Tuesday, December 8, 2009

TWD: Sablés

This week's recipe for Tuesdays with Dorie is for the French shortbread-style cookies known as Sablés, chosen by -- me! (For the recipe, scroll down to the bottom of this post.)


When I joined TWD in June of 2008, I wasn't really concerned about when I would get to choose a recipe. I figured I'd just try these blogging and bake-along activities for a while and see if I liked them. And the rest is history...

Thank you to our founder Laurie and all the TWD bakers for such a great time! I hope you enjoyed these cookies and look forward to seeing all your variations. I made three batches -- plain sablés rolled in colored sugar, lemon sablés, and lime sablés shaped as rectangles. (I used whole beaten egg rather than egg yolk to brush the outsides of the sugared ones. I have too many left-over egg whites already!)

Why do some of them have yellow or green dots on top, you may ask? Good question! Come back Tuesday evening for my post on the results of the Sablé Scientific Experiments. (Sorry, it took until Wednesday but the results are up now.)

Meanwhile, here are three hints for shaping cookie dough logs. This first one is from one of Nick Malgieri's cookbooks -- put the dough on wax paper, wrap the paper around and leave a "tail" (see picture), and use something thin and firm to push/pull the roll into shape. (I used a thin plastic cutting mat.) Push your mat (or whatever) into the fold of the wax paper and gently pull the bottom layer of wax paper towards you. Don't be too vigorous or you'll tear the wax paper (parchment is stronger, but more expensive).

Tightening the roll

Second, here's a nice way to make sure your logs don't flatten out when you chill them -- cut open the cardboard tube from the center of a paper towel roll, and use it to hold the wrapped dough until it is firm.

And when you slice the rolls, rotate them a bit after every one or two cuts. It keeps them from flattening too much on one side.

Edited to add: thanks to the folks who noticed that these last two hints are also in Dorie's book, on page 137.

For the rectangular lime sablés, I used Dorie's trick from the Pecan Shortbreads on page 127, and put the dough into two small plastic bags to chill. I ended up with two rectangles, each about 6 inches by 6 1/2 inches. Then I used a ruler and a long knife to cut them into smaller rectangles.

Sablé shaping tools

How do they taste? Well, they've only been out of the oven an hour or so. They're good now, but I know from previous experience that Dorie is right -- they are much better the next day. It's so hard to wait...

Recipe

from "Baking: From My Home to Yours," pages 131-133
by Dorie Greenspan
(Note: weights added by Bungalow Barbara)

Sablés, rich, tender shortbread cookies, are as popular in France as chocolate chip cookies are in America. And for several good reasons: the pure flavor of butter, the cookie's key player; a paradoxical but paradisical texture -- the cookie is both crumbly and melt-in-your-mouth tender; and it has an anytime rightness that makes it as perfect with a tall glass of milk, a bowl of ice cream or a basket of berries as it is on a petits fours tray in France's grandest restaurants. I learned to make sablés in Paris working with some of the city's best pâtissiers, and this master recipe is based on what they taught me -- the Playing Around variations are my American riffs on their standard.

The dough for sablés is shaped into logs and then sprinkled with sugar before it is sliced and baked. During the year, I coat the logs with sparkly white decorating sugar. When the holidays come around, I double the recipe and go mad with color, sprinkling some of the logs with brilliant red sugar, some with green and some with a rainbow mix. Trimmed in color and packed in festive tins, these make terrific Christmas cookies.

If you're new to sablés, take a look at the pointers (below) before you set to work.

2 sticks (1 cup / 8 ounces / 227 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar (3.5 oz. / 100 gm.)
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted (1.0 oz. / 28 gm.)
1/2 teaspoon salt, preferably fine sea salt
2 large egg yolks (7 teaspoons / 35 ml. / 1.3 oz. / 37 gm.), at room temperature, plus 1 large egg yolk, for brushing the logs
2 cups all-purpose flour (9.6 oz. / 272 gm.)
Decorating (coarse) sugar

Makes about 50 cookies

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter at medium speed until smooth and very creamy. Add the sugars and salt and beat until well blended, about 1 minute. The mixture should be smooth and velvety, not fluffy and airy. Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in 2 of the egg yolks, again beating until the mixture is homogeneous.

