Days and months seem to whiz by faster as the years go by. At this point last year, Eric and I were well on our way to start an amazing Australian adventure with Sherri and Phread. However, just before departing on our Aussie trip, I revealed my cookie swap entry, Cranberry Bliss Cookies, for the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap. I hadn’t made these cookies before, they were impressive and made great hostess gifts! The rules of this food blogger cookie swap are simple. .You make a cookie that hasn’t made an appearance on your blog. Send a dozen to three lucky recipients by a certain date (December 2nd for this year). Receive three dozen from other bloggers in your country. Eat cookies and prepares a post for your cookie to be unveiled on a specific date – December 16th.
This year, I was inspired by a certain ingredient I found in a local foodie grocer – Piazza De Nardi. I was searching its shelves for smoked Maldon salt – a request by my fellow home chef, Sherri. The flaked salt is featured in one of her 2015 edition macarons. While at De Nardi, I stumbled upon vanilla bean paste – an ingredient I had only seen on cooking shows but often searched for in specialty shops. I snagged a jar and knew it would be front and centre for this year’s cookie swap entry.
After a bit of thought, I pieced my cookie together – a vanilla bean studded Linzer-style cookie sandwiching a salted caramel spread, topped with a sprinkling of Maldon salt and outlined in vanilla bean icing. There may be a lot going on in this cookie – but it all comes together quite nicely. The vanilla bean is repeated in the cookie and icing and the salted caramel is in the filling and it flavours the cookie dough. Maldon salt is found in the caramel spread and sprinkled on top.
The salted caramel spread was a last minute change. I found the sauce too runny for the cookie. All was quickly remedied with a bit of powdered sugar. Also, the sandwich cookie looked a bit plain. This was easily resolved by drawing the star outline on the upper cookie with a vanilla bean icing. I hope you are inspired to make this holiday treat!
Salted Caramel Sauce
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, cut into pieces
- 1 cup whipping cream, at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon fleur de sel (or any other flaky sea salt)
- Add the sugar in an even layer over the bottom of a large, heavy saucepan. Heat the sugar over medium-high heat, whisking it as it begins to melt. The sugar will begin to form clumps. Keep whisking and as it continues to cook. Stop whisking once all of the sugar has melted, and swirl the pan occasionally while the sugar cooks.
- Continue cooking until the sugar has reached a deep amber color. It should look almost a reddish-brown, and have a slight toasted aroma. The caramel can go from perfect to burnt in a matter of seconds, so keep a close eye. If you are using an instant-read thermometer, cook the sugar until it reaches 350 degrees F.
- As soon as the caramel reaches 350 degrees, add the butter all at once. Be careful, as the caramel will bubble up when the butter is added. Whisk the butter into the caramel until it is completely melted.
- Remove the pan from the heat and slowly pour the cream into the caramel. Be careful – the mixture will once again bubble. Whisk until all of the cream has been incorporated and you have a smooth sauce. Add the fleur de sel and whisk to incorporate.
- Set the sauce aside to cool for 10 to 15 minutes and then pour into your favorite glass jar and let cool to room temperature. You can refrigerate the sauce for up to 2 weeks. You’ll want to warm the sauce up before using.
Salted Caramel Vanilla Bean Cookies
These Linzer-style butter cookies will be a special addition to your holiday cookie tray.
- 3/4 cup butter, softened
- 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (or seeds of 1 scraped vanilla bean)
- 2/3 cup powdered sugar
- 1/3 cup salted caramel sauce
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Salted Caramel Spread (see below)
- fleur de sel, to garnish (optional)
- Combine butter and vanilla paste/seeds in bowl; beat at medium speed until creamy. Add powdered sugar; beat until combined. Add 1/3 cup salted caramel sauce; beat until well mixed. Add flour and salt; beat at low speed until combined.
- Divide dough in half, shape each half into ball; flatten slightly. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes.
- Heat oven to 325ºF. Roll out dough, one ball at a time (keeping remaining dough refrigerated) on lightly floured surface to 1/8”. Cut with cookie cutter. Cut out center from half of cookies using smaller decorative cookie cutter. Place cookies, 1 inch apart, onto parchment lined cookie sheets.
- Sprinkle cookies with center cut-out with powdered sugar, if desired. Bake 10-12 minutes or until edges begin to brown. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheets; remove to cooling rack. Cool completely.
- Spread 1-2 teaspoons of salted caramel spread onto bottom-side of cookies without cut-out; top each with cookie with center cut-out, bottom-side down. Sprinkle with fleur de sel, if desired.
Salted Caramel Spread
- Combine equal parts icing sugar and room temperature salted caramel sauce for a thick, easy-to-spread condiment.
Vanilla Bean Icing
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 2-3 tablespoons milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
- Combine all ingredients. Stir until smooth.