I love butter cookies. I mean, what's not to love. There's butter, sugar and more butter, sprinkled with fat grains of sugar. I decided to take a crack at making my own butter cookies this year. There are so many recipes for butter cookies out there. I decided to make the Cook's Illustrated recipe for French Butter Cookies, or Sables (pronounced SAH-blays), because CI is my go-to place for new recipes these days. Of the many, many CI recipes that I've made, I've only had, maybe, two that didn't turn out as tasty as I had hoped. Most surpass expectations. This recipe was not a disappointment, at all. They turned out crisp and sandy and buttery and only slightly sweet. Just sweet enough to keep you coming back for more, even after you've already eaten a whole dozen of them. Yep, they are that good.
The process of making the cookies is a little odd. You have to boil the egg, but only use the yolk. I've never made cookies like that before, but it works.
French Butter Cookies
10 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1/3 plus 1 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 c flour
1 large egg white beaten with 1 tsp water
4 tsp turbinado sugar (any large grained sugar will work)
Place the egg in a pan and fill to 1 inch above egg with cold water. Put over high heat. Once the water is boiling, remove the pan from heat, cover with lid and let sit for 10 minutes. Afterward, place egg in ice-water bath to stop cooking and leave for 5 minutes. Crack egg and pull the shell and egg white away from the yolk. Using a rubber spatula, press the egg yolk through a fine mesh strainer into the bowl of stand mixer.
Cream yolk, butter, sugar and salt until creamy and well blended, about 4 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add vanilla and mix until incorporated.
With mixer off, add flour. Mix on low until combined and forms into a mass.
Using a spatula, press the dough into a ball. Cut into two equal pieces. Roll each half into a log about 6 inches long by 1 1/2 inches thick. Wrap in parchment or waxed paper, twisting the ends tightly to compact the dough. Chill in refrigerator for at least an hour.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and heat oven to 350 degrees. Adjust racks to upper and lower middle positions.
Cut ends off of log. Slice into 1/4 inch thick rounds, turning the log 1/4 turn after each cut to keep it from flattening on the bottom. Place 1 inch apart on baking sheet. Brush with egg/water mixture. Sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake 15 minutes, or until edges are lightly browned, rotating pans top to bottom and front to back half-way through baking. Cool on pans 5 minutes.
These will keep for up to 1 week in an air-tight container.
Lemon Sables - add 4 tsp lemon zest with vanilla
Almond Sables - replace vanilla with 1 1/2 tsp almond extract and add 1/3 c finely ground sliced almonds
Chocolate Sables - add 1/4 c Dutch-processed cocoa powder with flour
Vanilla Pretzels - Follow recipe as is but after cutting into rounds, roll each round into 6-inch rope and shape into pretzels. Bake according to recipe.