Vanilla and Chocolate Butter Cookies (Petit Fours)

This recipe is an oldie, but a goodie. I got this recipe from my aunt and tweaked it slightly to accommodate my lack of a stand mixer. This recipe makes what I always think of as “old world” cookies like the kind you might find in France, Italy, Egypt, or the Middle East. I grew up eating cookies like these, so they remind me of childhood and the kind of homemade treats you would find at someone’s grandmother’s house. Just because the cookies are traditional, doesn’t mean they lack for flavor though. They taste subtly of butter, vanilla, chocolate, and apricot as they should. They also have an interesting texture because they are simultaneously, soft, crumbly, and even a little on the dry side. While the ingredients are simple, the process of constructing these cookies into sandwiches is a little time consuming if you want to go the full distance. You don’t have to do that though if you would rather just make simple non-sandwich cookies.

Just to give you a sense of what I’m talking about, below is a conversation between my brother and I regarding the cookies:

My Brother: You MADE these?

Me: Um… yeah. Why?

My Brother: (Shaking his head) They look like a grandmother made them!

Me: What?

My Brother: They look…

Me: They look like what?

My Brother: (With disgust) They look like they were made with LOVE!

Makes about 35 sandwich cookies at about 75 calories each or 70 individual cookies at about 35 calories each.
(The calorie counts are rough because not all of the dough gets used to make the cookies.)

Man Fuel Food Blog - Butter Cookie IngredientsIngredients

  • 2 Sticks (1 cup) of unsalted butter (100 cal. per tablespoon or 1600 cal. total)
  • ½ Cup confectioner’s sugar (240 cal.)
  • 3 Egg yolks (210 cal.)
  • ½ Teaspoon powdered vanilla (about 15 cal.)
    Note: You can use liquid vanilla extract, but you may need to add a little more flour to balance it out. You can find powdered vanilla in international markets.
  • 2 cups (8 oz.) of flour (800 cal., but not all of the dough gets used)
  • ½ Teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 1 ½ tablespoons coco powder (15 cal.)
  • 1 tablespoon smooth apricot jelly or other flavored jelly (about 50 cal.)
  • Optional: Chocolate sprinkles or colored sugar crystals.

Equipment

  • Large bowl for mixing
  • Rubber spatula
  • Spoon
  • Knife
  • Cookie press with desired shape
  • Tablespoon and teaspoon measurements
  • Large baking sheet – 18 x 13 or 17 x 11 (one will do, but if you have two then you can bake the cookies all at once)
  • Two very small bowls (for example ones you would use for dipping sauce)
  • Optional: Use a stand mixer to mix the ingredients if you have one, but you don’t absolutely need one.

