Why This Recipe Works
Filling cookies with jam is always a hit, but sometimes we tire of the classic butter cookie sandwiching any jam of the red variety. Searching for new inspiration, we decided to flavor the dough with vanilla and fill the cookies with often overlooked apricot preserves. For the cleanest, clearest vanilla flavor that would distinguish these cookies from plain butter cookies, we added both extract and vanilla bean seeds to the dough. Baking muted the vanilla flavor, so we found that we needed the seeds from two whole vanilla beans to properly perfume a batch of cookies. The floral notes of the vanilla complemented those of the apricot preserves. We loved the preserves' orange hue, so we cut a window into the top cookie with a small cookie cutter to allow for a peek at the bright filling inside.
Makes 20 sandwich cookies
You can use any shape cutter you like for these cookies. For an elegant finishing touch, try decorating these cookies with icing.
2½ cups (12½ ounces) all-purpose flour
¾ cup (5¼ ounces) superfine sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces and softened
2 vanilla beans
1 ounce cream cheese, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
¾ cup apricot preserves
1. Using stand mixer fitted with paddle, mix flour, sugar, and salt on low speed until combined. Add butter, 1 piece at a time, and mix until crumbly, 1 to 2 minutes. Cut vanilla beans in half lengthwise. Using tip of paring knife, scrape out seeds. Add vanilla bean seeds, cream cheese, and vanilla and mix until dough begins to form large clumps, about 30 seconds. Transfer dough to counter, knead briefly to form cohesive mass, and divide in half. Form each piece into disk, wrap disks in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
2. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll each disk of dough ⅛ inch thick between 2 large sheets of parchment. Transfer dough rounds, still between parchment, to refrigerator for 10 minutes.
3. Remove top piece of parchment. Using 2½-inch cookie cutter, cut dough into shapes; space shapes 1½ inches apart on prepared sheets. Using ¾-inch cutter, cut out centers of half of dough shapes. Gently reroll scraps once, cut into shapes, transfer to prepared sheets, and cut out centers of half of dough shapes. Bake, 1 sheet at a time, until cookies are light golden brown, about 10 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through baking. Let cookies cool on sheet for 3 minutes, then transfer to wire rack. Let cookies cool completely.
4. Spread bottom of each solid cookie with 1 teaspoon preserves, then top with cutout cookie, pressing lightly to adhere, before serving.