Vanilla Dreams

Recipe by PJ Hamel

The ultra-tender, extra-crunchy texture of these cookies is unlike anything you can get using baking powder or baking soda. The secret? Baker's ammonia, a.k.a. ammonium carbonate; possibly available at your local pharmacy, and certainly available here at King Arthur. Can these cookies be made without baker's ammonia? Sure; just substitute baking powder. Just be aware their texture won't reflect what we've just described.

15 mins
25 to 30 mins
40 mins
4 dozen cookies
Vanilla Dreams


  1. Preheat the oven to 300°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets.

  2. Combine the vanilla, baker's ammonia, and salt in a very small bowl. Stir to dissolve the ammonia; the salt won't fully dissolve. Combine the vanilla mixture with the sugar and butter, and beat until smooth.

  3. Mix in the flour; the mixture will seem quite dry and crumbly at first, but continue mixing until the dough comes together.

  4. Break off pieces of dough about the size of a shelled chestnut (about 1/2 ounce); a teaspoon cookie scoop works well here. Roll the pieces into balls. Space them on the prepared baking sheets, leaving 1 1/2" between them.

  5. For somewhat sweeter cookies with the added crunch of sugar topping, roll them in coarse or granulated sugar before placing them on the baking sheets.

  6. Use the bottom of a glass, dipped in sugar if necessary to prevent sticking, to flatten the balls to about 3/8" thick. If you have it, use the end of the food pusher from a food processor; many of these have a circular, ridged pattern on their end, which imprints the cookies with a nice design.

  7. Bake the cookies until they're a very light golden brown around the edges, about 25 minutes.

  8. Remove them from the oven, and transfer them to a rack to cool.

  9. To dip cookies: Crush the pecans finely, either by putting them in a zip-top plastic bag and pounding, or in a food processor.

  10. Combine the chocolate chips and vegetable oil in a microwave-safe cup. Microwave till the chocolate softens, then stir till it melts completely.

  11. Use a pastry brush to pain the bottom of each cookie with chocolate.

  12. Dip in the crushed nuts.

  13. Place cookies, chocolate-side up, on a piece of parchment or cookie sheet to set.

  14. Store shortbread, well wrapped, for up to a week; freeze for longer storage. The flavor improves as the shortbread ages.

Tips from our Bakers

  • Want to substitute salted butter for unsalted? Reduce the salt in the recipe to 1/2 teaspoon.