Recipe by Sarah Phillips and Kelly Hong; Food styling and photos by Kelly Hong © 2010 Sarah Phillips CraftyBaking.com
These simple and not-too-sweet cookies are a Christmas tradition are like cinnamon buns with a crunch. They are spicy and buttery, and perfect with a cup of coffee or tea. We developed the dough so it holds its shape nicely, making it perfect for using for shaped cookies. The cookies are crunchy on the outside with a little bit of yield in the center. If you want them crunchier, you can bake them a little longer.
COOKIE RECIPE HELP
See our other tutorials:
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Every great cookie starts with a tried-and-true cookie dough recipe! This one is a workhorse in my holiday and everyday kitchen!
It is perfect to use because the dough rolls easily, keeps its shape well when baked, lends itself to a myriad of flavors, freezes nicely, and is all-around buttery delicious!
Vanilla Shortbread Cookies: Recipe alone
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour; spoon into measuring cup and level to rim
2/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) cold unsalted butter
1 large egg, separated; NOTE: use the egg yolk in the cookie recipe. Reserve the egg white to use when filling the cookie recipe.
1 1/2 tablespoons light cream or whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
STEP I: MAKE THE VANILLA SHORTBREAD COOKIE DOUGH AND FILLING
1. In a large bowl, thoroughly mix together the flour and sugar.
KELLY SAYS: I like to sift together my premeasured ingredients to get any lumps out of the flour.
2. Cut the cold butter into tablespoon size pieces, directly into the flour mixture.
3. Using forks, a pastry blender or your fingertips, cut the butter into the flour mixture until the mixture is the consistency of coarse meal.
4. In a small bowl, beat together the egg yolk, cream, vanilla and salt with a fork until well blended and smooth.
5. Add the egg yolk mixture to the flour / butter mixture, and lightly stir the two together with a large spoon.
6. Then, knead the two together until the dough is evenly incorporated.
7. Divide the dough in half. Press each half into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours.
1. In a small bowl, mix 1/4 cup of sugar with the two teaspoons of cinnamon.
2. Set aside.
The cookie dough can remain refrigerated for 2 to 3 days, TOTAL, including the time it will be refrigerated after it will be formed into checkerboards, Step III.
The dough can be frozen for a month or more. Thaw in the refrigerator.
The filling can be stored in an airtight container for a long time in a dark pantry.
STEP II: ROLL OUT THE COOKIE DOUGH AND FILL
Roll out the cookie dough:
1. When dough is thoroughly chilled, remove one disk from the refrigerator and place it on a silpat or nonstick mat or on a lightly floured surface.
With the side of the rolling pin, lightly bang the disk into a rectangular shape.
2. Roll out the dough, between two sheets of parchment or waxed paper, into a 10- x 12-inch rectangle. The dough will be approximately 1/8-inch thick.
Check the underside of the dough and smooth out any wrinkles that form.
3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 with the second dough disk.
4. Stack the rolled portions (paper still attached) on a baking sheet and refrigerate for 30 minutes, or until chilled and firm, or freeze for about 15 minutes to speed chilling.
Fill the cookie dough:
1. Working with one rolled-out dough portion at a time and leaving the remaining chilled, gently peel away, then pat one sheet of wax paper back into place.
Flip the dough over, then peel off and discard the second sheet.
2. Brush the rolled out dough lightly with a beaten reserved egg white.
Cover and refrigerate the remaining egg white for the remaining dough.
3. Sprinkle surface of the dough with half of the cinnamon sugar mixture and gently even it out with the palm of your hand.
Reserve the other half of the cinnamon sugar mixture for the remaining cookie dough portion still in the refrigerator.
4. Slide dough (still on the parchment) on a baking sheet and place it back into the refrigerator to firm up, about 15 minutes.
It is MUCH easier to roll up the dough when it is well-chilled.
5. Repeat steps 1 - 4, above with the second rolled-out dough portion.
STEP III: ROLL UP THE COOKIE DOUGH INTO A CYLINDER
Roll up the cookie dough into a cylinder:
1. After chilling remove one rolled-out dough portion sprinkled with cinnamon sugar mixture, at a time, with parchment backing, from the baking sheet and place it on your work surface.
Begin rolling dough, from the long side, into a tight roll.
SARAH SAYS: To find the long side, think of the dough rectangle as a rug. The long side is the side without the rug "fringe" at either end.
2. Press the seam to seal the dough and use your hands to neaten the ends of the roll.
3. Wrap the roll in plastic wrap and place it on a baking sheet and chill it for 15-20 minutes before cutting the cookies.
4. Repeat steps 1 - 3 with the second rolled-out dough portion sprinkled with cinnamon sugar mixture.
STEP IV: SLICE AND BAKE THE COOKIES
Slice the cookie dough:
1. Line two cookie sheets with a silpat, nonstick mat or with parchment paper.
2. Remove the filled cookie roll from the refrigerator and remove plastic wrap.
Cut the roll in half and wrap up one half and place it back into the refrigerator, while you cut the other half.
3. Cut cookies, using a sharp thin knife, into 1/4-inch slices.
NOTE: The first cookie cut from the roll will not be perfect looking, but it will still be delicious.
4. Place slices on prepared cookie sheets, leaving 1 inch space between cookies.
They don't spread a lot, but they DO spread.
5. Place the cut cookies back into the refrigerator while you cut the second half of the rolled cookie dough.
Chill for about 10 minutes.
6. Repeat Steps 1-5, above with the second filled cookie roll.
Bake the cookies:
1. Position an oven shelf in the lower third and upper third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F for a good 20 minutes.
2. Bake the cookies, 2 sheets at a time, for 11 - 14 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies are just starting to color; they should still be pale in color.
If necessary, reverse the sheet from front to back halfway through baking to ensure even browning.
3. Using a spatula, immediately transfer the cookies to wire racks. Let stand until completely cooled.
Baked: Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks or freeze for up to 2 months.