Saffron Vanilla Cookies
I have been dabbling with saffron lately, and happened to come across this recipe by one of my favorite foodies, Heidi Swanson. I use her cookbooks all the time, and I was glad to see that she has a recipe for saffron vanilla cookies. At the same time, I have been trying to figure out my oven (which seems to bake things slightly too hot) so, as you can see from the above photo, I was adjusting my baking time with each batch in order to get the right setting. The cookies on the left were in 8 minutes, the cookies in the center, 9 minutes, and the cookies on the right, 10 minutes. The sweet spot was indeed 9 minutes (but this might vary for you).
about 30 threads of saffron (to yield 1/8 teaspoon ground saffron)
1/2 vanilla bean
2 tablespoons milk
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Crush the saffron threads with a mortar and pestle until powdery. The finer the powder, the more intense the saffron color and flavor in the cookies.
Split the vanilla bean in half and scrape the pulp into a small saucepan (can use 1/2 tsp of vanilla if you don't have a bean). Add the vanilla pod, milk, and saffron and cook over very low heat, just until bubbles begin to form at the edges, between 180°F and 190°F. Let steep for about 10 minutes; the milk should have a sunny yellow color.
Sift the flour and baking soda into a medium bowl.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on low speed until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the granulated sugar, brown sugar, and salt and mix on low speed until well combined and fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes.
Remove the vanilla pod from the milk, squeezing off any liquid or pulp clinging to it back into the milk. In a medium bowl, combine the milk mixture, egg, and vanilla extract and whisk vigorously until well blended. With the mixer on medium speed, add the egg mixture very slowly until well-incorporated and very smooth.
Add the flour mixture. Mix on low speed just until uniform in texture. Using a rubber spatula, scrape the dough out into an airtight container or onto a piece of plastic wrap. Cover the container, or, if using plastic wrap, shape the dough into a rough disk, wrap tightly, and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Roll portions of the dough into balls, and place them on the baking sheet, spacing them at least 2 inches apart. Bake until golden but not too dark; they should be slightly undercooked in the center.
Best enjoyed warm.