Turn off the mixer. Pour in the flour, drape a kitchen towel over the stand mixer to protect yourself and the counter from flying flour and pulse the mixer at low speed about 5 times, a second or two each time. Take a peek -- if there is still a lot of flour on the surface of the dough, pulse a couple more times; if not, remove the towel. Continuing at low speed, mix for about 30 seconds more, just until the flour disappears into the dough and the dough looks uniformly moist. (If most of the flour is incorporated but you've still got some in the bottom of the bowl, use a rubber spatula to work the rest of the flour into the dough.) The dough will not clean the sides of the bowl, nor will it come together in a ball -- and it shouldn't. You want to work the dough as little as possible. What you're aiming for is a soft, moist, clumpy (rather than smooth) dough. Pinch it, and it will feel a little like Play-Doh.

This is how you want your dough to look. (This is a half-batch.)

Scrape the dough out onto a smooth work surface, gather it into a ball and divide it in half. Shape each piece into a smooth log about 9 inches long: it's easiest to work on a piece of plastic wrap and use the plastic to help form the log. Wrap the logs well and refrigerate them for at least 3 hours, preferably longer. (The dough can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months.)

GETTING READY TO BAKE: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

Remove a log of dough from the refrigerator, unwrap it and place it on a piece of parchment or wax paper. Whisk the remaining egg yolk until it is smooth, and brush some of the yolk all over the sides of the dough -- this is the glue -- then sprinkle the entire surface of the log with decorating sugar.

Trim the ends of the roll if they're ragged, and slice the log into 1/3-inch-thick cookies. (You can make these as thick as 1/2 inch or as thin as -- but no thinner than -- 1/4 inch.) Place the rounds on the baking sheets, leaving an inch of space between them.

Bake one sheet at a time for 17 to 20 minutes, rotating the baking sheet at the midway point. When properly baked, the cookies will be light brown on the bottom, lightly golden around the edges and pale on top; they may feel tender when you touch the top gently, and that's fine. Remove from the oven and let the cookies rest a minute or two before carefully lifting them onto a rack with a wide metal spatula to cool to room temperature.
(Note from Barbara: mine only took about 14-15 minutes to bake. I did slice them fairly thin.)

Repeat with the remaining log of dough, making sure the baking sheets are cool before you bake the second batch.

SERVING: Serve these with anything from lemonade to espresso.

STORING: The cookies will keep in a tin at room temperature for about 5 days. If you do not sprinkle the sablés with sugar, they can be wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 2 months. Because the sugar will melt in the freezer, the decorated cookies are not suitable for freezing.

Playing Around

LEMON SABLÉS: Working in a small bowl, using your fingers, rub the grated zest of 1 to 1 1/2 lemons (depending on your taste) into the granulated sugar until the sugar is moist and very aromatic, then add this and the confectioners' sugar to the beaten butter. (Sablés can also be made with orange or lime zest; vary the amount of zest as you please.)

PECAN SABLÉS: Reduce the amount of flour to 1 1/2 cups, and add 1/2 cup very finely ground pecans to the mixture after you have added the sugars. (In place of pecans, you can use ground almonds, hazelnuts or walnuts.) If you'd like, instead of sprinkling the dough logs with sugar, sprinkle them with very finely chopped pecans or a mixture of pecans and sugar.

SPICE SABLÉS: Whisk 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger and 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg into the flour.

PARMESAN SABLÉS: For savory sablés that are ideal with aperitifs, omit both the granulated and confectioners' sugar and add 3/4 cup (2 1/4 ounces) very finely grated Parmesan to the beaten butter. These are fine plain, but the logs can also be brushed with beaten egg yolk and sprinkled with finely chopped almonds. If you love salt, press a few grains of fleur de sel gently into the top of each sablé before slipping the baking sheet into the oven.

