Lace these sugar cookies with a double hit of vanilla from the seeds and extract of the vanilla bean. Frost the cookies white, and sprinkle them wth iridescent glitter; they'll look like delicate snowflakes.
Cut vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Carefully scrape out seeds, using a small sharp knife. Set seeds aside.
Beat butter in a large mixing bowl at medium speed of an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add sugar and vanilla bean seeds, beating until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla extract, mixing well.
Combine flour and salt; gradually add to butter mixture, beating until smooth. Shape dough into four discs. Wrap each in plastic wrap, and chill at least 1 hour.
Roll each disc to 1/4" thickness on a lightly floured surface. Cut with 3" and 4" snowflake, star, angel, or Christmas tree cutters. Place on lightly greased cookie sheets. Bake at 350° for 8 to 10 minutes or until edges of cookies are lightly browned. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheets; remove to wire racks, and cool completely.
Combine 1/2 cup white chocolate morsels and 1 tablespoon shortening in a 1-cup glass measure. Melt morsels according to package directions.
Place cookies on a wire rack over wax paper. Pour or spread white chocolate mixture over each cookie, tilting cookie to coat completely. Sprinkle cookies with glitter and sparkling sugar. Let stand until frosting hardens. Repeat procedure with remaining white morsels, shortening, glitter, and sugar until all cookies are decorated.
We used a 6" cooper snowflake cookie cutter to yeild 1 dozen big cookies that baked 12 minutes. Before baking, we poked holes in each cookie with a drinking straw. Once we decorated and dried them, we wrapped cookies in celophane bags and tied them with ribbon. We taped each ribbon to the top of the mantel using masking tape, and then covered the tape with plastic bags and the bags with pots of poinsettias.
Christmas with Southern Living 2000