Pure Vanilla Extract

People often ask us how we make the simplest of things taste so good. Our vanilla sugar cookies are a perfect example of this, as they consist of the holy trinity of baking ( butter, sugar, and flour), with the addition of eggs, vanilla, and a pinch of salt. Barry has perfected these over time and although the recipe is so simple, the trick is in the ingredients that we use and the attention that is paid to them through the entire baking process.

Long story short: they’re easy to make, but they’re easier to mess up. We always use unbleached flour (with the exception of cake flour; it’s always bleached). There are lots of reasons for this (yawn), but the bottom line is it justs tastes better. We prefer King Arthur flour. We also use superfine sugar, more commonly known as baker’s sugar. The grain of this sugar is so fine that it dissolves much faster. For baking we always use unsalted or “sweet cream” butter. In certain cases we use cultured butter. This is a butter which, like cheese, has a bacteria added to it to create a richer and tangier flavor. It’s expensive, so we only use it for things like croissants and danishes. Eggs should always be as fresh as possible and salt is always sea salt or kosher salt.

The single most important ingredient for these cookies is the vanilla we use. There are countless types and brands of vanilla. The most commonly known types are Tahitian, Bourbon (not the liquor), and Mexican. Generally speaking we use Nielsen-Massey Bourbon Vanilla. Although it is a little more expensive than other vanillas, it’s well worth it and will last longer because you don’t have to use as much for the desired results. The true test of vanilla is this; unscrew the cap and if you inhale a big whiff of alcohol, it’s not the good stuff.

So now that you have had a little crash course in ingredients, here’s the not so secret recipe for

Barry’s Best Ever Vanilla Sugar Cookies:

  • 1 1/2 cups superfine sugar
  • 1 cup (8 oz) room temperature, unsalted butter
  • 2 3/4 cups unbleached flour
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt

In the bowl of a stand mixer, with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and the sugar on medium for about 5 minuites. The butter and sugar should look very creamy and pale in color. Sift together the flour, soda, baking powder, and add the salt. Scrape down the butter, return the mixer to medium speed and add the eggs one at a time, followed by the vanilla. After the eggs and vanilla are fully incorporated, add the dry ingredients in two batches. Do not overmix! Wrap the dough in plastic and chill for about an hour before using.

Roll the dough between two hands into 1 inch balls. Roll individual balls in vanilla sugar (sugar+vanilla beans+jar+time). At this point the cookies can be frozen for up to a month. They can also be baked at 350 for about 5 minutes or…the secret to our cookies is baking them straight out of the freezer. We bake them in a convection oven for about 5 minutes at 350. This produces a crispy, yet chewy cookie. The proof is in the pudding!

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