I’m in a funny time in my life right now. For example, on Wednesday, I ran out of vanilla extract, but I really didn’t have any money to replace it. But I did happen to have about five vanilla beans in my cupboards. So I used those. It was like using a real Windsor chair for firewood.

I used them in coffee cake, a chocolate chip skillet cookie, and these shortbread. They’re very chic, of course, because they use a whole vanilla bean, but you can just substitute a teaspoon of pure vanilla extract, and they will still make you very happy.  If you’ve never bought vanilla beans, or have decided they’re ridiculously expensive, don’t lose hope before checking out Beanilla. They have the best prices around, and have a huge selection, which I’m sure they can tell you all about.  I personally don’t know the difference between the flavors of the Madagascar, Mexican, Tahitian, or Tongan beans, but I’m pretty sure they do.


And in case you didn’t know already, most of my lemon curd wisdom comes from Ina Garten
. I love just about everything she makes.

vanilla bean sandwich cookies

2 sticks (226g) unsalted butter at room temperature
2/3 cup (125g) sugar
seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean (save the pod to stick in vanilla sugar or a tall bottle of vanilla extract)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups (300g) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (70g) strawberry lemonade curd (recipe follows)

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until smooth. Add in vanilla bean scrapings. Incorporate in salt and flour, and mix until just incorporated.

2. Place dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

3. Preheat oven 375 degrees (190 Celsius). Roll out dough and cut into circles (or whatever else you want, of course), refrigerate until firm, about 20 minutes, and then and bake for 8-10 minutes, or until slightly firm.

strawberry lemonade curd

zest of 3 lemons
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup (190g) granulated sugar
3 large eggs
juice of 3 lemons (about 1/3 cup, or 80 mL)
Pulp from 1/2 cup frozen strawberries, thawed, and pressed through a sieve (about 1/4 cup, or 60g)
pinch of salt

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together zest, butter, and sugar. Incorporate eggs one at a time and mix until smooth. Add in lemon juice, strawberry pulp, and salt. Mixture will curdle.

2. Pour mixture into a large saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for about 10 minutes. Lemon curd will come together and thicken. When it is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, remove from heat. Strain into a glass bowl and allow to cool. Refrigerate or freeze until you need it.