Vanilla Bean Sandwich Cookies

 Confession: I’m a vanilla person. Given the choice, I will pick vanilla over chocolate every single time. It’s not that I don’t like chocolate, it’s that I enjoy vanilla just the tiniest bit more. If you think I’ve gone and lost my mind, know that I come by it honestly.

So many people rag on vanilla, saying it’s boring. As far as I’m concerned though, when vanilla is done right, it’s anything but! In fact, my most popular cake order is this Vanilla Layer Cake. It has a little bit of a following! Oh, and these Vanilla Wafers are so good, you’ll never buy the boxed variety again. 

Long story short, I’m out to prove that vanilla is a powerhouse flavor. To make my point, I’m bringing you some fantastic sandwich cookies that are packed to the gills with vanilla bean flavor. Oh yes, these Vanilla Bean Sandwich Cookies are amazing! Soft, chewy vanilla bean cookies sandwiched together with the creamiest, dreamiest vanilla bean filling ever. There’s nothing plain about these little cookies! 

There’s nothing difficult about them either. The cookie dough is simple and straightforward–the hardest part is rolling 120 teaspoon-sized balls of cookie dough! And the filling is basically just a scaled down version of my go-to buttercream frosting. I use shortening in this recipe because I find it makes the filling reminiscent of Oreos, but you may substitute an equal volume of softened butter if you prefer. 

As easy as this recipe is though, there’s one thing that we need to talk about. This recipe contains one specialty ingredient: Nielsen-Massey Vanilla Bean Paste. You see, as much as I love vanilla, I can rarely bring myself to purchase whole vanilla beans. At $4 a pop, I just can’t justify the cost. Vanilla bean paste is my go-to for all recipes that demand the good stuff. It’s full of vanilla bean seeds and high-quality vanilla extract, and a $14 jar lasts forever. Trust me, nobody can tell that I didn’t throw $8 worth of vanilla beans into my recipes! See all those little black specks? If I didn’t tell you directly that I didn’t scrape those from whole vanilla beans, you’d never know the difference. But if you’re feeling fancy, feel free to use the real deal.

Whether you’re into vanilla or chocolate, you’ll love these Vanilla Bean Sandwich Cookies! They’re anything but plain 😊 

 Vanilla Bean Sandwich Cookies
makes about five dozen sandwich cookies

Cookies:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk, room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste*

Filling:
1/2 cup shortening*
2 1/4-2 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
3 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste*

Make the cookies. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a separate large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter until light and fluffy. Beat in sugar, followed by egg and yolk. Mix in vanilla bean paste. Add flour mixture in two installments, mixing to combine completely. Chill dough for 90 minutes in the refrigerator.*

Preheat oven to 350F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Scoop chilled dough by the teaspoon, and roll into balls. Set dough balls 1 1/2-inches apart on prepared pans. Bake 6-8 minutes, until no longer raw looking. Let cool on the pans for five minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely.

To make the filling, place the shortening in a large mixing bowl, and beat with a hand mixer on low speed. Once it’s smooth, add in 2 1/4 cups confectioner’s sugar and salt in two installments, until smooth. Beat in heavy cream and vanilla bean paste. If you’d like the filling to be thicker, add an additional 1/4 cup of confectioner’s sugar. If you would like to pipe the filling, place it in a plastic sandwich bag, and snip off a corner.

There are two options for filling:

1. To assemble a sandwich cookie by piping, apply filling by piping a circle in the middle of the underside of one cookie, leaving about 1/4″ around the edge. Top with a second plain cookie, with the underside filling-side-in. Repeat until all cookies have been used.

2. To assemble a sandwich cookie by spreading, use an offset frosting knife to spread 1/2-1 teaspoon on the underside of one cookie. Top with a second plain cookie, with the underside filling-side-in. Repeat until all cookies have been used.

Vanilla Bean Sandwich Cookies keep well in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.

Notes:

1. If you do not have or do not want to use vanilla bean paste, you may use the scraped seeds of half a vanilla bean plus two teaspoons of pure vanilla extract. Alternatively, you may use one tablespoon pure vanilla extract.
2. If you do not want to use shortening, you may substitute 1/2 cup (1 stick) room temperature unsalted butter.
3. If you do not have or do not want to use vanilla bean paste, you may use the scraped seeds of half a vanilla bean plus one teaspoon of pure vanilla extract. Alternatively, you may use two teaspoons pure vanilla extract.
4. I have sped up the chilling process by throwing the dough in the freezer for fifteen minutes. The dough may need to spend five minutes at room temperature before scooping.

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