Burnt-sugar vanilla butter cookies
Bursting with vanilla flavor, these cookies sport the burnt-sugar topping of their inspiration, creme brulee.
3 cups (13.5 oz) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
8 ounces (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1½ cups plus 1/3 cup granulated sugar
Seeds scraped from 2 large vanilla beans or 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs plus 2 large egg yolks
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  2. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute.
  3. Add 1½ cups of the sugar and the vanilla seeds or extract and beat on medium speed until well blended, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs and yolks one at a time, mixing until blended after each addition. Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed until just blended, about 1 minute.
  4. Turn the dough out onto a large piece of plastic wrap. Using the plastic as an aid, gently knead into a smooth dough (the dough will be soft). Shape into a 12-inch round log about 3 inches in diameter and wrap in the plastic. Cut an empty paper towel roll open. Gently rest the dough in the roll and refrigerate until chilled and very firm, about 4 hours. (The dough may be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 1 month).
  5. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Line 2 or more cookie sheets with parchment or nonstick baking liners. Put the remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a small bowl.
  6. Cut the dough into slices about ¼ inch thick. Gently press one side of each cookie into the sugar to coat completely. Arrange the cookies sugar side up about 1 inch apart on the lined cookie sheets. Save the rest of the sugar for decorating the cookies.
  7. Bake, one sheet at a time, until golden-brown, 11 to 14 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the sheet for about 5 minutes and then transfer them to a rack to cool completely. (The cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days before proceeding).
  8. Dip the sugared side of the cookies into the remaining sugar. Arrange the cookies sugar side up on a flameproof work surface. Pass the flame of a small kitchen torch over the cookie tops until evenly caramelized. Let cool completely, about 3 minutes, before serving.
Yields 3½ dozen cookies.

From , December 2010