Diana's Desserts - www.dianasdesserts.com

Vanilla Easter Nests

Servings: 4 dozen cookies
Have the kids help shape and fill these fun cookies for easter. Or fill with other goodies for different occasions, such as chocolate kisses for Valentine's Day.

1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
1 cup (2 sticks/8oz/226gm) butter, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
3 tbsp. vanilla-sugar mixture* (see note below)
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
Small gourmet jelly beans

In mixer bowl, beat cream cheese, butter, sugar and 1 1/2 tbsp. vanilla-sugar mixture until fluffy. Blend in flour and baking powder. Shape dough into 1"(2.5 cm) balls. Place on baking sheets. Using the handle of wooden spoon or thumb, make a deep indentation in center of each cookie. Bake at 350°F (180°C) for 13-15 minutes or until lightly browned and firm to touch. Transfer cookies to cooling rack. Immediatley sprinkle with remaining vanilla-sugar mixture and fill indentations with jelly beans, forming a nest. Cool.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

How to Make Vanilla-Sugar

Vanilla Sugar is a readily available pantry item in Europe. If you cannot find vanilla sugar at your local supermarket (Vanilla Sugar is usually found on the baking aisle where other sugars are kept), here is a handy substitution that does not use real vanilla beans, which tend to be expensive.

2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Blend the sugar and the vanilla extract in a bowl, then spread it on a tray lined with wax paper or plastic wrap and let it dry for 5 hours.

Press out any lumps or sift through a strainer.

Store it in an air tight plastic container.

Date: June 7, 2003