Published November 1, 2008.
During the holidays, these French butter cookies offer sophistication and style from simple pantry ingredients. That is, if you can capture their elusive sandy texture.
Most of the recipes we came across had only slight differences in ingredient proportions between American and French butter cookies and they all baked up without the delicate crumbliness that defines sablés. To create the hallmark sandy texture—light, with an inviting granular texture similar to shortbread—of sablés, we would have to do some detective work.
We wanted the lightness and inviting sandy, granular texture that separates French butter cookies, or sablés, from sturdy American butter cookies.
We started with a basic recipe using the typical method of creaming butter and sugar in a stand mixer, then adding egg and flour. We then rolled the dough into a log, chilled it, and sliced and baked—but these cookies were missing the delicate crumbliness that defines sablés. We needed to decrease the liquid in the dough so there would be less moisture to dissolve the sugar particles. Cutting back on butter helped, but still didn’t capture the elusive crumbliness. Using a yolk-only dough was a giant step in the right direction, but we wanted to push the recipe even further to produce supremely sandy, crystalline sablés. When we came across sablé recipes that called for a hard-cooked egg yolk in the dough, we were tempted to ignore this unlikely ingredient. These recipes claimed that the hard-cooked yolk would deliver a sandy cookie. Skeptical, but intrigued, we cooked and cooled an egg and added the mashed yolk to the butter and sugar during creaming. Voilà! This unusual step eliminated moisture and perfected the texture of the cookies. Brushing the cookies with a beaten egg white and sprinkling them with coarse turbinado sugar before baking added a delicate crunch and an attractive sparkle.list of recipes