[Photographs: Carrie Vasios]

People often get passionate about chocolate, yet I rarely hear anyone gush about vanilla. Personally I go nuts for the stuff, especially in desserts that are made with real, fragrant, heady vanilla beans.

Here's the thing: vanilla beans aren't exactly cheap. So when indulging my vanilla desires, I wanted to make a cookie that would highlight and concentrate the complex vanilla flavor. That's why I was happy to find Dorie Greenspan's "Master Recipe for Sables." Sables are essentially French shortbread cookies; plain, buttery, and well suited to playing-around. I gave the basic sables a double hit of vanilla: there are the damp, floral seeds from fresh vanilla beans and some creamy, smooth Bourbon-Madagascar vanilla extract.

This cookie dough smells like an old fashioned ice cream shop and by the time the cookies came out of the oven, I was also thinking about making some custard. The sables are soft with just a bit of crunch, which was perfect because I don't like overly crumbly cookies. The vanilla is complimented by a rich, buttery backbone and just a hint of salt. So while these freckled, pale yellow cookies may look plain, their taste is anything but.


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