When Bob and I married, I wasn't much of a cook. But I learned a lot from my mother-in-law Jo.
Besides turning me on to classics like Comforting Chicken and Rice Casserole, she believed the best baked goods (pies, cakes, cookies, you name it) must start with the very best vanilla. Always generous, she stocked both her pantry and mine (thank you very much!) with her favorite variety.
Want to see what it means to go first class? We've teamed up with the vanilla specialists at Nielsen-Massey to do your baked goods a favor. Since 1907, their family has been making flavorings in the purest, most natural way. No imitations allowed. And we're giving away 2, approximately $68-value collections of their popular cooking inspirations.
Each prize package includes:
3 top-shelf vanillas. That's three types of Madagascar Bourbon pure vanilla, said to be one of the world's finest vanillas. Each has a creamy, sweet, full flavor with velvety after tones and an intoxicating aroma. However, they aren't related to what was my father-in-law John's standard happy hour companion. Instead, Bourbon refers to the island chain of which Madagascar is a part.
3 premium, pure flavorings. Prized by chefs and home cooks alike, these concentrated almond, chocolate and lemon formulas are made with the same high quality and attention to detail as Nielsen-Massey vanillas. Almond extract, a baker's best friend, pairs wonderfully with fruits like raspberries, peaches and plums as well as vanilla, chocolate, maple and butterscotch. Made from the finest cocoa beans, the chocolate extract is ideal for adding extra layers of goodness to any recipe with chocolate as its base. While the lemon extract boasts a bright flavor capable of complimenting anything from fish, pork and chicken dishes to beverages, vegetables, desserts and more.
A Century of Flavor Cookbook. This gorgeous, fine cooking resource is filled with delectable recipes from the Nielsen family and their chef friends. Here you'll find more than 50 must-try ideas for using vanillas and flavorings in salads (think Spa Salad with Almond Vinaigrette), main dishes (make mine Crab Cakes with Vanilla Remoulade) and delightful desserts (who's up for Vanilla-Mocha Café Cake with Nielsen-Massey's Cherries Jubilee Sauce?).
So many choices! But, having a weakness for desserts, we had to start with the Crisp Vanilla Butter Cookies coated in chocolate. Bob's a big fan of anything chocolate. And I loved that they didn't call for any special ingredients other than Nielsen-Massey Vanilla Powder.
Vanilla powder? Now, that was different. This sugar-free, dry version of Nielsen-Massey's top flavoring has all the taste of vanilla extract but is more convenient to carry when you're camping, backpacking or traveling (note to self: pack this for next trip to the beach). Since it is light colored, the powder also works well for icings and beverages that you don't want impacted by the darker liquid vanilla.
Although not required, I also added a half teaspoon of Nielsen-Massey Almond Extract to the dough to give it a nutty flavor. Talk about a heavenly aroma! Smelling it, I couldn't help dreaming about our next dessert. I can't wait to see how my favorite cherry pie recipe (which calls for almond extract) tastes now that I have a premium supply.
After mixing the dough, you roll it into a log and refrigerate it. Then you can work on your latest project (mine's scanning old family photos and surprising my brother by posting them to Facebook) for 3 to 24 hours before baking the cookies, cooling them and drizzling with your choice of chocolate. We tested with Ghirardelli Milk Chocolate Chips (yum!), using 3/4 instead of the 1/2 cup called for in the recipe. After all, you can never get enough chocolate, at least, not in our house!
These crispy cookies may take some time but the company-worthy results are well worth it. In fact, we enjoyed every last crumb of these tasty, shortbread-like treats so much that they're now on our must-repeat-and-soon list!
Cream the butter, confectioners' sugar and vanilla powder in a mixing bowl using an electric mixer on medium speed. Add the eggs and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt on low speed until just blended. Place the dough on parchment paper and shape into a 12-inch long log. Chill for 3 to 24 hours.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat an insulated cookie sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Cut the dough log into 1/4-inch-thick slices and place on the cookie sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. Place the cooled cookies on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.
Place the chocolate pieces in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat on High for 15 seconds. Repeat at 5-second intervals, stirring and checking the consistency. The chocolate is ready when it freely drips from the spoon in a fine line. Spoon the chocolate into a large plastic food storage bag. Twist the bag until the chocolate is in one corner and then trim the tip of the bag. Drizzle the chocolate over the cookies.
Variation: Add 1/2 teaspoon of any Nielsen-Massey Pure Flavor Extract, such as Chocolate, Almond, Lemon, Orange or Coffee, to the cookie dough to create a signature cookie.
On the Shelf
You can find Nielsen-Massey Vanillas at Williams-Sonoma and other specialty food stores. For more information, flavorful recipes and cooking tips, check out NielsenMassey.com or follow them on Twitter.
We've teamed up with Nielsen-Massey Vanillas for our Flavor-It Contest. Thanks to these vanilla specialists, you could pack your pantry with flavor ... FREE. They're giving away 2, approximagely $68-value collections of their fine cooking inspirations, each including:
Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract - The pinnacle of vanillas, this versatile flavoring is ideal for general baking and cooking,
Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Powder - This sugar-free, dry version of vanilla extract dissolves instantly. It can be especially convenient when you're camping or backpacking.
Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Bean Paste - A great way to amp up the vanilla flavor without thinning batters or sauces.
Pure Almond Extract - A baker's BFF, this nutty-tasting extract is one of the most popular for pies, pastries and other desserts.
Pure Chocolate Extract - Dark chocolate goodness in a bottle, this extract offers rich, smooth chocolate flavor without sweetness.
Pure Lemon Extract - Full of bright flavor, this citrus-inspired flavoring can perk up just about any dish.
A Century of Flavor Cookbook - This gorgeous guidebook to Nielsen-Massey vanillas and flavorings is filled with delectable recipes from the Nielsen family and their chef friends.
To enter the contest*, email your name, mailing address (no P.O. Boxes please) and phone number to Enter@BoomerBrief.com by March 14 and put "Flavor-It Giveaway" in the subject line.