I love ooey-gooey-rich-and-chewy cookies as much as the next girl. (Believe me, I sooo do.) But there’s something just as irresistible in the plain-jane category: a perfect, tender butter cookie. Not too crispy; not too crumbly; not at all bendy. Something delicate and buttery and amazing in its very simplicity.
Sable cookies are a French delicacy (known as Punitions), masterfully produced by the best French bakeries. The taste of these cookies evokes a fuzzy memory flashback – you know how only flavor can trigger a special memory from long ago – but I can’t quite place it. Perhaps my grandmother made something similar. She was Austrian and could’ve brought tantalizing 1920′s European baking secrets with her in her little bag of belongings.
It’s Christmas Eve, and I’ve been baking my little head off this week. The stacks of sables cooling on the rack looked a little wan compared to the other colorful treats, despite their fanciful fluted edges. I grabbed a knife and the Nutella jar, intent on making sandwiches of these sandy goodies, taking a quick count to see how many pairs I had. I shoved the lone extra cookie in my mouth, and stopped short. No. No Nutella sandwiches, not for this batch. They’re good to go just as they are. They might not have the glam of, say, rainbow cookies, but they can stand toe-to-toe on taste.
Sable Cookies (Punitions)
Adapted from Boulangerie Poilane in a recipe provided by Dorie Greenspan
|1 1/4||sticks||(5 oz; 140 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature|
|1/2||cup||slightly rounded (or 125 g) (see note about about this measurement) sugar|
|1||large||egg, at room temperature|
|2||cups||(280 g) all-purpose flour|
1. Put the butter in the work bowl of a food processor* fitted with the metal blade and process, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until the butter is smooth. Add the sugar and process and scrape until thoroughly blended into the butter. Add the egg and continue to process, scraping the bowl as needed, until the mixture is smooth and satiny. Add the flour all at once, then pulse 10-15 times, until the dough forms clumps and curds and looks like streusel.
2. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and gather it into a ball. Divide the ball in half, shape each half into a disk, and wrap the disks in plastic. If you have the time, chill the disks until they are firm, about 4 hours. If you’re in a hurry, you can roll the dough out immediately; it will be a little stickier, but fine. (The dough can be wrapped airtight and refrigerated for up to 4 days or frozen for up to 1 month.) (SoupAddict’s note: I chilled the disks for about an hour. They’re going to warm up quickly as you work them anyway, so, a 4-hour chill will be quickly undone. The keys to avoiding sticky dough: 1) lay down a very light dusting of flour on the work surface before placing the dough; 2) keep your rolling pin lightly floured throughout the entire process; and, 3) be patient – roll in only one direction at a time, starting from the center outward.)
3. Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
4. Working with one disk at a time (keeping the other in the fridge), roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface until it is between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick. (SoupAddict’s note: I have a silpin rolling pin – which I love – and purchased those measured-thickness rubberbands that go on the ends that help you roll out dough to a specific, even thickness. It worked perfectly.) Using a 1-1/2-inch round cookie cutter (SoupAddict’s note: I used a fluted cutter to create the scalloped edges), cut out as many cookies as you can and place them on the lined sheets, leaving about 1 inch space between them. (Gather the scraps into a disk and stick them in freezer for a few minutes. Then roll, cut, and bake them as well.)
5. Bake the cookies for 8 to 10 minutes, or until they are set but pale. (If some of the cookies are thinner than the others, the thin ones may brown around the edges.) Transfer the cookies to cooling racks to cool to room temperature.
Keeping: The cookies can be kept in a tin at room temperature for about 5 days or wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 1 month.
* Though they were originally made by hand, Greenspan encourages the food processor, because it works so quickly, you can get that “quintessential sandy texture that is the hallmark of these plain cookies.” (SoupAddict’s note: I used my stand mixer, and it produced a lovely, sandy dough, as you can see from the photo, above, of the beater blade.)