It’s finally (but suddenly already) December, which means it is time for the best part of Christmas - Holiday Cookie Boxes! I’m totally hooked on making these after last year’s one, so was super super excited when Heilala Vanilla asked me to come up with a Christmas treat recipe. I couldn’t help myself and went all out with this vanilla inspired cookie box.
I’ve spoken about Heilala in the past and how much I love not only their products, but the people behind the company and what they stand for, and I couldn’t be prouder to work with them. Not only do they control the production of the Vanilla from cultivation to processing, but they are doing amazing things in Tonga in terms of injecting money into the economy and increasing employment opportunities for Women. The company is New Zealand owned, and run by amazing people who are so passionate about what they do and giving back. Their vanilla truly is the best I have ever used, and I almost can’t bake without it.
I wanted to focus a little more on the treats that are made around Christmas this time around, rather than cookies. In New Zealand, it is hot at Christmas time, so we don’t have the same cozy baking traditions I have come to learn are common over here - everyone is too busy staying cool and spending time at the beach. What we do usually have though, is lots of little yummy bits and pieces to snack on or to bring out when guests come - things that you can make a lot of ahead, and keep in a couple of airtight containers to bring out when needed (that’s what happens in my family anyway).
I started out with a tradition in my family - my Great Great Grandmother’s Shortbread recipe. This was one of the first things I ever learnt to bake with my Grandma, and was always around at Christmas, so I knew it had to be included. They are super simple to make, and the recipe can easily be doubled, so are perfect for times when you will have a lot of people around. I also added my favourite chocolate shortbread cookie, which was sandwiched with a vanilla bean dulce de leche filling. These cookies also make a great roll-out cookie for decorating with royal icing, and are a nice twist on the standard sugar cookie.
Macarons had to make an appearance, so I stuck with a Vanilla Bean macaron with a Vanilla Bean Swiss meringue buttercream. I added some vanilla bean meringues to the lineup - they are super easy to make, and you can pipe out a bunch of different sizes to use as part of desserts through the holiday season too. I then made a quick batch of vanilla bean marshmallows, using honey and Heilala’s Vanilla sugar. These can also be batch made (you can double the recipe I have here very easily), and last forever kept in an airtight container. They also make perfect S’mores!
My favourite parts of this treat box are the Vanilla bean Passionfruit fudge, and the Vanilla bean salted caramel nut mix. Both of these, to me, scream Christmas - little treats to pick at, or to pop out for an easy dessert or sweet addition to a cheese board. Both are pretty easy to put together, and make loads, so you will be fully stocked up, although you’re probably going to need to make more of the nuts - I made a big batch two days ago, took them to the studio, and they got totally destroyed. The passionfruit fudge is a total nod to home for me - it is my absolute favourite fruit, and was the perfect addition to fudge to compliment the Vanilla bean.
So there we are! My Vanilla bean Christmas treat box. These are all perfect in a holiday cookie box, or you can mix and match with some of your favourite recipes too. If you are looking for good christmas gifts or stocking stuffers, I dunno about you but I would be stoked to get a jar of Vanilla. Happy Holidays!
Here’s what we ended up with:
- Vanilla bean shortbread
- Chocolate shortbread with vanilla bean dulce de leche (plus a few piped with royal icing, and a few cut out with stars)
- Vanilla bean meringues
- Vanilla bean macarons with a vanilla bean Swiss meringue buttercream
- Vanilla bean marshmallows
- Vanilla bean salted caramel nut mix
- Vanilla bean and passionfruit fudge
A few wee tips:
- I used this box to make this cookie box - Rich cut me little dividers on the laser cutter, but the craft wood is soft enough that you can use a craft knife and a ruler. I then just taped the dividers in.
- Most of the components need to be stored in airtight containers, so make sure that if you are making a cookie box, you account for storage!
- Mix and match the heck out of this box - use any recipes you like, and arrange the dividers any way you like. There are more ideas here - which actually all utilise vanilla bean too!
- If you have any questions whatsoever please please feel free to ask - I will do my very best to help out!
Thank you so much to Heilala Vanilla for sponsoring this post! All opinions are my own.
Made this recipe and love it?
