These German Vanilla Crescents are aChristmas tradition. The almond and vanilla make these like shortbread on steroids!
My mother-in-law used to make these every year. What a treat! This recipe is adapted from my Oetker German Home Baking cookbook. The cookbook uses measured grams of ingredients and refers to a ‘very hot oven’ or a ‘hot oven’. So… it takes a bit of translating to get it right!
These crescents are like a shortbread but with a portion of flour replaced by ground almond meal. Then they are rolled in Vanilla sugar – this is a product you can buy from the Oetker company. I can buy the packets here in Kitchener Waterloo because our grocers stock so many German products.
If you can’t buy it in your area you can make it by taking 1 cup of granulated sugar and scrape the seeds out of 1 vanilla bean. Pulse them in your food processor of blender until the granulated sugar is the texture of icing sugar.
Alternatively you just bury the bean in the sugar, seal it up and let it ‘steep’ for a couple of weeks – but chances are you don’t have time for that now! You can do this with regular sugar or icing sugar and even brown sugar for general purposes.
If you are thinking ahead Nigella Lawson has some great instructions on how to steep a leftover vanilla bean pod in sugar. You can keep topping up the sugar you have used and keep it running for up to a year.
Hint: Vanilla Sugar makes a really nice hostess gift if you are thinking ahead to Christmas or have foodie friends.
Can you replace vanilla sugar with vanilla extract? You could use a tsp of vanilla extract in lieu of a packet of vanilla sugar in the body of a cookie or cake. However when it is used to dust a finished cake or cookie you can’t substitute the liquid extract.
So for this recipe you will need to either buy or make some vanilla sugar.
- When you are working with the dough it will be very crumbly. I sometimes use a pastry cutter sometimes like you would for pie dough. This time I used my food processor with a few pulses till the butter was cut in. Then you need to shape it into a dough with your hands. The heat from your hands will help it go from crumbs to dough.
- The dough needs to be chilled or the cookies will flatten and lose their shape. So the one hour chill is important. It is also important to work with only some of the dough at a time. Keep the rest in the fridge.
- If you think the shaped crescents on your baking sheet have become too warm then stick the baking sheet and unbaked cookies in the fridge for about 15 minutes.
- Try to make your dough ropes as uniform as possible in length and thickness. Cut the dough pieces as uniformly as possible. Use a cut dough piece as a guide if you need to.
- Sieve the icing sugar and vanilla sugar mixture generously over the Vanilla Crescents to cover all sides except the bottom the first time. If there are obvious bares spots, sprinkle them again to cover. Don’t skip the final rolling in the vanilla sugar. Ultimately they should be well coated with vanilla sugar on all sides.
Store the Vanilla Crescents in a separate air tight tin and store in a cool place. They will keep for up to 3 weeks but I bet they won’t last that long!
If you want another German style addition to your Christmas treats check out this Classic Stollen recipe! You can make the dough in your bread machine!
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- pinch of salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter cut into cubes and at room temperature
- 3/4 cup icing sugar
- 3/4 cup finely ground almonds (almond flour or meal)
- 2 tsp vanilla extract or 1/2 vanilla pod, seeds scraped out
- 3/4 cup powdered sugar
- 1 Tbsp vanilla sugar or 1 packet
- In a large bowl mix all the Crescent ingredients together with a pastry cutter. (Alternatively put the ingredients in your food processor and pulse. Transfer to a bowl when the butter is cut up.) When the butter is cut in to the size of peas use your hands to form the dough. If it continues to crumble and will not press together into a ball add 1-2 Tbsps of water as needed. Start with the smaller amount and stop as soon as the dough forms a ball. Note: the heat from your hands will help to soften and cream the butter into the mix so don't add the water too early.
- Wrap the dough in plastic and chill for 60 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment of silpat.
- Divide the dough into 4 equal portions. Work with 1 portion at a time and keep the remainder in the fridge to stay cold.
- Roll the dough portion into a log about 1/2 inch thick. Cut the dough into 1 1/2" portions. Position the doug pieces on the baking tray about 1 inch apart. Pinch the ends of the cut pieces as you gently form the dough into a crescent shape.
- Bake the cookies 12-15 minutes until the edges just start to show some colour. You do not want cookies to brown.
- Remove cookies from the oven. Combine the icing sugar and the vanilla sugar. Using a small sieve, sprinkle the cookies well with the sugar mixture while they are hot. Coat the top and all sides (except the bottom at this stage). Allow cookies to cool and roll them in the remaining sugar, coating the bottom and filling in any bare spots.
- Store in an airtight container in a cool place up to 3 weeks.