Make Ahead

Vanilla Bean and Pink Peppercorn Icebox Cookies

November  6, 2012
2 Ratings
  • Makes 3 ½ to 4 dozen
Author Notes

Icebox cookie dough is great to keep on hand for unexpected guests or quick and easy desserts. It also allows for baking smaller amounts at a time. The dough will keep (tightly wrapped in plastic then foil) in the freezer for up to 1 month. I took the basic vanilla icebox cookie from Cook's Illustrated and spiced it up a bit. I blitzed an entire vanilla bean and some pink peppercorns with turbinado sugar in the food processor, then simply strained out the larger bits before using the sugar in the cookies. I've also used evaporated cane sugar, but prefer the texture achieved with the turbinado. I once saw Jamie Oliver make vanilla sugar that way, and I've always thought it was a great technique to speed up the process. The fragrance of the infused sugar is fantastic -- heady with vanilla to start then a hit of spice to finish. The cookies are buttery with a nice vanilla flavor and a subtle citrus-spice note from the pink pepper that makes your tongue tingle just a smidge. —hardlikearmour

Test Kitchen Notes

These sophisticated little cookies, which reminded me of both shortbread and sugar cookies, are addictive and delicious. We couldn’t stop eating them. The buttery cookie’s exterior is delicate but crisp and gets a big boost of flavor from vanilla bean and pink peppercorns, which hardlikearmour inventively has you whiz in the food processor with turbinado sugar, strain, and then add to the dough. The vanilla flavor is front and center, but the peppercorns play a solid, supporting role, delivering a subtle, warm tingle of floral spicy notes. My tasters couldn’t guess what the secret ingredient was. I love the make-ahead factor of this recipe, too: the dough can be stashed in the freezer until needed.

What You'll Need
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pink peppercorns
  • 3/4 cup turbinado sugar, plus additional for rolling dough in
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened but cool
  • 2 large egg yolks, plus 1 egg white
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups less 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  1. Use a scissors to cut the vanilla bean into small (1/2-inch) pieces into the bowl of a food processor with the blade attachment. Add the pink peppercorns and turbinado sugar. Process in 15 second increments until the vanilla, pink peppercorns, and sugar granules have been broken down, 60 to 90 seconds. The inner core of the pink peppercorns will remain intact, but the pink outer layer should be pulverized. Strain the sugar through a medium to coarse mesh strainer into a large bowl; the strainer should catch the pink peppercorn cores and any large bits of vanilla bean but let the rest through. (Note: if your strainer is too fine it will catch some of the larger granules of sugar. Measure the contents of the strainer. Subtract a tablespoon to account for the vanilla bean and pink peppercorn, then replace what's remaining with more sugar.)
  2. Add the powdered sugar, salt, and softened butter to the bowl with the sugar mixture. Beat on medium-low speed until the mixture is crumbly and there is no loose sugar left, then increase the speed to medium (high if using a hand mixer) and beat for an additional 45 seconds.
  3. Add the egg yolks and vanilla extract, then beat until fully incorporated, about 15 to 20 seconds. Scrape down the bowl.
  4. Add the flour and mix on low until incorporated. Dough will be quite crumbly at this point. Increase the speed to medium and mix 10 to 15 seconds, until the dough has almost fully come together. Use your hands or a rubber spatula to gently knead the dough into a single mass.
  5. Divide the dough into 2 equal portions. Roll each portion into a “log” that is 6 to 6 1/2-inches long and about 1 3/4 to 2 inches in diameter. Wrap each log in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours.
  6. Preheat oven to 325ºF with racks in the upper middle and lower middle positions. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silpats (or spray with non-stick cooking spray).
  7. Remove one dough log from the fridge. Brush the sides of the log with egg white, and roll in turbinado sugar. Cut the log in half (crosswise), and return half to the fridge. Using a sharp knife cut 1/4 inch thick slices of the dough. Arrange the slices on the prepared baking sheets spaced at least 1/2 inch apart. Repeat with remaining dough.
  8. Bake until edges have turned a light golden color, 14-15 minutes. Rotate and switch pan positions after 7 minutes, being careful not to let the cookies slide around. Allow cookies to cool on the sheets for 2 to 3 minutes, then transfer them to a rack. Cool fully and store in an air-tight container.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • EmilyC
  • gingerroot
  • vvvanessa
  • aargersi
  • Midge
I am an amateur baker and cake decorator. I enjoy cooking, as well as eating and feeding others. I live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with my husband and our menagerie. I enjoy outdoor activities including hiking, mushroom hunting, tide pooling, beach combing, and snowboarding.

11 Reviews

Kathy R. December 14, 2021
It’s amazing that out of 10 (!) reviews not ONE person made this cookie. Seriously folks…I went looking to see how others fared with straining the vanilla, peppercorn, sugar mixture and…nothing…the cookie is a lovely butter cookie with a hint of what may be peppercorn flavor but I think it’s over shadowed by the vanilla. My difficulty was with my mesh strainer - it’s too fine and by substituting sugar for the amount left in my strainer left lots of tasty flavors out of the cookie. Still, It’s a nice dough to have frozen for a spontaneous cookie.
EmilyC November 7, 2012
I MUST buy some pink peppercorns so I can make these! I would love a few with my coffee right now! : )
hardlikearmour November 7, 2012
Thanks, EmC! I agree you need to buy some pink peppercorns - they have a great flavor!
gingerroot November 7, 2012
What a lovely flavor combination! Although I don't have a huge sweet tooth, my main problem with a delectable butter cookie like this is that I'd eat them all in one sitting. Well, at least all of the ones in your photo. : )
hardlikearmour November 7, 2012
Thank you! Buttery cookies are definitely dangerous!
vvvanessa November 6, 2012
lookin' good!
hardlikearmour November 6, 2012
aargersi November 6, 2012
Now I really really want a cookie. THIS cookie.
hardlikearmour November 6, 2012
LOL! I don't think they'd hold up to the journey. If only someone would invent teleportation already!
Midge November 6, 2012
Wow, I love the pulverizing vanilla bean trick. These sound and look great!
hardlikearmour November 6, 2012
Thanks, Midge! The pulverization works really well to quickly infuse the sugar with flavor. Thanks Jamie Oliver!