Sarah here. My sables (top) turned out pretty well, actually. I made them for my suite Christmas party (more on that later). The thing I've found about this sable recipe is that every time I make it it gets worse - in presentation, not taste. The first time I made them, which was for my grandmother after she got her hip replaced, they looked just like they do in the book - perfectly round, white and even. Every time, they've gotten more raggedy, burnt and irregular, no matter how I try. I even use an empty paper towel roll, as Dorie suggests, to make them round. But I may have discovered the secret.
When I made these, I made the green ones first. They were fine, but not great. They were either too thick or they cracked. I sighed and accepted that that seems to be the reality for sables when I make them. But then a strange thing happened. Well, not that strange - as the green ones cooked, the red ones began to thaw (they had both been living in the freezer for a couple of days). Suddenly, the log was easy to cut, and the cookies looked like they should. However, they were also now warm, so I just popped them into the freezer for five minutes so they wouldn't spread. Presto, nice round, even sables! And the green and red sugaring looked great! I think that from now on when I make these, I will let the dough soften before I cut them. The red ones didn't crumble or crack at all. Plus, they had all the pure butter-and-sugar goodness that always comes with sables, no matter how bad they look.
Rebecca here. My sables (bottom) were really crumbly. Almost too crumbly. Maybe in fear of not over-mixing, I under-mixed? Not sure. My first log of dough almost fell apart as I cut them, but my second log came out fine. Go figure. You can see the difference between my two batches below. Either way, both the good looking ones and the bad looking ones tasted delicious. I would highly recommend making this recipe, especially if you have the patience to work with the dough a bit.
Here are Rebecca's two sables:
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter (preferably high-fat, like Plugra), softened at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted before measuring
1/2 teaspoon salt, preferably sea salt
2 large egg yolks, preferably at room temperature
2 cups all-purpose flour.
For the decoration (optional):
1 egg yolk
Crystal or dazzle sugar.
1. Working in a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter at medium speed until it is smooth and very creamy. Add the sugars and salt and continue to beat until smooth and velvety, not fluffy and airy, about 1 minute. Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in 2 egg yolks, again beating until well blended.
2. Turn off the mixer, pour in the flour, drape a kitchen towel over the mixer and pulse the mixer about 5 times at low speed for 1 or 2 seconds each time. Take a peek; if there is still a lot of flour on the surface of the dough, pulse a couple of more times; if not, remove the towel. Continuing at low speed, stir for about 30 seconds more, just until the flour disappears into the dough and the dough looks uniformly moist. If you still have some flour on the bottom of the bowl, stop mixing and use a rubber spatula to work the rest of it into the dough. (The dough will not come together in a ball -- and it shouldn't. You want to work the dough as little as possible. What you're aiming for is a soft, moist, clumpy dough. When pinched, it should feel a little like Play-Doh.)
3. Scrape the dough onto a work surface, gather it into a ball and divide it in half. Shape each piece into a smooth log about 9 inches long (it's easiest to work on a piece of plastic wrap and use the plastic to help form the log). Wrap the logs well and chill them for at least 2 hours. The dough may be kept in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months.
4. When ready to bake, center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper and keep it at the ready.
5. To decorate the edges of the sables, whisk the egg yolk until smooth. Place one log of chilled dough on a piece of waxed paper and brush it with yolk (the glue), and then sprinkle the entire surface of the log with sugar. Trim the ends of the roll if they are ragged and slice the log into 1/3-inch-thick cookies.
6. Place the rounds on the baking sheet, leaving an inch of space between each cookie, and bake for 17 to 20 minutes, rotating the baking sheet at the halfway point. When properly baked, the cookies will be light brown on the bottom, lightly golden around the edges and pale on top. Let the cookies rest 1 or 2 minutes before carefully lifting them onto a cooling rack with a wide metal spatula. Repeat with the remaining log of dough. (Make sure the sheet is cool before baking each batch.)