Tips for Shortbreads and Sablés, from p. 124 of "Baking: From My Home to Yours"

What you call the fabulously buttery, slightly gritty, tender, sandy-textured cookies that are so right with tea or coffee may depend on where you live. In France, the cookies are known as sablés, galettes or palets; in Scotland, they're shortbread; and here, at home, they are shortbread, sand tarts or simply butter cookies.

At their most elemental and traditional, shortbreads and their kin are made of butter, sugar -- either granulated or confectioners', or a combination of the two -- and flour. And, although some recipes have an egg or two, or maybe just yolks, it's not the eggs that define the cookies, it's the other ingredients and, most important, how you handle them.

Here's all you need to know to get perfectly crumbly shortbread or sablés every time.

  • Use fresh butter that is soft, but not at all greasy -- if your butter is sitting in an oily puddle, it's gone too soft and your sablés won't have their characteristic sandiness.

  • Don't beat the butter (or the butter, sugar and eggs) so enthusiastically that the mixture is light and fluffy. You don't want to beat air into this dough, because it would cause the cookies to puff as they bake in the oven and sink as they cool on the counter.

  • Be soft and gentle when you blend in the flour. This is the make-or-break step in the process. With the word "sandy" singing in your head, add the flour all at once and mix it only until it disappears into the dough. To guard against overmixing, you can mix in the last of the flour by hand.

  • Shape the dough as the recipe directs and then make sure to give it a good, long chill; it will improve the flavor of the cookies and help them keep their shape under the oven's heat. Try to refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours, but know that longer is better.

  • Cool the cookies completely before you serve them. As seductive as the smell of warm butter, sugar and flour is, the cookies taste better when they reach room temperature.

You can also find the recipe at this link on the NPR web site (scroll down a bit). And for tips on cookie-baking in general, see this link. Edited to add: thanks for the folks who spotted the recipe at this link as well -- and see the article, too!

74 comments:

gartblue said...

Barbara dear,

thanks for posting the sables recipe here .. i made thousands of cookies, but have never done the lemon version .. am thrilled to try now ..

thanks heaps.

mike said...

Wow, that's a fantastic post! Copied and pasted onto a baking journal page (for me)! Thanks Barbara for choosing such a great recipe. I loved the spice version and can't wait to try the others. I completely forgot about the ziploc technique (such a great one). And your platter of sables looks truly delicous!

LDH said...

Hi Barbara! Really enjoyed this recipe ~ thank you for your pick and the great photos you have included as a guide. I am excited to try some of the variations now that I have made the original recipe.

Kindly, ldh

chocolatechic said...

Thanks so much for picking these.

They are such a wonderful cookie.

I love them.

Isabelle said...

merci beaucoup Barbara pour le choix de cette recette. Ces sablés sont fantastiques, dès qu'on commence à en manger, on ne peut plus s'arrêter :)

Bridget said...

Thanks for a fun choice. These were such simple but delicious cookies. I love how the primary flavor is butter!

Nina said...

Barbara, Thanks for picking such a great recipe! Perfect for this month. I can't wait to try the other versions. Also--thanks for the great tips and techniques for these-very helpful!! Your cookies look delicious!

Pamela said...

I agree with Mike, Barbara. You did a terrific job with the post. So thorough and informative! I tried to remember to save the paper towel rolls, but of course, I forgot. Delicious recipe!! Excellent choice.

ButterYum said...

Congratulations Barbara! Great tips, especially the paper towel one!

:)
ButterYum

Romaine said...

Love the tutorial on making nice rolls. Just rotating the roll every couple of slices is something simple I never thought of before.

Judy said...

I've been freezing my leftover eggwhites in the hopes that I'll remember they're there and use them for meringue cookies or angel food cake.

Flourchild said...

Thank you Barbara for such a great choice this week! I enjoyed making the cookies. I also enjoyed reading your post, especially the rolling of the dough technique. I will do that next time!