If you made this recipe then I would LOVE for you to leave me a review below to let me know how you liked it! Also, please make sure to tag me on Instagram if you make it!
A note on salt and oven temperature
It is important to note the type of salt that is called for in a recipe. I use Diamond Crystal salt throughout my recipes - if you use a different sort of kosher salt or regular table salt you will need to adjust accordingly as some salt is 'saltier' than others. Morton's salt is twice as salty, so you will need half the quantity. Same goes for a regular table salt. I am working to get gram measurements throughout my recipes for salt but still getting there.
All oven temperatures are conventional unless otherwise stated. If you are baking on fan / convection, you will need to adjust the temperature. An oven thermometer is a great investment to ensure that your oven is the correct temperature.
Using the double / triple function in the recipe card
You will notice that there is a '1X' '2X' '3X' button in my recipe card. This can be used for doubling or tripling a recipe. However, please note that this only doubles the ingredient quantities in the ingredients list and NOT in the method. If there are quantities or pan sizes in the method of the recipe (for example weigh out 150g brown butter), you will need to scale this number manually. It will also not change the baking time in the recipe so you will need to adjust this yourself too. It is always a good idea to read through a recipe fully before doubling it just to check this. If you would like to scale this recipe or convert for another pan size, use my calculator!
Tools and equipment
For a list of my go-to tools and equipment, I have a post you can refer to here.
Why is this recipe in grams?
I post my recipes in grams as it is the most accurate way to bake. Cups are not only inaccurate but they vary in volume worldwide. There is no way for me to provide one cup measure that works for everyone. However, posting in weight fixes this issue. If you would like the recipe in cups you are welcome to convert it yourself via google, but please do not ask me to do it for you as I am not comfortable providing a recipe using a method that I have not tested. Baking with a scale is easy, accurate, and also makes cleanup super simple. Here is the scale that I use if you would like a recommendation! Here's to accurate baking!Print
VANILLA BEAN SHORTBREAD
- 225g unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 125g icing sugar, sifted
- 1 tsp Heilala Vanilla bean paste
- 270g all-purpose flour
- 2 Tbsp Corn Starch
- ¼ tsp salt
- Preheat the oven to 300˚f / 150˚c. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, icing sugar and vanilla bean paste until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes. Sift together the flour, corn starch and salt, and add to the mixing bowl. Mix on low until combined.
- Turn out the dough onto your work surface and divide into two. Shape into two rectangle shaped logs, then using a sharp knife, cut slices approximately 1cm (0.4”), and place on the prepared lined baking sheets, leaving room for spreading.
- Bake the shortbread for 30 to 35 minutes, rotating the pans half way through, until very lightly golden. Remove from the oven and cool on the baking sheets for 15 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.
- Store in an airtight container.
CHOCOLATE SHORTBREAD SANDWICH COOKIES WITH VANILLA BEAN DULCE DE LECHE
Notes: The Dulce de Leche requires some prep ahead work - boiling a can of condensed milk, so make sure you leave time for this + cooling if you make. I cut out some of the dough into larger circles and made Royal icing to decorate - I used a piping bag and a wilton #1 tip.
Shortbread recipe adapted from Now, Forager
Vanilla Bean Dulce de Leche Filling
- 1 400g (14oz) can of sweetened condensed milk, or one can of premade Dulce de Leche
- 1 tsp Heilala vanilla bean paste
- 185g unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 80g powdered sugar, sifted
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 tsp Heilala vanilla bean paste
- 185g all-purpose flour, sifted
- 50g cocoa, sifted
VANILLA BEAN DULCE DE LECHE FILLING
- Peel the wrapper off a can of condensed milk, and place it on its side in a large pot. Cover with water by at least 2 inches. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer the can for 3 hours, checking often to make sure the water is well above the level of the can, and topping up when necessary. Remove from the pot with tongs and allow to cool completely.
- Preheat the oven to 350˚f / 180˚c.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, powdered sugar, salt, and vanilla bean paste until light and fluffy, 4-5 minutes. Add the sifted flour and cocoa powder, and mix just to combine.
