These cookies are beautiful in their simplicity. They are humble and unpretentious, yet so delicious. Sablé comes from the French word for "sand," but I don't think that it really describes these cookies. They are soft, delicate, sweet without being overwhelmingly so. They are buttery and crumbly, almost melting in your mouth as you take a bite.
Recipes like this, for simple shortbread cookies, remind me how magical the baking really is, to transform a couple basic pantry ingredients into something delicious.
We haven't done step-by-step posts in a while, but I really wanted to capture the process of turning some flour, butter, and sugar into some amazing cookies. So here we go:
Grind together some sugar and lavender in a food processor or go the old-fashioned way with a mortar and pestle.
Whisk that together with some room temperature butter, and then the vanilla. Since there's so few ingredients, you really need some high-quality butter. (I used Kerrygold). Don't even THINK about using margarine or shortening.
Sift together the flour and salt over the butter mixture.
Gently fold in the flour. Don't overwork the dough, or else your cookies will become tough.
Turn the dough out onto a piece of wax paper or plastic wrap. Divide it in two evenly. Pat the dough into a log, and roll it in the wax paper. Do the same for the other log. Refrigerate it for at least two hours, or overnight.
The next day, roll the logs in granulated sugar, slice into 1/4-inch thick pieces, place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, and bake. Alternately, you could roll them out and make cutout cookies.
I dressed my cookies up with some chocolate decorations. To make them, place a stencil over the cookies, and carefully paint over it with a small paintbrush dipped in melted chocolate. In retrospect, this would have worked better if I had made cutout cookies, so that the surface was completely flat.
Click here for the printer-friendly recipe.
Yields: 36-40 cookies
Adapted from the Pierre Herme Pastries cookbook
½ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons dried culinary lavender*
1 cup butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
⅓ cup granulated sugar
2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate (optional
* If you don’t have a food processor, you can add the lavender without grinding it, though the flavor won’t be as developed. Alternatively, you could leave out the lavender altogether, and make some delicious vanilla sables.
**You could also refrigerate the dough in a disk, then roll it out to make cut-out cookies.
In a food processor (or with a mortar and and pestle), grind together the sugar and dried lavender. You don’t have to grind it to a powder, just enough to break up the pieces of lavender.
Whisk together the butter and lavender-sugar until light and fluffy. Whisk in the vanilla. Set aside.
Sift together the flour and salt. Fold the dry ingredients into the butter mixture, until it just comes together. Do not overmix.
Turn the dough onto a piece of wax paper or plastic wrap. Shape the dough into two logs, about 2 inches wide, and wrap them in the paper. Roll the logs around slightly, to make them cylindrical.**
Refrigerate the dough for at least two hours, or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Unwrap the dough. Sprinkle about ⅓ cup of granulated sugar on a cutting board a tabletop, and roll the dough log in granulated sugar.
Slice the dough into about ¼-inch thick disks. Place onto a parchment-lined (or greased) cookie sheet, and bake for about 10-12 minutes, or until the cookies turn golden brown around the edges. Let cool completely.
If desired, decorate with melted chocolate. Place a stencil over the cookies, and with a small brush, paint over it with melted chocolate