You can now read 10 articles in a month for free on BostonGlobe.com. Read as much as you want anywhere and anytime for just 99¢.

The Boston Globe

Magazine

Cooking

What goes around

Three traditional crescent cookie recipes.

Apricot, vanilla, and nut crescents.

Jim Scherer / Styling by Catrine Kelty

Apricot, vanilla, and nut crescents.

I know hard-core holiday bakers who, every year, ponder how to shake up the cookie rotation. New recipes usually appear, but old favorites, without which there would be a holiday mutiny among their loved ones, are inevitable. For my friend Nick, his Austrian mother’s Vanillekipferln — vanilla crescents — are nonnegotiable.

Crescent cookies are, in fact, a pan-cultural favorite. In Greece, nut crescents are flavored with brandy (or sometimes ouzo) and occasionally with orange blossom water as well, and served with a thick cloak of confectioners’ sugar. Armenian crescents are altogether different, with a tender, tangy (easy to work with) dough encasing apricot jam and chopped nuts.

GERMAN-AUSTRIAN VANILLA CRESCENTS

Makes about 5 dozen

1 cup vanilla sugar

¾ cup blanched slivered almonds

1¾ cups all-purpose flour

Salt

2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 large egg yolk

Continue reading below

In a food processor, process ½ cup vanilla sugar until very fine, about 20 seconds; set aside. Put the almonds in the food processor and process until very finely ground, about 20 seconds (don’t let them turn into almond butter). Add the flour and ½ teaspoon salt, and pulse to combine.

In a standing mixer at medium-high speed, beat the butter and vanilla sugar until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape the bowl, add the yolk and beat well, scrape, and with the mixer on low, add the flour mixture a third at a time, beating until just incorporated, about 10 seconds after each addition. Scrape the mixture onto a large piece of plastic wrap and knead it several times to bring it together into a single, sticky mass. Wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour.

Place the remaining ½ cup vanilla sugar in a shallow dish and set aside. With rack in middle position, heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Divide the dough into 2-teaspoon portions. Roll each portion into a 3-inch cylinder and bend into crescents. Arrange 1½ inches apart on the sheet and bake until faintly browned around the edges, about 14 minutes, rotating the sheet after 7.

Cool the cookies on the sheet for 4 minutes. Dredge the still-warm crescents in the vanilla sugar, turning them gently; place them on a rack to cool completely. Serve (or store in an airtight container for up to 1 week).

To make vanilla sugar, halve half of a vanilla bean, scrape out the seeds, and shake seeds and pod with 1 cup of sugar in a covered container, then set aside to infuse for at least 48 hours.

Jim Scherer

TIP: To make vanilla sugar, halve half of a vanilla bean, scrape out the seeds, and shake seeds and pod with 1 cup of sugar in a covered container, then set aside to infuse for at least 48 hours.

GREEK NUT CRESCENTS

Makes about 5 dozen

¾ cup blanched slivered almonds, lightly toasted and cooled completely

1¾ cups all-purpose flour

Salt

2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted

1 large egg yolk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 tablespoons brandy

Orange blossom water, optional

In a food processor, process the almonds until very finely ground, about 20 seconds (don’t let them turn into almond butter). Add the flour and ¾ teaspoon salt, and pulse to combine.

Continue reading below

In a standing mixer at medium-high speed, beat the butter and cup confectioners’ sugar until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape the bowl, add the yolk and beat well, scrape, and (with the mixer on low at first) add the vanilla and brandy and beat well. With the mixer back on low, add the flour mixture a third at a time, beating until just incorporated, about 10 seconds after each addition. Scrape dough onto a large piece of plastic wrap and knead it several times. Wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour.

Place the remaining cup confectioners’ sugar in a shallow dish and set aside. With rack in middle position, heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Divide the dough into 2-teaspoon portions. Roll each portion into a 3-inch cylinder and bend into crescents. Arrange 1½ inches apart on the sheet and bake until faintly browned around the edges, about 14 minutes, rotating the sheet after 7.

Cool on the sheet for about 4 minutes. Sprinkle each cookie with 1 drop orange blossom water, if using. Working with still-warm cookies, dredge the crescents in the confectioners’ sugar, turning them gently; place them on a rack to cool. Dredge the cookies in the confectioners’ sugar again just before serving (or store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.).

ARMENIAN APRICOT CRESCENTS

Makes about 3 dozen

1 large egg yolk

cup sour cream

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting

¼ cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling

Salt

2 sticks unsalted butter,cold, cut up, plus 4 tablespoons, melted

½ cup apricot jam, warmed slightly

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1 cup toasted walnuts or pecans, finely chopped

In a small bowl, whisk the yolk and sour cream, and set aside. In a food processor, pulse the flour, 3 tablespoons sugar, and ¾ teaspoon of salt several times. Scatter butter pieces over the mixture and pulse until the mixture has the texture of cornmeal, about 8 3-second pulses. Add the yolk mixture and process just until dough comes together, about 45 seconds. Turn out onto a floured counter, knead, divide it into three portions, wrap, and refrigerate until very firm, at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.

With rack in middle position, heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. In a small bowl, whisk the jam, 1 tablespoon sugar, and the lemon juice until smooth. Rest 1 portion of the dough at room temperature for 5 minutes. Roll out on parchment, dusting with flour as needed, into an 11-inch circle. Spread a third of the jam over dough, leaving ½ inch around edge; sprinkle a third of the nuts over the jam. Cut into 12 equal wedges, then gently roll each wedge into a crescent shape.

Arrange 2 inches apart on the baking sheet. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle each with teaspoon sugar. Bake until set and lightly browned, 22 to 24 minutes, rotating the sheet after 11. Immediately transfer to a rack to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining dough. Serve (or store in an airtight container for up to 1 week).

Send comments to cooking@globe.com.

You have reached the limit of 10 free articles in a month

Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.

  • High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
  • Convenient access across all of your devices
  • Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
  • Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
  • Less than 25¢ a week