Corn Sablés

Corn sable cookies

This post is for those who preferred Pecan Sandies over Oreos as children.

Ok, now that I’ve cleared the room, it’s just you and me. There’s no better cookie, in my mind, than a shortbread (or ‘sandie’, or ‘sablé’ — which is just the French word for sand). With a subtle taste and lightly scented, they are tender yet have a satisfying bite, and flood the senses with all that buttery goodness. They are perfect on a cold rainy day (as it is here as I write), with a mug of your favorite hot drink. They aren’t so heavy that they’ll leave you over-full, or guilty.

I was instantly drawn to this recipe on first sight. Not because of its fancy French heritage, but because I’m from the (US) South. What’s not to love about milled corn baked (or fried)? Cornbread, corn fritters, hushpuppies…. it’s ALL good to me. Made into a cookie? Sign me up.

This recipe, which I cribbed from Dorie Greenspan on the NY Times Cooking site, is originally from Appollonia Poilâne, who has an internationally celebrated Parisian boulangerie (bakery). This simple recipe seems classically French to me: very few ingredients yielding a surprisingly rich taste.

Since there are few ingredients, their quality makes a difference. Most important are the butter and corn flour, since their flavor profiles do all the heavy lifting here.

  • Butter: Use a good dairy or vegan butter (which is not the same as margarine). You might want to splurge on a cultured butter, or a European-style butter. I used the Amish roll butter that is our ‘normal’ butter; it’s not necessary to spend up. Now, salted or unsalted? It’s up to you. The recipe calls for unsalted but I used salted. It’s just a preference so use yours.
  • Corn flour: This isn’t cornstarch or cornmeal. Think ‘golden all purpose flour’ and that’s exactly what it looks like. Bob’s Red Mill makes corn flour, but I had to hunt it down. If you can’t source this, you can whizz cornmeal in a blender until it’s fine, then strain it through a sieve to remove the large bits. You may want to do this twice to get a finer grain. It may not be as fine as what Bob’s mill can produce, but you will achieve the flavor of these delicious cookies.

You’ll notice that there are no additional flavorings in this recipe: it’s just butter, sugar, eggs, flours. I considered adding vanilla, but am happy that I refrained since a strong flavor would overpower the corn taste. However, I do think some lemon or orange zest might be a nice addition; use your own taste here.

Note on shaping the cookies

The original recipe calls for rolling out the dough and cutting out cookie shapes (rounds). Since the end product was going to be a simple round shape, I decided to roll the dough into logs and slice the logs into rounds – no rolling, cutting, re-rolling etc and minimal handling. It also allowed me to cut off just how many cookies I wanted, and leave the rest of the dough in the fridge for later. However, the cookies aren’t perfectly shaped as they would be if rolled and cut, so the method below covers both shaping methods.

Ingredients

1/2 Cup plus 2 Tablespoons (125 grams) granulated sugar

1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk, room temperature

1 Cup plus 2 Tablespoons (250 grams) butter, cut into cubes and softened until creamy

2 Cups (240 grams) corn flour (see head note)

1 3/4 Cups plus 2 Tablespoons (240 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling

Method

In a large bowl, using a mixer on medium speed, beat together the sugar, egg and egg yolk until pale and creamy (about 2 minutes).

Add the butter and beat until well blended (about 2 minutes).

In another bowl, combine the two flours and whisk well.

Reduce the mixer speed to low, and add the flours to the butter mixture, mixing just until incorporated.

Turn out the mixture onto a floured surface, and bring together in one large mass. Divide into two.

If you plan to roll out the cookies, shape each of the two dough masses into disks; wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

If you’re going with the no-roll method, shape each of the two dough masses into logs, forming them so that there are few internal gaps. (This dough won’t spread at all during baking, so any gaps in the middle of the cookie will remain after baking.) Wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Note: You can also freeze the dough at this point, and keep it for about 3 months. If frozen, thaw for 3 hours at room temp before going to the next step.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper (or silicone mat). Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Remove your dough from the refrigerator.

To roll cookies: Lightly flour your work surface and roll out the dough to about 1/4″ thick. Cut into rounds. Gather scraps and re-roll and cut out more cookies. Chill again for about 30 minutes to allow the butter to re-solidify.

If you’re not rolling: Using a sharp knife, cut off 1/4″ rounds from the logs of dough. (No need to re-chill, since this minimal handling doesn’t soften the butter.)

Place cookies on the lined sheet pans. They will not spread, so you can place them fairly close together, although don’t allow them to touch.

Bake for 17 to 19 minutes. They should be golden and just starting to darken around the edge. Allow to cool before eating.

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