Based on the recipe from the New York Times cookbook.. [Source]
- 1/4 vanilla bean
- 1 cup sifted confectioner’s sugar
- 1 cup walnut meats
- 1 cup butter, at room temperature
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
- Chop vanilla bean. Slit the bean in half and scrape out the insides (the best part) chop the rest of the bean coarsely and mix it all in the confectioner’s sugar overnight or longer (see Mom’s expert notes).
- Cover and let stand, preferably overnight. Reserve while cookies are baked.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Cut walnuts with a sharp knife into very small pieces. Pound the pieces to a paste, using mortar and pestle.
- With a wooden spoon or the fingers, mix walnuts, butter, granulated sugar and flour to a smooth dough. Shape dough, about a teaspoon at a time, into small crescents about one and a half inches in diameter.
- Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet until lightly browned, or 15 to 18 minutes. Cool one minute. While still warm, roll cookies in prepared vanilla sugar.
YIELD – 72 crescents
NOTE Do not be tempted to cut the vanilla bean in a food processor; it doesn’t work. But the machine works well with the walnuts.
Mom’s Expert Notes
A few things I have learned after I forget how many years is that there is no need to pulverize the vanilla bean in a mortar. Just slit the bean in half and scrape out the insides (the best part) chop the rest of the bean coarsely and mix it all in the confectioner’s sugar overnight or longer. When you roll the warm cookies you can pick out the chunks of vanilla bean. I have kept the extra sugar sealed up from year to year. I usually use more than 1/4 of a vanilla bean because they are not so big as they used to be when you buy them.
Use a food processor or a blender mix the walnuts into a paste. Forget the chopping and pounding.
I have tried to do it all in a food processor, but you really need to make the dough by hand and make each cookie by hand or the texture is all wrong. I always use a wooden spoon to mix the dough but then take the dough out a tsp at a time to make the cookies in my hands.
Don’t try to roll the cookies in the sugar when they are too hot or they will break. Too cold and they won’t pick up the vanilla flavor.