- Dump the dough out onto a large piece of parchment, and place a second piece over the top. Roll the dough out between the two pieces of parchment, until is is approx ¼" (6mm) thick. Place the dough on a baking sheet, and place into the freezer for 15-20 minutes, or until very firm.
- Remove from the freezer. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove the top piece of parchment, and cut 2" (5cm) circles using a fluted cookie cutter. Place them on the baking sheet, with a little space between. Place the cut-out cookies in the freezer for 10 minutes, then, using a small cutter in your desired shape, cut out holes in the centre of half the cookies. Re-roll scraps as needed, freezing briefly before cutting out.
- Bake the cookies, one tray at a time (or two if your oven is good), for 11-12 minutes, or until set. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
- Pair the cookies so each pair has a solid cookie, and a cookie with a cut-out. Open the cooled can of Dulce de Leche, and transfer to a small bowl (be careful not to scrape out completely as sometimes sugar gathers on the bottom of the tin). Add the vanilla paste, and mix well until combined and smooth. Transfer to a small piping bag, and snip a small hole in the end.
- Pipe a small blob onto one half of the cookie pair (the solid half), and top with a cut-out half. Press carefully to sandwich. Repeat with the remaining cookies. Best eaten on the day they are made - if you would like to prepare ahead, store the filling and cookies separately until ready to serve.
VANILLA BEAN MERINGUE KISSES
Note: This recipe is very scaleable - the ratio of egg whites to sugar is 1:1.5, so adjust to your liking. Because the meringues are essentially ‘dried’ rather than cooked, you can pipe various sizes and bake all together.
- 200g egg whites
- 300g granulated sugar
- 1 tsp Heilala vanilla bean paste
- Red Sprinkles to finish, optional
- Preheat the oven to 225˚f / 110˚c. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Line a large piping bag with your tip of choice (I used an Ateco #826).
- Measure the egg whites and granulated sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer or other heatproof bowl. Place over a pot of simmering water, ensuring that the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl. Heat the mixture, whisking often and watching the edges carefully, until it no longer feels gritty when rubbed between your fingers, and it registers at least 70˚c / 160˚f on a thermometer.
- Carefully transfer to a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Add the vanilla. Whip on high speed until stiff peaks form, approximately 4-5 minutes. Transfer to piping bag.
- Pipe 'kisses', onto the baking paper lined sheets, leaving a small amount of space between each (they will not spread in the oven). You can pipe whatever shape you would like here - blobs, nests, kisses etc. Finish with red sprinkles if desired.
- Place the baking sheets into the oven. Bake for 2 to 2 ½ hours, or until they feel firm and no longer sticky, and peel cleanly off the paper when you lift them up. Turn off the oven, and leave them in there for at least an additional hour to dry out and crisp up.
- Store in an airtight container until ready to use.
VANILLA BEAN MACARONS WITH VANILLA BEAN SWISS MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM
VANILLA BEAN SWISS MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM
- Place the egg whites, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer or a heat proof bowl. Place over a pot of simmering water, ensuring that the water does not touch the bowl. Heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture registers 160˚f / 70˚c on a thermometer and the sugar has dissolved. Carefully transfer the bowl to the mixer, and fit with the whisk attachment. Whip the egg whites on high until they are snowy white and fluffy, 8-10 minutes. Add the butter one chunk at a time. The mixture may look curdled - but just keep mixing! Once all the butter is incorporated, mix on high for a further 10 minutes. Add the vanilla and mix until incorporated.
- Once the buttercream has finished mixing, and is smooth and silky, add in the vanilla bean paste. Mix for a further 2-3 minutes, then switch to the paddle attachment and mix on low for one minute to remove any air.
- Transfer the buttercream to a piping bag fitted with a round attachment (such as an ateco #805) Match the macaron shells up so that they are in pairs of equal size.
- Pipe a blob of buttercream on one half of the macaron, and place the second half on top, pressing lightly. Macarons are best after an overnight rest in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before eating.
VANILLA BEAN MARSHMALLOWS
- Sift together the corn starch and powdered sugar. Spray an 8” baking tin (20cm) with cooking spray, or grease with butter, then liberally dust with the corn starch and powdered sugar mixture. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the first measure of water and gelatine. Mix well with a fork, and leave to bloom while you prepare the sugar syrup.
