Recipe for Vanilla-Bean Sables, from Baking Chez Moi: Recipes from My Paris Home to Your Home Anywhere
Author Dorie Greenspan on Vanilla-Bean Sables:
In the American world of cookies, the chocolate chip is the icon. In the French world, it’s the sablé, a simple shortbread cookie notable for its fine texture—snappy around the edges, cakier in the center—its fresh butter flavor and, often, its bit of saltiness. While the French have hundreds of cookies, half a hundred of them are probably based on the sablé. Chocolate chip? Just add chips. Lemon? Orange? Hazelnut? Caramel? Ditto. It’s the tabula rasa of French cookiedom. It also happens to be my favorite cookie.
Sablé, which means “sandy,” is both the cookie’s name and the adjective that best describes its characteristic texture. To get the sandy-ish shortbread texture, you need to mix the dough at low speed so you don’t add air to it and, most important, once the flour goes in, you’ve got to work quickly and gently—you want to beat the dough as little as possible. Often I’ll add the flour, pulse the mixer on and off to get the blending going and then do the rest of the mixing by hand. Whether you continue with the machine or with hand power, the key is not to overdo it.
Cooks&Books&Recipes Featured Cook Donna:
The recipe I chose to make from Baking Chez Moi was Vanilla-Bean Sables. These vanilla-forward cookies are a shortbread with fine, sandy texture. They look like they could be hard or brittle, but instead they give way easily and practically melt in your mouth.
This is the ideal cookie recipe for the person who wants to stop creaming, beating, or blending when things are “good enough” — because the key to success with this recipe is to show some restraint and don’t over-mix, over-beat, or over-blend.
I loved the addition of the sanding sugar around the edges of these cookies. I used red and white sugars, but this is a great way to dress up your cookies for any holiday — or for no reason at all.
Featured Recipe From: Baking Chez Moi: Recipes from My Paris Home to Your Home Anywhere
Yield: 36 cookies
- 1/3 cup (67 grams) sugar
- 2 moist, fragrant vanilla beans or 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 2 sticks (8 ounces; 226 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/3 cup (40 grams) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 large egg yolk
- 2 cups (272 grams) all-purpose flour
For the edging:
- 1 large egg yolk
- Sanding sugar
Put the granulated sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl in which you can use a hand mixer. If you are using vanilla beans, cut them in half lengthwise and scrape the pulp over the sugar. (Save the pods for another use or stash them in a canister of sugar to make vanilla sugar.) Using your fingertips, rub the vanilla pulp into the sugar until it’s fragrant. (If you’re using extract, you’ll add it later.)
Add the butter, confectioners’ sugar and salt to the bowl and beat on low speed until the mixture is smooth and creamy (you don’t want it to get light and fluffy), scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Drop in the egg yolk and beat for 1 minute. If you’re using vanilla extract, beat it in now. Add the flour all at once and pulse the mixer on and off to start incorporating it into the dough. Mix on low speed just until the flour has disappeared (or do this last little bit by hand with a flexible spatula).
Turn the dough out onto a work surface and divide it in half. Shape each half into a log about 9 inches long. (To learn how to get really tight logs, see page 61) Wrap the logs in parchment or plastic film and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. (If you’d like, you can wrap the logs airtight and freeze them for up to 2 months. Let the logs sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes before cutting and baking; no need to fully defrost.)
When you’re ready to bake: Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
Add a splash of cold water to the yolk and mix with a fork to blend. Brush each log with this egg wash and roll it in sanding sugar until it’s evenly coated. Using a sturdy knife, trim the ends of the logs if they’re ragged, then cut the dough into ½-inch-thick rounds. Place them on the baking sheets, about 2 inches apart.
Bake the cookies for 18 to 22 minutes, rotating the baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back at the midway point. The cookies are baked when they are brown around the edges and golden on the bottom. Carefully transfer them to a cooling rack and cool to room temperature. These really shouldn’t be eaten warm; they need time to cool so that their texture will set properly.
Serving: I think of these as tea biscuits, café cookies, after-school treats, grown-up nibbles and midnight snacks—I serve them anytime.
Storing: You can wrap the logs of dough airtight and keep them in the freezer for up to 2 months; coat them with the egg wash and sugar just before baking. Once baked, the cookies will keep at room temperature in a closed container for about 1 week.
This recipe can be the base of several other cookies or the recipe you can build your own cookie dreams on. Here are a few suggestions.
Lemon Sablés: Keep the vanilla bean or extract, and rub the grated zest of 1½ lemons into the sugar.
Orange Sablés: Keep the vanilla bean or extract, and rub the grated zest of 1 orange into the sugar.
Cocoa Sablés: Reduce the amount of all-purpose flour to 1¾ cups and sift it with ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder. Use just 1 vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract and, if you’d like, mix in 2 ounces finely chopped semisweet or bittersweet chocolate once the flour is incorporated.
Nut Sablés: Lightly toast ½ cup hazelnuts (skin them while they are still warm), almonds, pistachios or other nuts, finely chop them and mix them into the dough once the flour is incorporated.
Spice Sablés: Whisk your favorite spices into the flour before adding it to the dough. Try ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon ground ginger and a pinch of ground cloves for holiday cookies; or just use ¾ to 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon. Reduce the vanilla to ½ to 1 bean or ½ teaspoon extract.
© 2014 Dorie Greenspan
Reprinted with permission from Baking Chez Moi: Recipes from My Paris Home to Your Home Anywhere, by Dorie Greenspan (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)