Vanilla Bean Buttermilk Cookies with Bourbon Caramel Frosting

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I love the celebratory feeling in the air. The Christmas music jingling through radio speakers, the colorful lights peppering the night sky, and the excited anticipation of having a few days of vacation to spend with the ones we love. Just this week I was picking up a couple of last minute items at the grocery store and I was so pleasantly surprised by how many cordial exchanges I had with people I encountered. The store was packed, but nearly everyone seemed to be maintaining an attitude of Christmas cheer. Even when my own mood was slightly dampened after the cashier scanning the things I was buying didn’t ask to see my ID when she rang up the wine I had in my cart (first time this has happened), I couldn’t stay mildly offended too long because she was just so bubbly.  I did think about telling her my newly found interest in neck cream, but I refrained. Excellent decision on my part. I am very thankful I am on the eve of celebrating my 31st Christmas, silver strands of hair and all.

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That celebration wouldn’t be complete without Christmas cookies. I tend to struggle when it comes to making up my mind when I am trying to narrow down what treats I want to make for the holidays. I decided to revamp a traditional Amish cookie recipe that I love and came up with these vanilla bean buttermilk cookies with bourbon caramel frosting. The cookie from the previous recipe I used was good, but it was a little dense and tough. I reduced the amount of leavening agents, added an extra egg yolk, and used real vanilla seeds to make a cakier and more flavorful base. As for the frosting, I also added real vanilla bean seeds, kosher salt, and some good bourbon to enhance the depth of one of my favorite frostings of all time. I finished everything off with a sprinkling of toasted chopped pecans and the end result was a new and improved version that my family loved. I had so much fun experimenting with changes to this cookie that I am hoping to do more remixes of classic recipes. It’s an excellent creative outlet and a fantastic way to brush up on my seriously rusty knowledge of chemistry.

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There are only a few hours before old Saint Nick makes his rounds. I hope your shopping and preparations are drawing to an end and you are ready to enjoy this most wonderful time of year. May the joy of Christmas fill your homes and hearts; and may this next year be the best one yet. Peace on Earth and good will to men.

   

Vanilla Bean Buttermilk Cookies with Bourbon Caramel Frosting

Yield: 4 dozen cookies

For the Cookies:

  • 1 cup ( 2 sticks) unsalted REAL® Butter, at room temperatures
  • 2 cups light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 1 vanilla bean, seeded
  • 1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt

For the Frosting:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted REAL® Butter
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons heavy cream
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 vanilla bean, seeded
  • 1 ½ cups powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons high quality bourbon (I used Maker’s Mark 46)
  • ½ cup pecans, toasted and chopped (optional)

Directions

For the cookies

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and ensure racks are positioned in the middle. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside. Place butter and brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the 2 eggs and 1 egg yolk, one yolk at a time. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add in the seeds/pulp from the vanilla bean. Mix until well-incorporated.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder. In a 2 cup liquid measuring cup, stir together the baking soda and buttermilk. Turn the mixer on low, and alternately add the flour mixture and buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour. Turn the mixer off and scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure dough is evenly mixed.
  3. Use a 2 inch cookie scoop to drop dough onto baking sheets, spacing at least 2 inches apart. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or just until the edges/bottom of the cookies have lightly browned. Be careful not to overbake. Remove from oven and allow to cool on a cooling rack.

For the frosting:

  1. Place ½ cup unsalted butter into a medium-sized sauce pot. Melt butter over medium-low heat. Add the brown sugar and gently whisk until smooth. Bring mixture to a low boil before gradually adding in heavy cream while continuing to whisk constantly. Bring the caramel back to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes while continuing to whisk constantly. Turn the stove off and remove from heat. Add in the salt and vanilla bean seeds and mix to combine. Allow to cool to a luke-warm temperature.
  2. Add the powdered sugar to the cooled caramel, ½ cup at a time, and mix well with the whisk attachment of a handheld mixer (or a stand mixer if you prefer) after each addition. Add in the bourbon and mix until smooth. Frost the cooled cookies and sprinkle with chopped pecans, if desired. Enjoy!

Source: Lolly’s Sweet Treats Original

Aunt Khaki’s Crispy Sugar Cookies


I’ve written of my beloved Aunt Khaki many times before. Though we have lived on different sides of the country for over two decades,  I feel particularly close to her.

There was a brief stretch of time when she and my cousin, Camille, resided in Ohio and It was so much fun. Khaki always led us on exciting adventures.  She’d take us swimming and camping, we went to the local high school musicals, and she always threw the best birthday parties long before the creators of Pinterest were probably even born. Remember that Nickelodeon show, Double Dare, where contestants had to complete a challenge or get pied in the face? Khaki used that as the premise for Camille’s 6th birthday party and I remember thinking it was the most incredible event I had ever experienced. The point is, I have looked up to my aunt from an early age. She has instilled in my a love of exercise, food, photography, party planning and the confidence to experiment with recipes. It’s always so much fun when we can get together and this past holiday weekend was no different.

Naturally, Khaki brought along an ohio cookie cutter in her suitcase (because who wouldn’t?!)  and she decided to whip up a batch of some of her delicious sugar cookies. The recipe is from Alton Brown and it’s one she has been using for a few years. She usually throws in some extra flavoring extracts and rolls the dough fairly thin (about 1/8-1/4 inch) so that the cookies are extra crispy. They are so scrumptious that it took all of my willpower not to bring a handful home with us when we left because I knew it would get ugly.

If you are looking for a fantastic crispy sugar cookie, this is a recipe for you. Happy Friday, all!

  

 Aunt Khaki’s Crispy Sugar Cookies

Ingredients 

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon praline extract, optional
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • Powdered sugar, for rolling out dough
  • Sanding sugar or crystals, optional

Directions 

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. Place butter and sugar in large bowl of electric stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Beat on medium-high until light and fluffy, about five minutes. Add egg and milk and beat to combine, scrapping down the sides with a spatula as necessary. Add in the vanilla and praline extract and mix until well-mixed.  Turn the mixer speed to low and gradually add flour mixture until just combined.. Divide the dough in half, wrap in parchment paper, and refrigerate for 2 hours.

2. After the dough has chilled, preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Sprinkle surface where you will roll out dough with powdered sugar. Remove 1 wrapped pack of dough from refrigerator at a time, sprinkle rolling pin with powdered sugar, and roll out dough to 1/4-inch thick. Cut out cookies using desired cutter. Place cookies on baking sheets, one inch apart, and sprinkle generously with sanding sugar. Bake for  7 to 9 minutes or until cookies turn lightly brown on the edges.  Remove from oven, allow cookies to cool on sheet for about two minutes, and then transfer to baking rack to cool completely.  Store in an airtight container for a few days or freeze for a few months.

Source: Slightly adapted from Alton Brown