- In a medium pot, combine the water, honey, vanilla, and sugar. Heat over medium to high heat, stirring occasionally. Heat until the syrup reaches 240˚f /120˚c, then remove from the heat and leave to cool to 210˚f /100˚c.
- Turn the mixer on to medium, and mix for a few seconds to help break up the bloomed gelatin. With the mixer running, VERY carefully pour the hot sugar syrup into the mixer. Turn the speed up to high, and whip for 4-5 minutes, until the marshmallow has doubled in volume, has turned white, and holds somewhat of a peak when you stop the mixer and lift out the whisk. Scrape into the prepared baking tin and spread with an oiled offset spatula, smoothing as much as possible. Dust liberally with the corn starch mixture and allow to cure for at least 1-2 hours. Turn out onto a board, dust with more corn starch mixture, and cut into squares using a knife dipped in the corn starch mixture. Roll cut marshmallows in the corn starch mixture.
- Store in an airtight container.
Marshmallow recipe adapted from Bravetart
VANILLA BEAN SALTED CARAMEL NUT MIX
Note: This recipe is very scaleable - it would double very well, and the nuts keep for a long time in an airtight container. Toasting them really helps to bring out the depth of flavour. You can use any nuts you like here.
- 1 cup skinned hazelnuts (I used skinned, if you have nuts with the skin on, rub them together after toasting to remove skins)
- 1 cup walnut halves
- 1 cup pecan halves
- 250g granulated sugar
- 45g (3 Tbsp) water
- 15g (1 Tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 tsp Heilala vanilla bean paste
- 1 Tbsp flaky sea salt (such as maldon)
- Preheat the oven to 350˚f / 180˚c. Spread the nuts onto a rimmed baking sheet. Roast for 10 minutes, shaking the baking sheet frequently, until they smell toasty. Remove from the oven, skin the hazelnuts if needed by rubbing them together in a tea towel, and pour into a large heatproof bowl. Wipe the baking sheet down and line with a silpat mat or parchment paper.
- Place the sugar and water into a medium heavy bottomed saucepan. Place over low to medium heat, without stirring, and washing down the sides of the pot with a pastry brush dipped in water to remove any sugar crystals. Cook, swirling occasionally, until the mixture is amber in colour. Remove from the heat, and add the butter, whisking well to combine. Use caution as it may splatter. Stir in the vanilla, and whisk to combine.
- Pour the caramel mixture over the nuts in the heatproof bowl, and toss well using a silicone spatula to combine.
- Working quickly, dump out onto the lined baking sheet, and separate using two forks. Sprinkle with the flaky sea salt. Leave to cool and harden. Break apart and store in an airtight container.
Recipe adapted from Edmond’s Cookbook
VANILLA BEAN AND PASSIONFRUIT FUDGE
Notes: I used passionfruit pulp to make this - you can either use fresh pulp from fruit, or you can purchase the pulp packaged from some supermarkets - make sure it is unsweetened. You will need a candy thermometer for this - make sure that in the first step you cook the sugar and milk together very slowly to dissolve the sugar so the end product is not grainy.
- 900g granulated sugar
- 190g whole milk
- 225g sweetened condensed milk
- 190g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- ½ tsp salt
- 140g (½ cup) passionfruit pulp
- 2 tsp Heilala vanilla bean paste
- Grease an 8” square (20cm) baking tin with butter, and line with two pieces of parchment, extending over the edges of the tin to form a ‘sling’. Set aside.
- In a heavy bottomed pot, combine the sugar and whole milk. Cook over a low heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat slightly and add the condensed milk, butter, salt, and passionfruit pulp. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reaches 115˚c / 239˚f on a candy thermometer. Remove from the heat and allow to stand for 5 minutes, then transfer to a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Alternatively, use and electric mixer and beat directly in the pot.
- Beat the fudge mixture on high speed for approximately 6 minutes, until it has thickened and lost its gloss. Pour into the prepared tin and spread with an offset spatula. Chill until hardened, then cut into pieces with a sharp knife. Store in the fridge in an airtight container.
Recipe adapted from Edmond’s Cookbook