomas Keller’s Sugar Cookies
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon confectioners’ sugar
1 vanilla bean, split
About 1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Combine the confectioners’ sugar and butter and beat until blended. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean with a paring knife, add the seeds to the bowl, and mix until well combined. Add about 3/4 cup flour and mix until combined. Continue to add flour until the dough comes together in a smooth mass and no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about an hour to firm up slightly.
Dust a pastry board with flour. Halve the dough and roll each piece into a log 6 1.2 to 7 inches long and about 1 inch in diameter. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm enough to slice.
Put a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line two baking sheets with Silpats or parchment paper. If the logs have been frozen, let them stand at room temperature until soft enough to cut without crumbling.
Mix the granulated sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Cut each log into 16 to 18 slices about 3/8 inch thick. Coat each slice with the cinnamon and sugar and place on the baking sheets.
Bake, in two batches, for about 20 minutes, or until light golden. Transfer to racks to cool. Store in an airtight container.