Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Mini-Scones

Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Mini-SconesOver the weekend, I posted a picture of my Meyer Lemon Cream Cheese Scones to my social media. I guess y’all had forgotten about them because I got all sorts of kind responses, the most enthusiastic of which was in-person, hilarious, and completely unprintable (unless I want to change the tone of this entire website).

Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Mini-SconesAnd so, I’m bringing you more scones today—my first since that meyer lemon version last year. I can’t believe I’ve gone that long without a new variation!

Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Mini-SconesThese are made with cream cheese too, but also vanilla bean. My dear friend, David, *gave* me a package of vanilla beans on New Year’s Day and I’ve been dreaming up uses for them ever since.

Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Mini-SconesVanilla Bean Cream Cheese Mini-SconesVanilla Bean Cream Cheese Mini-SconesVanilla Bean Cream Cheese Mini-SconesVanilla Bean Cream Cheese Mini-SconesIn case you are wondering, giving me a surprise package of vanilla beans is a very good way to become my favorite person 🙂

Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Mini-SconesVanilla Bean Cream Cheese Mini-SconesVanilla Bean Cream Cheese Mini-SconesVanilla Bean Cream Cheese Mini-SconesBut back to the scones. I made them miniature—small food just tastes better, amiright?!

Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Mini-SconesVanilla Bean Cream Cheese Mini-SconesVanilla Bean Cream Cheese Mini-SconesVanilla Bean Cream Cheese Mini-SconesVanilla Bean Cream Cheese Mini-SconesEach mini-scone is about half the size of a traditional scone. That means you can have two, right?

Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Mini-SconesVanilla Bean Cream Cheese Mini-SconesVanilla Bean Cream Cheese Mini-SconesI’d be lying if I said I have never eyed the Petit Vanilla Bean Scones at Starbucks. They are adorable, but they are sort of dry and spongy and absolutely not worth the calories.

Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Mini-SconesVanilla Bean Cream Cheese Mini-SconesThese Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Mini-Scones are nothing like that mass-produced version though—they’re worth all the calories. All of them.

Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Mini-SconesThey’re super tender from the combination of butter, cream cheese, and heavy cream, and the edges are crumbly and nubbly and totally delightful.

That’s to say nothing of their huge vanilla flavor, which comes from a combination of vanilla bean and vanilla extract. I love the little black flecks of vanilla bean all over the place ❤

Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Mini-SconesAnd the thick, luxurious glaze. Be still my vanilla-loving heart.

Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Mini-SconesYep. I’d say these were worth the wait.Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Mini-Scones

Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Mini-Scones
makes 16 mini-scones

3/4 cup heavy cream + more for brushing, very cold
1/2 scraped vanilla bean
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, very cold, cut into pieces
4 ounces (1/2 brick) full-fat brick-style cream cheese, very cold, cut into pieces

Glaze:
1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
1/2 scraped vanilla bean
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
5-6 tablespoons heavy cream

Place oven rack at the center position. Preheat oven to 425F. Line a sheet pan with parchment. Set aside.

In a liquid measuring cup, use a fork to whisk together heavy cream, vanilla bean, and vanilla extract. Refrigerate while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add cold butter and cream cheese. Use a pastry blender or two forks to cut them into the dry ingredients until the largest pieces are the size of peas. Fold in heavy cream mixture. The dough should clump when pinched together.

Flour a surface and your fingertips. Turn dough onto the surface and divide it into two equal pieces. Pat each into a 1-inch thick circle. Use a large, sharp chef’s knife to slice each circle into 8 wedges. Place scones at least 1 1/2 inches apart on prepared pan. Brush tops with heavy cream. Bake for 7 minutes. Rotate pan back-to-front and bake an additional 3-4 minutes, until just turning golden at the edges. Let scones cool in the pan on a rack while you make the glaze.

Combine confectioner’s sugar, salt, vanilla bean, vanilla extract, and 5 tablespoons heavy cream. Use a fork to whisk ingredients together until smooth. For a thinner glaze, add 1 tablespoon more cream.

Move cooled scones to a rack set over wax paper. Dip scones in glaze and set back on the rack. Glaze will set after about 20 minutes.

Scones are best served the day they are made, but will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 48 hours.

Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Mini-Scones

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Vanilla Bean Ricotta Cake

 Everyone has their go-to dessert–that thing they make when a friend has a baby or they’re asked to bring dessert for a dinner party. For my mom, it’s angel food cake with fresh blueberries and whipped cream. For my grandmother, Mame, it was a cherry-pineapple dump cake, which she called “Simply Delicious,” because who wants to eat something called dump cake?! 

My go-to? This Vanilla Bean Ricotta Cake. Now, the words “vanilla bean” and “ricotta” make it sound fancy, but it’s not–it’s basically pound cake. There’s no frosting or layering because this cake simply doesn’t need that kind of adornment. It’s easy to put together and bakes up super dense and moist, with tons of vanilla bean flavor.

For those of you who aren’t much for ricotta in other applications, you should know that I’m not either. Ricotta cheese doesn’t belong in my lasagna, on my toast, or anywhere else…except this cake. The milky flavor and grainy texture that turn me off in savory foods are what make this cake so insanely moist and delicious. The cheese melds so well into the simple batter, it’ll turn even the staunchest of ricotta-haters. If you really don’t want to use the stuff, you may substitute an equal volume of full-fat sour cream.
 This recipe makes a small loaf cake. It will not rise above the top of the pan. But what it lacks in size, it makes up for in versatility. Vanilla Bean Ricotta Cake is buttery and moist with a distinct vanilla flavor. It’s the kind of cake that’s fantastic by itself with a cup of coffee or tea, but it is a wonderful base for pretty much any toppings you can think of! Mix up a quick vanilla glaze (like the one used here) and drizzle it over the top of the cooled cake before slicing. Top slices with fresh strawberries and whipped cream for a sort of makeshift strawberry shortcake. Use it in trifles or ice cream cakes. Seriously, this cake is good with just about anything. 

This weekend, I’m going to serve Vanilla Bean Ricotta Cake with Blueberry Compote. I just love the look of the berries on the sliced cake, and the blueberry-lemon flavor goes so well with the vanilla bean! Make it this Memorial Day Weekend and enjoy it with your family and friends. Maybe it’ll become your go-to dessert, too 😊 

 Vanilla Bean Ricotta Cake
makes one 9×5″ loaf, about 8-12 servings

For the pan:
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon neutral-flavored oil (I like canola)

Cake:
1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste**
4 ounces (1/2 cup) full-fat ricotta cheese, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease the pan. Mix together flour and neutral-flavored oil. Use a pastry brush to paint mixture over the entire inside of the pan. Pour out any excess. Set aside.

Make the batter. In a small-medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter until light and fluffy. Beat in sugar. Add eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition. Beat in vanilla bean paste, followed by ricotta. Add dry ingredients in two installments, combining completely after each addition.

Spread batter evenly into prepared pan. Tap full pan on the counter five times to release any air bubbles. Bake 35-40 minutes, tenting with foil if it starts to brown too quickly. Cake is done when it’s golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, or with only a few moist crumbs.

Let cake cool in the pan for ten minutes. Run a small, thin knife around the edge of the pan to release the cake. Invert it onto a cooling rack, and then revert. Let cool completely.

Cake will keep at room temperature for up to three days, and in the refrigerator for up to five.

Notes:


1. I use Nielsen-Massey Vanilla Bean Paste.
2. If you don’t have or don’t want to use vanilla bean paste, you may use an equal volume of pure vanilla extract, or the scraped seeds of one vanilla bean + 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract.  

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.