Sunday, November 06, 2011

Sables




People ask me what my favorite thing is to bake, I always answer beaming with confidence. Cookies.

Shortbread to chocolate chip to carrot cake sandwiches. I love cookies. Cookies without flour. Cookies. Cookies. Cookies. Letting the dough rest, baking until fragrant, developing unique flavors and textures all go into the beauty of baking cookies.

If you ask what to try from the pastry case I will hand you a cookie. Invite me to a dinner party and I will bring a plate of cookies to munch on for dessert. I took cookies to my favorite Mexican restaurant. Recently I had some work done on my teeth, the dentist asked for cookies in exchange.

The key to enjoy baking is to be efficient about the process. I have a few master recipes for cookies that I enjoy and know that work for me, I take these base recipes and slightly tweak it depending on what I have on hand. As an example, recently I made a double batch of sable dough and added a few sprigs of finely chopped rosemary to half the batch and rolled the other half in crushed Texan pecans.


Sables
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan's, Baking

MAKES ABOUT 50 COOKIES

2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted before measuring
1/2 teaspoon salt, preferably sea salt
2 large egg yolks, preferably at room temperature
2 cups all-purpose flour.

For the decoration (optional):
1 egg yolk
Crystal or dazzle sugar.

1. Working in a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter at medium speed until it is smooth and very creamy. Add the sugars and salt and continue to beat until smooth and velvety, not fluffy and airy, about 1 minute. Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in 2 egg yolks, again beating until well blended.

2. Turn off the mixer, pour in the flour, drape a kitchen towel over the mixer and pulse the mixer about 5 times at low speed for 1 or 2 seconds each time. Take a peek; if there is still a lot of flour on the surface of the dough, pulse a couple of more times; if not, remove the towel. Continuing at low speed, stir for about 30 seconds more, just until the flour disappears into the dough and the dough looks uniformly moist. If you still have some flour on the bottom of the bowl, stop mixing and use a rubber spatula to work the rest of it into the dough. (The dough will not 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 dough. When pinched, it should feel a little like Play-Doh.)

3. Scrape the dough onto a 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 chill them for at least 2 hours. The dough may be kept in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months.

4. When ready to bake, center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper and keep it at the ready.

5. To decorate the edges of the sables, whisk the egg yolk until smooth. Place one log of chilled dough on a piece of waxed paper and brush it with yolk (the glue), and then sprinkle the entire surface of the log with sugar. Trim the ends of the roll if they are ragged and slice the log into 1/3-inch-thick cookies.

6. Place the rounds on the baking sheet, leaving an inch of space between each cookie, and bake for 17 to 20 minutes, rotating the baking sheet at the halfway point. When properly baked, the cookies will be light brown on the bottom, lightly golden around the edges and pale on top. Let the cookies rest 1 or 2 minutes before carefully lifting them onto a cooling rack with a wide metal spatula. Repeat with the remaining log of dough. (Make sure the sheet is cool before baking each batch.)

Variations:

Lemon Sables Before mixing the butter and sugar together, pour the sugar in a bowl with the grated zest of 1 to 1 1/2 lemons. Work the zest and sugar together with your fingertips until the mixture is moist and aromatic, then cream it with the butter in the mixer.

Parmesan Sables Replace sugars with 3/4 cup very finely grated Parmesan added to the beaten butter. A few grains of fleur de sel may be gently pressed into the top of each sable before the baking sheet is slipped into the oven.

1 comment:

  1. Gotta love them cookies! Whenever I bake for school bakesales, I always seem to bake chocolate chip cookies. These sables look delicious! I can't wait to try the Parmesan version.

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