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Looking for a holiday cookie? Try these Viennese almond butter crescents

They are a traditional Austrian Christmas cookie.
Viennese butter cookies
Viennese butter cookies [ LORRAINE FINA STEVENSKI | Special to the Times ]
Published Dec. 1, 2020

Buttery, vanilla-infused and delicately crumbly, these Viennese Almond Butter Crescents have a melt-in-your-mouth texture that will surely win you over.

Vanillekipferl are a traditional Austrian Christmas cookie that is found with many different ingredients and techniques. My mom’s recipe for “Hazel Nut Crescents” in her old wooden recipe box has no hint of hazelnuts but uses coarsely chopped almonds and an egg.

Traditionally, Vanillekipferl are made with ground walnuts, which results in a moister texture. But ground sliced almonds are my favorite for taste and texture. They result in a darker speckled cookie. Ground blanched almonds will result in a light-colored cookie with less texture. You can choose your preference.

Vanillekipferl are shortbread cookies, but some recipes will call for eggs, which are not traditionally included. Adding an egg will make the dough easier to work with (softer and more pliable). Resist the temptation, because the result without eggs will be a heavenly flaky dough.

This dough keeps for a few days in the refrigerator. Simply bring it to room temperature before shaping. You can also freeze the dough in logs and thaw it in the refrigerator overnight. Bring the dough to room temperature and shape it into crescents.

Use a ruler to keep the cookie size uniform. I trace a 4-inch-long by ¾-inch-thick rope on a piece of parchment for reference; turn it over to keep the ink off the cookies. My version uses a food processor to make a quick dough. The nuts and flour are finely ground together in just a few pulses. I like the addition of nutmeg and orange zest as they complement so beautifully, but you can omit these ingredients and make them just plain vanilla.

You can use a stand mixer to mix the dough, but the nuts must be finely ground before they’re added to the mixer bowl. Soften the butter slightly. Fine white granulated sugar can substitute for cane sugar. (I like the color and texture of cane sugar.)

You can make this cookie your own with the addition of mini chocolate chips in the dough or different flavorings, or by forming different shapes. Traditionally, these are dusted with confectioners’ sugar, but for your holiday cookie tray, you can dip the ends of the crescents in melted white or dark chocolate. For an even more festive look, dip the cookies in green or red sugar before baking.

Did I mention these cookies make an excellent edible holiday gift and ship beautifully? Happy baking!

Viennese Almond Butter Crescents (Vanillekipferl)

For the topping:

½ cup cane sugar

2 tablespoons vanilla sugar, optional

For the dough:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ cups sliced almonds, toasted and cooled

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled, cut into 16 pieces

1 cup cane sugar

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon pure almond extract

1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

Optional toppings:

Confectioners’ sugar

White or dark melted chocolate

Make the topping: To the bowl of a food processor, add the cane sugar and vanilla sugar, if using. Process continuously until fine and dusty, about 1 minute. Set aside in a shallow bowl. No need to wipe out the bowl for the next step. You can also use ¼ cup each green or red colored sugar. If so, you can skip this step.

Make the dough: To the bowl of a food processor, add the flour and almonds and process until finely ground, about 30 seconds.

Stop the machine and add the butter, sugar, vanilla and almond extracts, nutmeg, orange zest and salt, pulsing until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Then process continuously until the dough just begins to gather together around the blade, about 30 seconds. The dough will be very soft. Roll the dough into two 9-inch logs, then wrap it in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or until firm, overnight preferred.

Form the cookies: Let the dough sit at room temperature for 10 minutes or until pliable. Cut off a 1-inch slice of the dough log. On a lightly floured surface, roll into a 4-inch-long by ¾-inch-thick rope, then trim the edges with a sharp paring knife. Use the tips of both hands to roll. Dip each rope in the topping sugar and then shape into a crescent. Refrigerate again for another 30 minutes on a baking sheet to firm up. This keeps the cookies from spreading too much.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line three half sheet pans with parchment paper. Arrange 10 crescents, evenly spaced, on each baking sheet. Bake one pan at a time on the middle rack until cookies are firm to the touch and the edges are golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes. Dust with more topping sugar if you like. Let cool for 15 minutes before removing from the cookie sheet. Repeat with the remaining cookies. Cool completely before storage. When cool, dust with confectioners’ sugar if desired, or dip each end in melted white or dark chocolate.

Makes about 30 cookies.

Source: Lorraine Fina Stevenski

Lorraine Fina Stevenski is a self-taught baker and award-winning recipe contest addict. This column features recipes that have been entered in contests across America and updated for readers who love to bake. Contact her at LorraineStevenski@gmail.com.