Clivia said...

Thanks for choosing the perfect seasonal cookie! I'll be back for the results of the experiment.

myfamousrecipe said...

Since several of my sables were much closer to oblong than round, I especially appreciate the tips on making a perfect roll of cookie dough. Thanks!

Valerina said...

Thank you for hosting this week's recipe! And thanks for those helpful tips for the dough. I'm looking forward to finding out about the scientific experiment.:)

Amanda said...

Great tips Barbara, thank you! And thank you for hosting this week, the cookies were great!

Jennifer said...

I had a bad experience last year with the Linzer sables and I was scared to make these. Thanks for choosing a recipe that will now make it into every holiday rotation...these were simply delicious!!!!!!

Nancy/n.o.e said...

I hear you on the egg whites! I almost used milk, and will do that, or a whole egg, next time. Luckily next week's cookies are egg whites only, and I thought they were good/interesting enough to make a few batches with variations.

Thanks for the ton of helpful tips and info - I've linked back to your post.

Lauryn said...

wow, look at all those beautiful sables!!1 Great job! And thanks for a great pick this week!!!

Teanna said...

Thanks for the great pick! I messed them up terribly, but they were still delicious!

Karen said...

Nice!! I love the tips for these! Thanks for a yummy easy pick.

Sweet and Savory said...

Thanks for the clarity in this post. Your tips are invaluable. Excellent choice. Yours are beautiful.

Kim said...

Great pick. I love that you made so many variations. They all look wonderful.

Judy said...

Great choice! These are delicious cookies. I also like the tips you gave in your write-up about keeping the cookies round.

Mary said...

Great pick. I also loved your tips about how to make a roll and how to keep the cookies round..>I will try that next time!

vibi said...

Thank you so much for such a great pick this week... easy to make and well worth keeping as an heirloom recipe! WOW... we loved them and they dissapeared in no time! Thanks!

Yours are super festive... I can imagine you making them along with Christmas music, in your bungalow! LOL

miss kate said...

Thanks for choosing these--they're fabulous!

Erin said...

You have such a nice assortment! Great pick!

bakingwiththeboys said...

Great informative post. And thanks for the nice simple recipe this month!

Susan said...

I love all the variations of cookies you did. And thank you sooo much for posting all the extra info. That was very kind of you. I enjoyed baking with you this week. Great choice!

Becky said...

great tips on shaping the dough. i am going to keep that in mind next time i make them.

thanks for choosing such a delicious and versatile recipe!

Jaime said...

great pick, I loved these! and i love the tips you gave - I learned something new/useful :)

Mary Ann said...

The hints on shaping dough would have been handy for me before I made these, but at least I know for next time.
All your variations look great!
Thanks for a great choice this week!

Cakelaw said...

Thanks for hosting us this week Barabra. Love all of your different varieties of sables - fabulous!! Also, thanks for the cookie making tips. I always end up with flat logs when baking cookies this way, so I get odd shaped cookies. Must remember both tips for getting round cookies.

Stephanie said...

You made an incredible choice! Thank you!

Leslie said...

Great pick, Barbara! I can't wait to make them again with your shaping tips. All of your different varieties look delicious!

Raelynn said...

BRAVO to you Barbara...I, as well as my husband LOVED these cookies!!! GREAT CHOICE!!!

dharmagirl said...

i loved these barbara, so simple and delicious. thanks for a lovely choice!

Jess said...

Thank you so much for picking these, Barbara - this is one of those rare recipes that I'll be repeating for life. Yours all look fantastic. Thanks, too, for the dough-log-forming tips!

dorie said...

This is such a good post and I love the way your Sables look. I can't wait to find out about your experiment and the different colored sugar dots.

jillbert said...

Hi Barbara, thank you for the wonderful selection this week! I am a true lover of butter cookies, and although I wasn't sure about these at first, they turned out to be delicious. Yours look wonderful with the different colors. I'll use your shaping tips the next time I make them!

Madam Chow said...

