Some people bake; others are bakers in the deepest part of their soul. The latter is our dear friend and kindred spirit Sarah. We met her through our blogs back in 2011 (back when having a blog about food was fairly novel). The first time we met in person, she warmly invited us into her Minnesota kitchen for cold brew coffee and plate of goodies. She’s one of those bakers where everything she touches is perfection.
Sarah’s written a book called The Vanilla Bean Baking Book, which is a serious anthology of baking. (I told her it was like her PhD thesis.) Every recipe has Sarah’s stamp of precision and creativity. Last year she served us a peach pie she was testing that can only be described as gorgeous. Of course we couldn’t wait to see Sarah’s book, and it was everything we imagined. As we paged through, we found some shortbread cookies that were very “us”: minimal ingredient list and small portion size. They’re everything a shortbread cookie should be: crisp and sweet-salty, and the chocolate drizzle adds a fun visual element. We thought we’d slip them in as one last holiday cookie recipe idea, though they’re fabulous for any season. If you’re a baker or know one, this book absolutely deserves a spot on your shelf. (Congratulations, Sarah! Check out her creations on Instagram.)
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- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ⅓ cup confectioners' sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces
- Adjust an oven rack to the middle position. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, combine the flour, confectioners' sugar, salt, and vanilla bean seeds on low speed. Add the butter one piece at a time and mix on medium until it is incorporated and the dough starts to form a ball. Dump the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, shape into a flat disc, and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate 30 minutes.
- Lightly flour a work surface and roll the dough into a large, ½-inch-thick square (ours were more like ¼-inch). Using a 2-inch biscuit or cookie cutter, cut out circles. (Any dough scraps can be rewrapped and chilled while the cookies are baking.) Gently slide a metal spatula underneath each round and transfer it to a prepared baking sheet. Place 12 on each sheet.
- Bake one sheet at a time, 15 to 17 minutes, until the edges begin to brown.
- Transfer the pan to a wire rack and allow the cookies to cool completely before drizzling with chocolate.
- For the chocolate: Put about 1 inch of water in a medium saucepan and bring to a gentle boil. Melt 1 ounce of the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over the pan of boiling water, being careful not to let the water touch the bottom of the bowl. Stir constantly until just melted. Add the remaining 1 ounce and stir until the chocolate is completely smooth. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
- To decorate: Keep the cookies on the baking sheet. Spoon the room temperature chocolate into a zipper-lock bag and close to seal, then snip the tip to make a very small opening. If the opening is too big, the chocolate will flow out too fast. Drizzle the chocolate back and forth over the cookies, making criss-cross patterns (or any other pattern you like). Let the chocolate set before removing the cookies from the pan (unless, of course, you need to eat one right away).