The holidays are a time of the year that is always filled with cookies for my family. Everyone bakes them and everyone brings them when we get together for gatherings. My grandmother always had one type of cookie that was storebought and, even with a wealth of homemade cookies to choose from, I often chose to eat a few of those before touching any of the others. The cookies were Danish butter cookies formed in the shape of a pretzel and topped with coarse sugar. I liked the simple butter flavor of the cookies, the crunch of the sugar and, of course, their unique shape. And I only had them a few times during the holiday period, never during the rest of the year. Seeing those cookies brings back memories of childhood, but these days I can bake up a delicious homemade version of them that stirs up the same memories and tastes even better.
My Vanilla Pretzel Butter Cookies are pretzel shaped cookies made with a buttery vanilla cookie dough. They’re fun to make and even more fun to eat! The cookie dough is made with a blend of butter and cream cheese, which gives them a melt-in-your-mouth texture and a slight tang that really sets them apart from other butter cookies. The pretzel shapes are made by hand. The cookie dough is rolled out and shaped into individual pretzels. I pressed each one down very slightly to give the cookies a uniform look and decorated them with plain, coarse sugar. To get the sugar to stick and to help the cookies brown slightly, I brushed them with a lightly beaten egg white before applying the sugar.
I used McCormick Extra Rich Vanilla Extract, which packs a much stronger vanilla flavor than your average vanilla extract. The extract is a new product that the company released for its 125th birthday celebration and it boasts an intense vanilla flavor that is 25% more concentrated than the flavor in their classic vanilla extract. It’s ideal for vanilla lovers (like me!) who want to ensure that they are getting the vanilla flavor they want in baked good without having to pour in half the bottle. Also in honor of their anniversary, McCormick is hosting a program called Flavor of Together, inviting people to share their favorite flavor stories – like my story above – and recipes. For every story shared on any of McCormick’s brand websites or social channels (using #flavorstory), McCormick will donate $1, up to $1.25 million, to United Way to help feed those in need this holiday season!
As an added bonus for Baking Bites readers who want to share their favorite holiday flavor story, I’m partnering with McCormick and hosting a giveaway! One lucky reader will receive a McCormick prize pack featuring baking products and a recipe book in a nifty, reusable canvas tote bag (value $50). To enter the giveaway, leave a comment on this post with the hashtag #flavorstory and tell me a bit about your favorite holiday flavor story. In other words, give me a brief (or not so brief!) story about a memory about a favorite dish or tell me what you’ll be baking this year to create new memories. The contest ends Friday, November 21st at 11:59 pm PST and one winner will be selected at random from the comments. Don’t forget to leave your e-mail on the comment form (it will not be public), as that is how I will contact the winner. Good luck!
Vanilla Pretzel Butter Cookies
3 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
2 large egg yolks
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg white, for topping
2-3 tbsp coarse sugar, for topping
Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.
In a large bowl, beat together confectioners’ sugar, butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Beat in egg yolks, followed by vanilla extract. Gradually blend in the flour mixture. Dough will be thick. Divide dough in half and shape into discs. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 30-60 minutes.
Divide dough into generous 1-inch balls and roll each ball into a rope about 5-6 inches long. Twist each rope into a pretzel shape. Place pretzels onto prepared baking sheet and gently flatten a bit. In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg white. Use a pastry brush to brush the beaten egg white over the pretzels, then generously sprinkle them with coarse sugar.
Bake for 13-15 minutes, until very lightly browned around the edges. Allow to cool for 3-4 minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Makes about 4 dozen.
Disclosure: This recipe is sponsored by McCormick to mark their 125th anniversary celebration. I was provided with the Extra Rich Vanilla Extract for recipe creation. Any opinions expressed and commentary given are my own, and the recipe is a Baking Bites original.
Update: This contest is closed. A winner will be announced shortly!