Happy December!! Can you believe it? What a difference a day makes! Just yesterday we were spinning our wheels in the post-thanksgiving slump but today, no more! Because today (at least in my book) is the official start of the holiday season and it's time to turn the page and start talking COOKIES!!!! Holiday cookies, specifically. Not that I would personally be unhappy to receive or eat any kind of cookie around the holidays, but there are certain varieties that lend themselves particularly well to this wintry season, like these snowy-looking, melt-in-your-mouth jammy butterballs. One sweet bite and you'll instantly get into the holiday spirit!!
Sometimes in the hustle and bustle to get those in our lives "just the right gift" we forget how special it is to receive something homemade and from the heart and who do you know that would be unhappy getting a tin of homemade cookies?!! You can make several different varieties and mix them up or just one. The only rule is that you MUST taste at least one (or two) cookies during the baking process in order to make sure that they are "good" and suitable for giving (wink, wink!).
Personally, I love sandwich cookies--maybe that's because you get to eat two cookies really but are only held accountable for one, hmmm...whatever the screwball logic, these are absolutely divine and I know you will love having them in your repertoire. Plus though they sort of look fancy, they are quite easy to make. The dough is nothing more than butter, sugar and flour and you can make it up to a week in advance of the actual baking and in fact it needs to spend a few hours chilling anyway before you roll the dough into little balls and bake.
The cookies bake up golden and buttery and are wonderful on their own but heavenly filled with the jam or filling of your choice. Our favorites are raspberry preserves and Nutella!
Now let's talk sugar, vanilla sugar to be specific. Are you familiar with this divine concoction? If not, you need to be and it's ridiculously simple to make. Just bury a vanilla bean in some ordinary sugar, let it hang out for about a week and voila! You've got yourself vanilla-enhanced sugar. I keep a mason jar of it in my pantry and add more sugar in as I use it up. It keeps forever. Now once you have that vanilla sugar, you roll the baked and filled sandwiches around in it. This not only gives the cookies that seasonal snow-dusted wintry appearance, but adds a little crunch to the velvety butteriness of each bite. You're going to find it hard to stop at just one!! As I said at the top, Happy December!!
Makes 20-40 cookies, depending on how large you roll the little balls
Prep Time for the Dough: 10 minutes, plus several hours of chilling; 10-15 minutes to roll out the little balls plus another 30 minutes of freezing time; Bake Time: 10-12 minutes; Assembly Time: 15 minutes
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 3/4 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
- Assorted jams and Nutella for filling (I used raspberry and cherry for this batch)
- Vanilla sugar (bury a vanilla bean in a container or jar of granulated sugar. cover tightly and let sit for several days)
1. If you have a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, use that--otherwise an ordinary mixer with beaters is fine. Beat the butter on medium speed until it's light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes. Add in the sugar and mix well, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add in the flour and mix until a sticky dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic, form into a ball, wrap well and chill for at least 3 hours and up to one week in advance.
2. Preheat oven to 375ºF. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
3. Remove the chilled dough from the fridge and roll small balls, (the size of hazelnuts) and place them on a plate. Chill for 30 minutes in the freezer, then place them 2 inches apart on the prepared baking trays. If they roll around and won't stay put, press down on them a little to make them adhere better. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the cookies are firm and only a little bit browned along the edges, but sill golden on top. Remove and let cool fully on wire racks on the cookie sheets.
4. Use a small knife to spread a little bit of jam on the flat side of one cookie and then cover it with the flat side of another cookie to form a little sandwich. Don't overfill or the jam will squirt out the sides. Put some vanilla sugar in a shallow bowl and coat the cookies entirely in the sugar.
5. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week.
Note: Recipe adapted from Chocolate and Vanilla by Gale Gand.