According to respected cookbook author Dorie Greenspan, "Cookies don't get simpler or more satisfying than sablés, the basic butter cookie of France." In her cookbook, Paris Sweets, Dorie Greenspan turns to Paris pâtisserie owner, M. Lerch who flavors his sablés with lemon zest and coats their edges with sugar so they come out of the oven with a bit of sparkle. M. Lerch advises a gentle touch when you add the flour, so the gluten isn't activated. Also, he encourages a nice long rest in the refrigerator to allow the gluten to relax and to allow the cookies to hold their shape during slicing and baking.
Here's the recipe:
16 tablespoons salted butter
2/3 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
Pinch of salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
Grated zest of 1-1 1/2 lemons
2 cups flour
1. Put the butter in the bowl of a mixer and beat at medium speed until it is smooth. Add the sifted confectioners' sugar and beat again until the mixture is smooth and silky. Beat in 1 of the egg yolks, followed by salt, vanilla, and grated lemon zest. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour, beating just until it disappears. It is better to undercoat than overheat at this point; if the flour isn't fully incorporated, that's OK---just blend in whatever remaining flour needs blending with a rubber spatula. Turn the dough out onto a counter, gather it into a ball, and divide it in half. Wrap each piece of dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
2. Working on a smooth surface, form each piece of dough into a log that is about 1 to 1 1/4 inches thick. Wrap the logs in plastic and chill for 2 hours.
3. Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F/ Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
4. While the oven is preheating, work on the sugar coating: Whisk the remaining egg yolk in a small bowl until it is smooth and liquid enough to use as a glaze. Spread the sugar out on a piece of wax paper. Remove the logs of dough from the refrigerator, unwrap them, and brush them lightly with a little egg yolk. Roll the logs in the sugar, pressing the sugar gently to get it to stick if necessary, then, using a sharp slender knife, slice each log into cookies about 1/4 inch thick. Place the cookies on the lined baking sheets, leaving about 1/2 inch space between them.
5. Bake the cookies for 12 to 14 minutes, or until they are set but not browned. Transfer the cookies to cooling racks to cool to room temperature.
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