Directions

  1. Open up the two sticks of unsalted butter, put them into a large bowl and let them sit for an hour until they’re soft at room temperature. This step is very important. If the butter is cold and hard, it won’t mix properly (I learned this the hard way).
    Man Fuel Food Blog - Two Sticks of Soft Butter
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 300 degrees F.
  3. Start mixing the soft butter using a rubber spatula until it gets creamy. If you have a stand mixer, just get that going until the butter is creamy and fluffy.
    Man Fuel Food Blog - Creamy Butter for Butter Cookies
  4. Add in the sugar and mix it well with the butter. Until you add the flour, this mixture will be incredibly sticky, so don’t worry if you’re having some issues mixing the ingredients by hand. Just don’t (I repeat, don’t), use your hands to mix the dough. It may seem like a good idea, but it really isn’t. Trust me!
    Man Fuel Food Blog - Powdered Sugar added to Butter Cookie Batter
  5. Next, add the three eggs and powdered vanilla. Again, mix everything really well.
    Man Fuel Food Blog - Adding Eggs to Butter Cookie Batter
  6. Add in the baking powder and 3/4 of the flour to the bowl. Mix thoroughly.
    Man Fuel Food Blog - Adding Flour for Butter Cookies
  7. At this point, the dough will have thickened a bit, but it may still be pretty sticky. After mixing everything really well, you want to split the dough into two halves.
    Man Fuel Food Blog - Butter Cookie Batter Split in Half
  8. Remove one of the halves from the bowl and set it aside in another bowl or container. Add in a little bit of the remaining flour to the half of the dough still in the mixing bowl. You might not use all of the flour because you just want to get the dough to the point where it’s not very sticky. Feel free to now use your hands when adding a bit of flour at a time and mix the dough that way. The dough shouldn’t be dry, but you should be able to manipulate it using your hands without it sticking too badly.
  9. Once the dough is ready, place it into your cookie press. Cookie presses vary, so the size, shape, and number of your cookies may vary. You can also just shape the dough how you like or roll it out and cut it using cookie cutters if you don’t have a cookie press.
    Man Fuel Food Blog - Butter Cookie Dough in Pastry Gun
  10. Start piping the cookies onto a large, non-greased, baking sheet. You should be able to get about 34 – 35 cookies on one sheet.
    Man Fuel Food Blog - Butter Cookies Ready for Baking
  11. If you have only one baking sheet, then bake the first batch of cookies in the oven on the middle rack for 20 minutes. They won’t change much in color or shape, so don’t expect them to do that. 20 minutes is just right for these cookies. They should be firm, but not too dry.
  12. Repeat the process for the other half of the dough, but this time you will add 1.5 tablespoons of cocoa powder instead of flour.
    Man Fuel Food Blog - Mixing Cocoat Poweder into Butter Cookie Dough
  13. Mix the cocoa powder into the dough really well, and again, feel free to use your hands.
    Man Fuel Food Blog - Chocolate Butter Cookie Dough
  14. Place the chocolate dough into your cookie press or do whatever you did with the vanilla dough again. Make sure you treat the chocolate dough the same way if you want to make sandwich cookies, otherwise they just won’t match up.
    Man Fuel Food Blog - Chocolate Butter Cookie Dough in Pastry Gun
  15. If you have another baking sheet, use that for the chocolate cookies. Otherwise, wait for the vanilla ones to cool and then remove them carefully to a plate before placing the chocolate dough cookies on the same baking sheet.
    Man Fuel Food Blog - Chocolate Butter Cookies Ready for Baking
  16. Bake them for 20 minutes at 300 degrees F.
    Man Fuel Food Blog - Chocolate Butter Cookies
  17. Once the cookies have cooled, they are ready to eat as they are. They go wonderfully with coffee or tea. If you want to turn them into sandwich cookies, then proceed with the directions below.

Creating Sandwich Cookies

  1. Using just the tip of a butter knife, scoop a bit of apricot jelly from the jar and smear a small amount on one of the cookies.
    Man Fuel Food Blog - Butter Cookie Assembly Using Jelly
  2. At this point, you should know if you want to make vanilla and chocolate cookies or if you want all vanilla and all chocolate. Pick the appropriate cookie for the opposite side and very gently smoosh the two cookies together. Set the sandwich aside and repeat this process for all the cookies. If when you assemble the cookies, the apricot jelly starts to ooze out the sides, then you’ve put too much on.
    Man Fuel Food Blog - Butter Cookie Vanilla and Chocolate Sandwiches
  3. After assembling the cookies, you can now decide if and how you want to decorate them. In a small bowl, place a teaspoon of apricot jelly and add in one or two teaspoons of water (you may need more water). Mix well until the apricot jelly has essentially dissolved in the water. You’ll use this mixture to stick on your decorations.
    Man Fuel Food Blog - Aprocot Simple Syrup
  4. A typical decoration is chocolate sprinkles. Simply pour out some chocolate sprinkles into a small bowl, dip one half of a sandwich cookie into the apricot syrup mixture you made with water, and then dip the cookie into the sprinkles. If you’re feeling especially adventurous, melt some chocolate in a double boiler and dip one half of the cookies into the chocolate before refrigerating.
    Man Fuel Food Blog - Butter Cookie Sandwich with Chocolate Sprinkles
  5. Repeat this process with the rest of the cookies. Once done, refrigerate the cookies for a couple of hours so that they set.
  6. If you want to get really festive, try making these cookies with different shapes and garnishing them with different colors. During Christmas time, I made little Christmas trees! Sugar crystals add a little more sweetness to the cookies and are easier to stick on, so go with what works for you!
    Man Fuel Food Blog - Christmas Butter Cookies
    Man Fuel Food Blog - Butter Cookies with Sugar Crystals

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