The Sablé: Dorie Greenspan's Favorite Cookie
In early September, a delicious package arrived in the mail: a box filled with Dorie Greenspan’s world peace cookies—double-chocolate disks, widely adored for their sandy texture, buttery flavor and perfect balance of salt and sugar. A friend and champion of Dorie’s #cookiesforkindness project, an initiative to bake, share and be kind “just because,” had sent me the cookies, which legend holds a daily dose of could bring world peace.
The package achieved its goal, bringing me instant happiness, giving me the perfect excuse to brew another pot of coffee, to linger at the table a little bit longer, to fight the jolt of routine prompted by the start of the school year. I wanted to join in on the kindness-spreading fun, too, and while the goal of the project is not to share Dorie’s recipes exclusively, I instantly pulled out my copy of Baking Chez Moi, because Dorie for me, as for many, is the cookie (and cake and tart and pastry) guru.
I turned to the cookie chapter and set to work making sablés, the cookie—the cookie!—Dorie declares to be her favorite. Sablé literally means “sandy” and resembles a shortbread not only in texture but also in flavor, which is buttery with a hint of saltiness. In Dorie’s vanilla-bean sablés, which look like blonde world peace cookies, the pulp of two moist vanilla beans gets rubbed into the sugar, which disperses the black specks throughout, intensifying the vanilla flavor. The cookies emerge from the oven lightly golden with sugary edges and shrugged shoulders, tasting deeply vanilla, perfectly sweet and salty. They're crumbly and elegant as well suited for dunking into coffee as savoring on their own. Dorie considers these at once tea biscuits, after-school treats, café cookies and midnight snacks.
What I love as much as the sablé itself are Dorie’s instructions, which make each step feel purposeful: “Rub the vanilla pulp into the sugar until it’s fragrant,” for example, or, “Mix the dough at low speed so you don’t add air to it,” or, “Once the flour goes in ... work quickly and gently—you want to beat the dough as little as possible.” Without this sort of guidance, I might be tempted to skip steps (like sifting!) or rush or feel unsure about my motions. Dorie always makes me feel I’m doing it right.
Since discovering the vanilla-bean sablé, I’ve tried several of Dorie’s bonne idées—nut, by adding toasted almonds, and chocolate, by replacing some of the flour with cocoa—and I’ve experimented on my own, too. This lemon-thyme variation, made by omitting the vanilla bean and adding lemon zest and thyme, is one of my favorites, the zest bringing fresh, bright notes, the herbs a welcomed earthiness. These floral touches add a savory dimension to the sandy cookie, giving them a wintry feel, making them, for me, all the more irresistible.