Vanilla White Chocolate Drops: vanilla takes center stage

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Believe it or not, there are people in this world who prefer vanilla to chocolate.

I’m not one of them; but I have to admit, I sometimes waver. Especially when confronted with a dish of homemade Vanilla Ice Cream, flecked with tiny vanilla-bean seeds; or Golden Vanilla Pound Cake, with its tantalizing butter-vanilla aroma, and crunchy vanilla-sugar topping.

That said, vanilla can be a hard flavor to capture. It’s ephemeral; elusive; haunting… Unlike chocolate, which is right in your face, vanilla dances around the edge of other flavors, enhancing but not asserting itself; you know that the cookie, piece of cake, or scone you’re enjoying tastes good, but you can’t lay your finger on just why.

I decided it was high time vanilla took center stage – in cookies.

Who doesn’t love chocolate chip cookies, right? Well, how about vanilla chip cookies? Granulated sugar instead of brown, white chocolate instead of dark, an extra hit of vanilla in the dough…

Sounds pretty simple. But, as so often happens with the simplest recipes, it was more complex than I’d imagined.

My first recipes were totally, unrelentingly sweet; without any contrasting flavors (chocolate, nuts, fruit), the vanilla simply got lost in the sugar.

I cut back on the sugar; but that affected the cookies’ texture. I tried adding a hint of vanilla-butternut flavor; but it fought with the regular vanilla; and when I lowered the amount, I couldn’t detect it.

Sigh.

I stuck some leftover dough in the fridge, deciding to contemplate the situation for awhile. Two days later, having forgotten all about contemplation, I noticed the dough in the fridge and decided to just bake it up and try again with a new batch.

Surprise! That 48-hour rest had added a subtle nuance to the cookies’ flavor. Was it a hint of caramelization? A tiny bit of dough fermentation? Whatever it was, it was tasty. So I decided to incorporate it into the recipe directions:

“The recipe calls for the dough to chill for 2 days in the refrigerator; this enhances the cookies’ flavor, which can be one-dimensionally sweet without it. You can certainly make them without chilling first, but we highly recommend it.”

Further tests showed that a 48-hour chill was optimal; at 24 hours, the cookies’ flavor wasn’t quite as good; at 72 hours, the texture again started to suffer. Granted, the differences are minimal. If you’re in a hurry, bake the cookies right away; if you don’t get around to the dough until 3 or 4 days later, go ahead and bake the cookies, they’ll still be tasty.

But do give the suggested 2-day rest a try; shy vanilla deserves this special treatment.

One final note: you’ll notice this recipe is made with bread flour. Many of you have asked what you can do with bread flour besides make bread, and here’s one of the sweet possibilities. But if you want to make this recipe with all-purpose flour, go right ahead; no adjustments are necessary.

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Beat together 6 tablespoons room-temperature butter and 3/4 cup sugar until smooth.

Add 2 large eggs, beating until smooth.

Beat in the following:

1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder

Stir in 1 2/3 cups (7 1/8 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour and 2 cups white chocolate chips.

Transfer the dough to a covered container, and refrigerate it for 48 hours.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets.

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Drop 1″ balls of dough onto the prepared baking sheets; a teaspoon cookie scoop works well here. Space the cookies about 1 1/2″ apart.

Bake the cookies for 8 to 9 minutes; they might be barely starting to brown on the bottom or around the edges, but don’t over-bake; you want them to remain soft.

Remove the cookies from the oven, and cool them right on the pan.

Hint: If you’re into appearance, these cookies are quite plain-looking. To give them visual panache, poke a few additional white chips into each of the cookies as soon as they come out of the oven.

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Like this.

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I ran out of white chips in one of the test batches, and substituted a mixture of white, butterscotch, and semisweet chocolate. While not “pure vanilla,” obviously, they were very tasty indeed!

Please read, bake, and review our recipe for Vanilla White Chocolate Drops.

Print just the recipe.

 

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...

comments

  1. Paul from Ohio

    Pretty neat evolution from idea to ooooooops forgot those in the fridge! Love the idea of poking in a few more chips for presentation and added hmmmmmmmmmm. As you all know, I’m a chocolate kinda guy, but these look like tasty and what a neat addition to a Christmas Cookie Tray!? And maybe Mint green chips – might be too overpowering?!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Well, the green would certainly be an attention grabber! It would be tasty though. Try it, Paul! Elisabeth@KAF

  2. Erika

    Did the rest seem to intensify the vanilla flavor, or de-intensify the sweetness? I wonder whether the rest allowed the vanilla to disperse, whether some of the sugar dissolving changed something, or whether something else is going on. Incidentally, did you consider trying cultured butter? I realize that this ingredient is either unreasonably expensive or unavailable for many American bakers, but it was the first thing that came to mind when I read that the cookies were too one-dimensionally sweet. Just curious!

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Erika, it seemed to reduce the sweetness somewhat. I think the same thing is going on as what happens when you let chocolate chip cookie dough sit for a few days; some of the moisture evaporates, and the flavors of the other elements seem to shine through more. No, didn’t try cultured butter; as you say, it’s very expensive. I think I’d use it for pie crust first, if I had the $$! :) PJH

    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Sure, Sandra – read the “baker’s tip” at the end of the recipe ingredients. No adjustments needed. Enjoy – PJH

  3. lynda

    I am going to make these with cinnamon chips (like choc chips – not the hard ones) I’ll get back to you on Sunday when I bake them. As of now the dough is yummy….NS

    Reply
  4. Dana

    I made the cookies yesterday without taking the time to chill them first. The dough came out very soft and sticky and refused to ball, so I dropped it into a lined mini muffin pan. I also added a couple of teaspoons of instant coffee. Nine minutes weren’t enough so I added another minute. And after all these changes, I got 3-dozen fantastic cookies-slash-muffins. I guess the dough would have been more managable after its stay in the fridge, right?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Dana, sounds like you created a great new cookie (muffin?)! So glad they worked out for you, albeit in a different form. Yes, a stay in the fridge stiffens up the dough; although even without being in the fridge, it shouldn’t be batter-like. If you used a flour other than King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose, you might have gotten this “thin” result, as other national brands are lower-protein and produce thinner doughs, using our recipes. Anyway – glad you liked them. Thanks for sharing – PJH

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