Vanilla Bean Sugar Cookies
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup sugar
3 egg yolks
1 piece vanilla bean, about 2 inches long (I use 1 Tbs. vanilla bean paste)
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
Colored sugars, decorating pens, etc.
In a bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.
Beat in the egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and, using a small, sharp knife, scrape the seeds into the butter mixture. (Or add vanilla bean paste here, if using.) Mix well.
In a sifter, combine the flour, baking powder and salt.
Sift the flour mixture directly onto the butter mixture.
Reduce the speed to low and beat until well mixed.
Divide the dough into 4 equal portions.
Shape each portion into a ball, then flatten the balls into disks.
Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. (The dough can be prepared up to 3 days ahead.) Let it soften slightly at room temperature before continuing.
Position a rack in the upper third of an oven and preheat to 350°F.
Butter 2 large baking sheets. (I just line the baking sheets with parchment paper instead.)
On a lightly floured work surface, roll out a dough disk 1/4 inch thick.
Using cookie cutters, cut out desired shapes. Transfer the cutouts to the prepared baking sheets.
Gather up and reroll the scraps and cut out more cookies.
Repeat with the remaining dough disks.
If using colored sugars to decorate the cookies, sprinkle on the sugars BEFORE baking.
Bake until the cookies are golden on the edges, about 8 minutes.
Transfer the cookies to wire racks and let cool completely.
Decorate the cookies with royal icing, decorating pens, etc.
Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week. Makes 24 to 30 cookies, depending on cutter size.
Pairs Well With
These are hands-down the best sugar cookies I've ever made or had. The recipe is from Williams-Sonoma.