French butter cookies known as sablés offer an upgrade to the sturdy American butter cookie in sophistication and style—that is, if you can capture their elusive sandy texture (sablé is French for “sandy”). The moisture content of a cookie plays a big role in determining sandiness, or rather, lack thereof; liquid in the dough dissolves sugar crystals, and it’s those sugar crystals that help create the perception of sandiness. Starting with a basic dough recipe using the creaming method to combine the butter and sugar (for more information on creaming, see here), we took incremental steps to decrease the liquid. Cutting back on butter (which is roughly 20 percent water) helped, but that still didn’t give us the texture we sought. Another ingredient that has a lot of water? Egg whites. Switching from a whole egg to just the rich yolk was a giant step in the right direction, but we wanted to push our efforts even further to produce supremely sandy, crystalline sablés. When we came across recipes that called for a hard-cooked egg yolk, we had initially dismissed it. Our skepticism gave way to intrigue, however, so we hard-boiled an egg and added the mashed yolk during the creaming process. Voilà! This unusual step really was the key to eliminating that last bit of moisture and perfecting the texture of our cookies. For a final flourish, we brushed the dough rounds with a beaten egg white and sprinkled them with coarse turbinado sugar before baking.
- Yield: 40 Cookies
- 1 large egg
- 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 0.33 cup plus 1 tablespoon (2¾ ounces) granulated sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1½ cups (7½ ounces) all-purpose flour
- 1 large egg white, lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon water
- 4 teaspoons turbinado sugar
- Place egg in small saucepan, cover with water by 1 inch, and bring to boil over high heat. Remove pan from heat, cover, and let sit for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, fill small bowl with ice water. Using slotted spoon, transfer egg to ice water and let stand for 5 minutes. Crack egg and peel shell. Separate yolk from white; discard white. Press yolk through fine-mesh strainer into small bowl.
- Using stand mixer fitted with paddle, beat butter, granulated sugar, salt, and cooked egg yolk on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down bowl as needed. Reduce speed to low, add vanilla, and mix until incorporated. Stop mixer; add flour and mix on low speed until just combined, about 30 seconds. Using rubber spatula, press dough into cohesive mass.
- Transfer dough to counter and divide in half. Roll each piece of dough into 6-inch log. Wrap logs tightly in plastic wrap and twist ends tightly to seal and chill until firm, about 2 hours in refrigerator or 45 minutes in freezer.
- Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Working with 1 dough log at a time, slice chilled dough into ¼-inch-thick rounds and space them 1 inch apart on prepared sheets. Using pastry brush, gently brush cookies with egg white mixture and sprinkle evenly with turbinado sugar.
- Bake cookies until centers are pale golden brown and edges are slightly darker than centers, about 15 minutes, switching and rotating sheets halfway through baking. Let cookies cool on sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack and let cool completely before serving.