Vanilla, to me, is the essence of baking at Christmastime. It is used in abundance for sugar cookies and shortbreads and is nearly ever drop cookie recipe, including this one here for Spiked Eggnog Cookies. And vanilla ice creams that go with pies, too. The variations among vanillas are definitely pronounced, proving that vanilla is anything but vanilla, if you know what I mean. Chocolate gets all the attention, but vanilla, a far more subtle player, deserves this moment of glory.
How lucky was I, then, to receive a jar of vanilla bean paste in the mail from the folks at Nielsen-Massey. I instantly started messing with it. Vanilla bean paste isn't quite a paste; it's more like vanilla beans suspended in a syrupy liquid that's a little tricky to scoop out using traditional teaspoon measuring devices. Just roll with it. It's worth it for a more intensely vanilla experience, and it's a more economical choice than using vanilla beans—although you can buy beans in bulk. You can substitute it one-for-one for vanilla extract. I like it because it distributes those little specks of the bean throughout the entire batter, permeating the cookie with its warm, floral essence.
Speaking of warm, floral essences, there's also a fair bit of nutmeg in these cookies. Usually nutmeg is something of a background player, like vanilla, but here, I wanted to really amp up those two elements. I use half grated nutmeg and half ground; my ground nutmeg is used frequently and from a spice company I love. I know chefs will tell you to grind whole nutmeg yourself, which I do, but my two nutmegs have slightly different flavors, so I wanted a more complex experience. Feel free to do all pre-ground or all freshly ground; these are your cookies now, now mine.
And yes, these will travel fairly well, as will most drop cookies, for food gift giving. Butter and sugar are natural preservatives, didn't you know? I would wrap these well and pad the box with other packaging elements so they don't get jostled around. And send them off as expressly as you can afford to some lucky recipient.
- 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 T. vanilla paste (or equal amount extract)
- 2 T. rum, spiced or otherwise
- 1/4 cup soy eggnog (or regular)
Whisk together the flour through nutmeg in a small bowl. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until lightened in color, about 1 minute or so. Add the egg and vanilla paste and combine at medium speed until incorporated. Add the flour, alternating with the rum and eggnog (which you can combine together in a glass measuring cup), and mix until just combined. Cover and chill in the fridge for a couple of hours, or up to overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or Silpat, or grease 'em up the old-fashioned way.
Drop the cookies by heaping teaspoon (I use the smallest Oxo cookie scoop) onto the baking sheets and bake for 8-10 minutes, rotating trays halfway through the process. Remove from the oven when they're starting to look a little golden around the edges. Cool on the sheets for a few minutes, and then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
Yield: About 2 1/2 dozen
Spiked Eggnog Cookies.
Please note: I gave Nielsen-Massey a shout out, but this is not a sponsored post. The Dharma Kitchen does not, as of right now, do sponsored posts but everything in life is subject to change. From time to time, I am sent products but I never make promises to the senders about coverage. And my opinions are my own and cannot be bought. In the case of this vanilla though, it's pretty lovely and I recommend keeping a jar of the bean paste around if you bake, especially during the holidays.