The savory hint of dulcet olive oil, salted butter, and fresh thyme contrasted with the lemony sugar’s sweetness offers a unique edge to our version of the tender, sandy crumb of this traditional French butter cookie.
For the Lemon Sugar:
½ cup sparkling sugar crystals
1 teaspoon Meyer lemon zest
For the Lemon Thyme Sablés:
8 ounces high-fat European butter, cubed
½ cup sugar
¼ cup fruity, light-tasting extra-virgin olive oil (as not to overpower the taste)
2 teaspoons vanilla sugar
⅔ cup powdered sugar
2 egg yolks
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1½ teaspoons Meyer lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon fresh-squeezed Meyer lemon juice
The Sablé (French for “sand”) originated in 1670 in the commune of Sablé-sur-Sarthe, in the Loire Valley region of western France. Always in competition with the British at this time in history, the French sought to create a cookie or biscuit of greater taste and presence than the English tea biscuits. In the classic French method that has endured to this day, the pâtissiers worked cold, cultured, salted butter into the flour and sugar to create the fine dough particles like sand on a seashore. With the binder of the egg yolk, the dough comes together enough to chill, roll out and cut into shapes. The traditional shape has been small, round, sometimes with the crimped edge, formed by the biscuit cutters. No matter, the shape, the buttery goodness combined with other flavors such as lemon, almond, or orange liltingly assault the senses with every bite of the firm snap yet melt-in-your-mouth cookie.
To Prepare the Lemon Sugar:
In a small bowl, combine the sugar and lemon zest. Set aside.
To Prepare the Lemon Thyme Sablés:
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix the butter, sugar, and olive oil at low to medium speed until blended. Be sure to keep the speed slow enough as not to whip air into the dough at any point. Scrape down the sides. Blend in the vanilla sugar and powdered sugar. Add the egg yolks and mix slowly until the dough is smooth. Scraped down the sides again. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt, lemon zest, and thyme. Add the flour mixture to the creamed butter mixture; blend on low speed. Mix just until the dough forms a ball and cleans the sides of the bowl. Flatten into a disk and wrap in parchment paper or plastic wrap. Chill for 1½ to 2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; do not grease it. Set the pan aside.
Once the dough has chilled, roll it out on parchment paper or a very lightly floured surface to ⅛- to ¼-inch thickness. Be sure not to work too much extra flour into the dough. Cut out the shape with a cookie cutter of choice. Place on the prepared baking sheet and sprinkle with lemon sugar. Repeat the process until all the dough has been used.
Bake the cookies for 16 to 18 minutes, or until the edges are golden. To ensure even baking, rotate the pan midway during the baking time. Remove from the oven and allow the cookies to cool on the tray for 10 minutes.
Yields 10 to 12 large cookies or 3 dozen small round cookies.
Recipe Created and Stylized by R. Shannon Mock
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