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Vanilla Pretzel Butter Cookies

Vanilla Pretzel Butter Cookies

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!

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  • Ivori
    November 19, 2014

    #flavorstory Growing up, desserts were never baked in our home but always store bought. My friends that lived across the alley were on the same boat except when it came to Xmas. Their mom would bake spritz cookies for days and then freeze dozens and dozens of them to snack on throughout the year. Those are the only homemade treats I ever used to associate with the holidays. My favorite store bought treats iare definitely Danish butter cookies. Thanks to this recipe, we will be starting a new tradition and will be baking these at home this year.

  • cheryl zimmerman
    November 19, 2014

    #flavorstory I lova ll things citrus flavored in cookies!

  • Simcha
    November 20, 2014

    #flavorstory terry’s chocolate orange, do you have that in the USA? It’s an English chocolate my grandma have is this time of year

  • Ally
    November 20, 2014

    My #flavorstory includes all of the memories of smelling celery, onions, and carrots on the stove as my mother prepared to make filling for Thanksgiving or Christmas. The smell still takes me back to childhood and happy holiday memories 🙂

  • terri
    November 20, 2014

    #flavorstory Every Christmas, my mom would make these amazing cinnamon cookies from a secret recipe she got from one of her friends. Every time I eat one of those, I feel like a little kid who is eagerly awaiting Christmas!

  • CherylM.
    November 20, 2014

    #flavorstory …. I’m going to try a new recipe this year… Mini Chocolate Cherry Cakes

  • Joan Kubes
    November 20, 2014

    Every Christmas my mom would make homemade candies. She made all different kinds and my favorite was her chocolate covered cherries. #flavorstory

  • Jamie
    November 20, 2014

    My #flavorstory is making Christmas cookies with my grandmother. She always made tons of cut outs that we frosted with buttercream and Mexican wedding cookies. I make the wedding cookies and her brownies (which she also made at Christmas), but I’m not much of one to make cut outs.

  • Bette
    November 21, 2014

    #flavorstory is making Gum Drop bread with my mom when I was young then taking over when I was a pre-teen. The best part, though, is sharing Gum Drop bread with my oldest niece when she was in grade school. She now makes the treat to serve and give to her friends at Christmas time.

  • Amy L
    November 23, 2014

    I love baking, and during the holidays I bake dozens and dozens of cookies, candies, breads, etc. I make several recipes handed down to me by my mother, which came from various relatives on both my mother’s and father’s sides of the family. One of my favorites is the glazed anise cookies which I bake using McCormick’s Pure Anise Extract. Just opening the bottle of extract and smelling the anise aroma brings back memories of baking with my mother many years ago.

  • Madeline Christon
    August 22, 2015

    Growing up in Brooklyn, New York were born my happiest of memories. Not surprisingly, it was there that my love affair with food and baking was born as well. Living in such a multicultural area, the sights and aromas of such wonderful foods would change and intermingle every five blocks or so. My neighborhood consisted of mostly Italian, Irish, polish and Jewish, so it’s no wonder that there is a warm place in my tummy that has been a comfort to me from all these culinary gems.
    My favorite holiday story though comes from my mom who was a wonderful cook but a horrible baker. One Christmas, shortly after my beloved grandma passed, my mom tried to recreate her Italian Struffoli recipe. (Struffoli are little balls of dough that are deep fried, then dipped in honey and sprinkled with sprinkles, chocolate chips and just about whatever else you wanted to put on them). My mom’s intention was to keep the memory of my grandma alive knowing how my family loved her baking. Well, let me just say that there was flour and eggshells all over the kitchen. My poor mom looked as if she had just lost a war. She sat at the table, out her head down and began to cry. I felt so badly for her. I sat beside her at the table and tried to console her. We sat there talking for a few minutes. We began to reminisce about Grandma. The talking turned into smiles and laughter. We hugged and continued on with what now had become somewhat of a science project. You know, I still really can’t remember how those Struffoli turned out, but I’ll never forget that day. It is still one of my fondest memories of mom.

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