Try a taste of Austria and Central Europe over the season, or any time for that matter, with these light crescent-shaped cookies laden/heavily dusted in vanilla bean sugar.
Originating in Vienna, they are melt-in-your-mouth good. Fun to make, especially if you get kids involved. And they make wonderful tasty gifts layered in a box.
For perfect Vanillekipferl you will need:
1¾ cups of plain flour
¾ cup of unsalted butter cut into small chunks (has to be butter, no margarine allowed. Ever).
Ground walnuts (almonds or hazelnuts can be used too but the cookie will be slightly drier).
¼ cup granulated white sugar
2 organic egg yolks
3 vanilla beans total (you can cheat here with the paste equivalent, we won’t tell, but then you may need to adjust the flour)
½ cup of powdered sugar sifted
Vanilla sugar for dusting
Mix the powdered sugar with the seeds from one vanilla bean in a small bowl until well combined. The vanilla will infuse through the sugar, and can be stored in a jar.
Preheat oven to 325°F / Gas mark 3, and line one or two baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
In a large bowl using a fork, wooden spoon, or your fingers, work the butter pieces through the flour until it looks crumbly. Add the ground walnuts, granulated sugar, egg yolks, and the seeds scraped from inside two of the vanilla bean pods. Mix together, and then knead with your hands a few times after it forms a dough. The warmth from your hands will melt the butter into the mix, so keep kneading until you can shape the dough into a smooth ball. If it’s too dry, add a few drops of milk.
Divide the dough in two, wrap one in cling wrap and place in the fridge (leave it overnight if you’d like), the other piece, roll with your hands with light pressure on a smooth floured surface into a long 1½” diameter sausage shape. You can have Austrian Christmas songs playing in the background to add to the authenticity.
Now make smaller nicks along the roll to make walnut size pieces. With these you’re going to make smaller sausage shapes approximately 2½” long, tapering them slightly at the ends, and then form each into crescents. This is where kids come in handy.
Lay these on the baking sheet you’ve already deftly covered in parchment.
Bake for no longer than 15 minutes. Check after 13. They still need to be pale and puffed. The more golden they are the crunchier they’ll be, which is not your aim here. Your aim is buttery soft.
Let them cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before dusting them liberally with vanilla sugar. Leave to cool if you can before eating as they do break easily. (Or you could do the…. “Oops this one broke, I’d better eat it” thing.)
Repeat with the remaining dough.
Leftover Advent cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week. Makes around 40 cookies.
A seasonal tip I just discovered — if you only have whole nuts and a blender to hand, you can pulse your nuts mindfully with a blender to grind them. Too much and you’ll have nut butter paste. But if you get that, spread it on toast maybe?