Ahhh. The sablé. Think of it as the best shortbread cookie with a crispy sugar-coated edge …cakelike in the center. The flavor is full of butter with a hint of saltiness. Just a hint. The sablé is by far the most popular cookie in all of France. Many variations may be found, but this is the basic cookie. If you want to switch it up, add lemon or orange zest. Or throw in some chopped roasted hazelnuts. Top them off with a few mini dark chocolate chips. Make them yours but first, give these basic beauties a try. You’ll be so glad you did.
Full credit for this recipe must go to the queen of bakers, Dorie Greenspan. In her book, Baking Chez Moi: Recipes from My Paris Home to Your Home Anywhere, Dorie recommends that you use 2 vanilla beans for a batch of cookies. We all know how expensive they are. For those of you who may not know …they are very expensive! Unless you buy them in bulk, one vanilla bean can be priced as high as ten dollars! I had just one bean in my pantry, so I decided to use vanilla bean paste instead. The paste is simply a thicker version of vanilla extract (measures the same as the extract in recipes) but has the added benefit of containing those wonderful tiny black specks that will peek through your baked goodies.
From what I have read, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract or paste is equal to one 2-inch piece of vanilla bean, so one typical vanilla bean can equal up to 3 teaspoons extract. For my adaptation, I used 3 teaspoons of vanilla paste and the flavor was spot on. The vanilla scent strong and appealing …the slight saltiness still able to shine through.
Sablé, which in French translates to “sandy,” is not only the name of the cookie. It also describes the sandy-ish shortbread texture. In order to achieve that, be sure to mix the dough at the lowest speed setting. The goal is to prevent adding air to the dough. In other words, on this one, we’re not going for the typical light and fluffy effect. In fact, when you add the flour at the end, you may choose to do this by hand.
This is where you can convert these delicious cookies to a gluten-free treat. Swap out the all-purpose flour with Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 Baking Flour.
When you’re ready to shape the dough into the all-important logs, do your best to divide it into two equal pieces. I find that I can’t go wrong if I use my digital food scale to check the weight in grams. By measuring each log to about 9 inches, you’ll be sure that the thickness is accurate.
See those vanilla specks peeking through? So good. Now those logs need to hang out in the fridge for at least 3 hours. Overnight is fine, too. Or, if wrapped well, for up to 2 months in the freezer.
For the glittery crunchy effect, I used Bob’s Red Mill Sparkling Sugar. Love that stuff. But really, you can use whatever you have on hand …even plain old granulated sugar. If you want to be over-the-top festive, try some tinted decorative sugar. Anything goes.
It is important to cut the cookie discs from the log into uniform pieces. That way each cookie will bake evenly. And be sure to work quickly before the dough log has a chance to warm up. Once at room temperature, the discs tend to flatten as you slice them.
Be sure to let the cookies cool completely before devouring them. They need that time to set properly. You’ll see …it’s well worth the wait.
Of course, these would be a welcome addition to any Christmas cookie tray. Need a last-minute gift? Why not wrap some up in an attractive reusable container?
dorie greenspan's vanilla bean sables
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Baking Chez Moi: Recipes from My Paris Home to Your Home Anywhere
Perfect balance of sweet and salty, with a deep vanilla flavor.
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar (67 grams)
- 2 vanilla beans (or 3 teaspoons vanilla extract or paste)
- 8 ounces unsalted butter, preferably high-fat European-style, at room temperature (1 cup)
- 1/3 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted (40 grams)
- 1/2 teaspoon finely ground sea salt
- 1 large egg yolk (save egg white for edging)
- 2 cups all-purpose flour or gluten-free all-purpose flour (272 grams)
Dough Roll Edging
- 1 egg white (saved from cookie dough recipe)
- sanding sugar (or granulated sugar)
Place the granulated sugar in a small bowl. Cut the vanilla beans in half lengthwise and scrape the seed pulp into the bowl. Alternatively, add the vanilla extract or paste to the sugar. Using your fingers, rub them together until blended.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, mix the butter on low speed until smooth and creamy (you don’t want it to get light and fluffy), about 1 minute; mix in the salt. Add the vanilla sugar and the confectioners’ sugar and mix on low speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Scrape down the bowl as needed. Add the egg yolk and mix for just 1 minute. Still on low speed or by hand, mix in the flour just until blended; the dough will be soft.
Turn the dough out onto the counter and knead it gently a few times. Divide it in half and shape each half into a 9-inch log. Wrap the logs in plastic wrap or parchment paper. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
Position oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking liner.
Sprinkle about 1/2 cup sanding sugar onto a piece of waxed paper. Combine the reserved egg white with a splash of water in a small bowl and whisk with a fork. Brush each log with the egg wash and roll it in the sanding sugar until evenly coated, adding more sugar if necessary. Trim the ends of the logs if they’re ragged. Using a knife, cut the dough into 1/2-inch-thick rounds. Place them on the baking sheet, leaving about 2-inches between rounds.
Bake the cookies, rotating the baking sheet position halfway through, until the cookies are very slightly brown around the edges and golden on the bottom, 18 to 22 minutes. Let cool on the sheet for 5 minutes; then carefully transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely before serving. Sablés shouldn’t be eaten warm; they need to cool so that their texture will set properly.
Store cookies in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase after clicking through the link. I have personally experienced all of these products, and I recommend them because I have found them to be of superior quality.