December 23, 2009

Holiday happiness

French shortbread. What's not to like? This particular recipe is nutty, chock full of toasted walnuts, crumbly, buttery without being greasy, and just sweet enough to satisfy. It kind of makes other cookies seem over the top and overloaded with sugar and, well, not as palatable. Other types of cookies are still gobbled up, of course, in the days surrounding Christmas. What cookie isn't this time of year? These sables never last long enough, though. After adding them to the cookie line-up last Christmas, they became rather popular and quickly disappeared, so most likely the recipe will turn into a regular every year. It's a nice addition, subtle yet alluring amid the sugar-crusted numbers and those full of zesty flavors. And, you get to use cookie cutters, which is sort of an amusing, nostalgic thing to do, depending on the cookies you remember eating and enjoying as a kid.

To make these, all you have to do is carefully mix the few ingredients, which pull together easily into a soft dough, chill for fifteen minutes, then roll it out and have some fun with the cookie cutters, sprinkling each shape with a bit of raw sugar just before popping into the oven. You don't even have to include the raw sugar step -- it just makes them a bit more festive. Since the recipe only turns out a couple dozen cookies, if you have two large baking sheets, the whole batch can be baked at once, keeping the entire process quick, unless you decide to double the recipe, which I do. Two batches hardly last, but the extra effort is worth it. They're so good.

Cookie baking for the holidays is a lot of fun, gratifying even, although I've had my fair share of it by now, baking three different batches over the weekend, and am pretty much done with making cookies for a while. At least for this year. I have ideas in store for next year lined up, new recipes, intriguing flavors, different types of goodies, thanks in part to a new baking book I just received as a Christmas present, and also to a lot of blog and magazine browsing. One recipe in particular, one I had planned on making for Christmas but decided against since there are enough cookies and candy on hand as it is (because really, one can only eat so much), will probably show up within the next couple of months. Any way, we have some tasty stuff around here, and if you're looking for something new to add to your holiday baking, something not too sweet and uncomplicated, then try these walnut sables. You won't be disappointed.

Walnut Sables
Adapted from Bon App├ętit, December 2004

1 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup finely chopped toasted walnuts
¼ tsp baking powder
⅛ tsp salt
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
⅔ cup powdered sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk

raw sugar (optional)

Mix together the flour, walnuts, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer (or a wooden spoon, which I used just as successfully), beat together the butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl until fluffy. Beat in egg yolk. Add the flour mixture and stir until blended. Shape dough into a ball, then flatten into a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill until firm enough to roll, around 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350° F, placing racks in top and bottom thirds of oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to ¼-in. thickness. It helps to lightly dust the dough with a bit of flour, too, so it doesn't stick to the rolling pin. Using assorted star-shaped cutters, cut out cookies. Transfer to prepared sheets. Gather dough scraps and repeat until all of the dough is used. Sprinkle cookies with raw sugar (if using), pressing lightly to adhere.

Bake sables until light golden, switching sheets halfway through baking time, about 20 minutes. Cool on sheets on wire racks for 5 minutes, then transfer cookies to racks to cool completely.

Makes about 30 cookies.

1 comment:

  1. These are one of my favorites, buttery and not too sweet, great with a cup of tea. Mom