French Butter Cookies

French Butter Cookies

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 (sablé is French for sandy). Most of the recipes we came across had only slight differences in ingredient proportions, but they all baked up without the delicate crumbliness that defines this cookie. To create the hallmark sandy texture of sablés—light, with an inviting granular texture similar to shortbread—we would have to do some detective work.

We started with a basic recipe using the typical method of creaming butter and sugar, then adding egg and flour. We then chilled, sliced, and baked the dough—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, as did the inclusion of a hard-cooked egg yolk, an addition we came across in our research. Adding the mashed yolk during creaming 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. You can flavor the basic dough or shape it. Recipes for Chocolate Sablés, Lemon Sablés, Toasted Coconut Sablés, Almond Sablés, Chocolate Sandwich Cookies, Vanilla Pretzel Sablés, and Black and White Spiral Sablés can be found in the Resources section.

Total Cooking Time: 90

Preparation Time: 15

Active Cooking Time: 30

Make Ahead: 1 week between sheets of parchment paper in airtight container

Yield: About 40 cookies

Difficulty: Intermediate