Vanilla Crescent Cookies are near and dear to the heart of every Austrian. No Christmas cookie platter would be complete without them. The recipe below is my husband’s family recipe and he makes Vanilla Crescents for us every year. They are delicate, tender and melt in your mouth.
Vanilla Crescent Cookies call to mind Mexican wedding cookies (aka Russian tea cakes) but in crescent form. The crescents are pretty tiny, about 1 inch (2.5 cm) in diameter, and many Austrian home bakers pride themselves on making Vanilla Crescents that are even smaller.
Austrian Vanilla Crescent Cookies (Vanillekipferl)
- 15 tablespoons (7.4 ounces or 210 g) cold butter cut into small cubes
- 2 cups (300 g) flour
- ½ cup (70 g) ground walnuts walnut meal or extremely finely chopped walnuts
- ½ cup (50 g) powdered sugar
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 cup (100 g) powdered sugar
- 2 envelopes (2 tablespoons) vanilla sugar*
- 2 vanilla beans optional
Pour the flour onto your work surface. Add the nuts and powdered sugar and lightly mix these together with your hands or a fork. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and put the egg yolk in it. Using a fork, mix the yolk with some of the flour mixture to make a thick paste. Sprinkle the butter cubes over the remaining flour mixture and rub the butter pieces into the flour with your fingers until there are only small shreds of butter left (or you can do the same using a pastry cutter if your prefer). Knead all of the ingredients together into a smooth dough. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and allow it to rest at room temperature for 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 325°F (160°C). Grease baking tray(s) with butter. Working on a floured surface, roll egg-sized balls of dough into logs the thickness of a finger or thumb, cut small pieces off the log and roll these into little logs which you bend to make a crescent. Place crescents on greased baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes, until the tips of the crescents turn golden brown.
For rolling: stir powdered sugar and vanilla sugar together. Roll the warm crescents in the powdered sugar mixture.** Allow the Vanilla Crescent Cookies to “ripen” for at least 4-5 days in a tin with real vanilla beans (sliced open lengthwise or use a couple from your vanilla extract). The longer they sit the better! This allows them to get extra tender.
*If you don’t have vanilla sugar, add 2 teaspoons vanilla extract with the egg yolk in the cookie dough mixture. Or make your own vanilla sugar: using a fork, vigorously stir ¼ cup granulated sugar and ½ teaspoon vanilla extract until the sugar is evenly colored. Spread on a dinner plate to dry, breaking up clumps.
**The warm crescents are fragile and break easily; if you’re having problems, allow them to cool longer or sift the vanilla-powdered sugar over the cookies.