Great pick - we loved these!

Heather B said...

Thanks for the great pick! The sables were delicious!

Amber Marie said...

Great pick Barbara! I'm so impressed that you made so many variations! Which was your favorite? I made the spiced version & they were yummy!

Engineer Baker said...

Adored this choice - what a relief after such complicated desserts to have such an un-fussy and delicious cookie! Thanks so much!

Annette said...

Great pick! I really enjoyed making (and eating) these. :) I wish I had known about the paper towel roll trick as mine flattened out a bit while they were chilling. I will definitely try it next time.

Anne said...

Thanks for an awesome pick- these are an instant favorite around here!

foodie ffanatic said...

I LOVE shortbread cookies! Having never made them, I really appreciate all of your tips.

Jenna ("Foo") said...

Yours look so nice!! Mine looked so ... not nice! But they certainly are tasty. I'm going to try again with the technique you used with the paper towel. And not undermixing...

Katrina said...

What a great, fun pick, Barbara! Wow, you went to town with these cookies! And darn, if only I'd have had your tutorial for making round logs beforehand! ;) Glad to know what to do now!

cynthia said...

Thanks so much for choosing this recipe.
I don't know how I missed it in the past.

Jacque said...

Thanks for a great (and easy, whew!) pick. Our family really enjoyed them.

The lemon and lime ones sounds yummy.

Di said...

Great pic, Barbara! Looking forward to hearing about your experiment. =)

TeaLady said...

Great pick. Nice and simple and delicious. Anxious to try all the variations for gifts.

Mimi said...

Barbara,
Thanks for picking such a delicious recipe. Your post was outstanding, all of the techniques and tips.
Mimi

Rhiani said...

Barbara - thanks for hosting this week, my husband thanks you too as these cookies were right up his alley!

The Food Librarian said...

Great pick! Lots of fun. Love the shaping tips too! - mary the food librarian

ostwestwind said...

Thanks for picking the sablés this week. They fit perfectly into my Xmas baking.

And thanks for stopping by although my post was written in German

Ulrike @Küchenlatein

margot said...

Great choice, Barbara, so perfect for the holiday season. All your variations look and sound amazing. I really enjoy reading your posts, they're always full of great baking tips.

Caroline said...

Great recipe Barbara. I love the varieties that you made! Thanks for all the tips.

spike. said...

Great pick! Love all your decorations

steph- whisk/spoon said...

such a great pick! i've seen so many wonderful versions out there...it was really fun to have a recipe that you could play around with!

Saveurs et Gourmandises said...

Je découvre un blog magnifique. bravo!

The Mrs. said...

Thanks so much for picking Sables. Your post is very informative! I used the paper towel roll to shape the Sables as well and it worked like a charm. Great choice Barbara!

Lillian said...

Better the next day? Really? Guess I'd better double the recipe next time, so I can find out! Thanks so much for choosing this recipe; it's one of my favorites so far.

Liz said...

Wonderful holiday cookie choice! I know what you mean about thinking the day will never come when it's your week...and now it's happened! How fun. We enjoyed these a lot around my house.

Sarah said...

Great post and a wonderful pick! I made the spice and loved them. Definitely planning on trying all of the other variations.

Kimberly Johnson said...

Great pick Barbara! Thanks for sharing the log rolling tips! My cookies came out very oddly shaped LOL!

. said...

Thanks for the recipes and advice. I must print this post.
Thank you.
Alfazema

Kayte said...

Thank you so much for the tips on keeping the roll round, I am going to try all that for sure. Your sables look beautifully delicious. Thanks for picking such a great recipe, they were a big hit around here!

Rachelino said...

Barbara- Love your sable shaping demo! :)

Lynnylu said...

Great post and great job on all your experimentation with the sablés.

Baking Sorceress' Apprentice said...

Wonderful cookies! Made me want to run right over and taste the different ones! joan

Joycee said...

Your detail will help me to recreate this fabulous cookie! Cannot wait to peruse your blog...
joy at grannymountain