Simple and Classic – French Vanilla Sables

 

Last weekend I spent one day visiting my ‘rents and another visiting my MIL. I came bearing food and treats. I thought the applesauce bread would be the hit, but the French Vanilla Sables were the winner. Sables are a classic French shortbread cookie, rich and sandy. This is a recipe I found in Dorie Greenspan’s “Dorie’s Cookies”. She spoke at a local indie book store. She’s a delightful pixie of a person. She shared some great stories, tips and cookies! My favorite tip is to roll out the dough on parchment paper and THEN put it into the fridge or freezer. I’ve always struggled pounding the hardened dough, to roll it out. This makes perfect sense ! Chill the dough and then cut out your cookies. You can freeze them after you bake, in case you need help with your self-control!

 

2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into chunks, at room temperature

½ cup sugar

¼ cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted

½ tsp. fine sea salt

2 large egg yolks, at room temperature

2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

Sanding sugar, for sprinkling

 

Working with a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the butter, both sugars and the salt on medium speed for about 3 minutes. If you have a stand mixer, use it. Three minutes can seem like an eternity.  The mixture should be smooth but not fluffy.  Reduce the mixer speed to low and, one by one, beat in the yolks, followed by the vanilla. Turn off the mixer, add the flour all at once and turn the mixer to the lowest speed. You don’t want flour flying throughout your kitchen! Mix just until the flour disappears into the dough. Give the dough a couple of turns with a spatula.  That’s it!

Turn the dough out on the counter and divide it in half. If you are going to roll out the dough, form the dough into two discs. Roll the dough out between two pieces of parchment paper to about ¼ inch thick. Slide the parchment-sandwiched-dough onto a baking sheet and freeze for at least an hour, or refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Use a 2-inch cookie cutter to cut out the rolled dough.  A simple circle or rectangle is perfect. Don’t use anything too detailed. The dough won’t hold a complicated shape. Press sparkling sugar onto the tops prior to baking for a fun crunch. Start checking the cookies after 10 minutes. You want them slightly browned on the bottom.

If you don’t want to cut out cookies, you can form the dough into 9 inch logs. Wrap them and freeze for 3 hours, and up to 2 months.  I use the parchment to help me roll the cookies. They don’t have to be perfectly round.When you are ready to bake, slice the logs about 1/3 inch thick.  I eyeball the thickness.  Again, press some sparkling sugar onto the tops. Bake one sheet at a time on the center rack of a 350-degree oven for about 10 minutes. Check the bottom of a cookie. It should be slightly browned. It could take more or less depending on the thickness.

Every oven has hot spots. So, to prevent (I hope) uneven cooking, I like to turn the baking sheets around halfway through the cooking process. You want the cookies baked evenly. Sometime one side of the sheet can brown quicker than the other. I set the timer and then turn. Reset the timer. I also bake all my cookies on parchment. When they are done, I slide the parchment off the baking sheet onto my counter or a rack to cool.
These are perfect with that wintry afternoon cup of tea. Enjoy!

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Auntie Julie’s Cheese Cake

 

This has been a family favorite for some time. It’s not really Auntie Julie’s own recipe, but one which stole our souls. It’s not a holiday or a special day in my house without this cheese cake. I just made it as an “extra” for my daughter’s birthday. I bought a fantastic chocolate cake that tasted like a Hostess Cupcake. It brought back childhood memories of eating them at a friend’s home. She came to my house for milk that wasn’t powdered. I went to her house for Hostess products. It seemed fair to me. I thought most people would want the chocolate cake. I was wrong. More wanted the cheese cake. Yet somehow the chocolate cake is gone…..

This cheesecake is pretty simple. The only special thing you need is a spring form pan. The trick is to let the cream cheese come to room temperature, just like the eggs. I mash the cream cheese with a fork and let it sit for about a half an hour. Don’t skimp and use low-fat or no-fat ingredients. It’s cheese cake for goodness sake. Celebrate something!

Crust

¾ cup fine graham cracker crumbs

2 tbsp. melted butter

2 tbsp. sugar

Blend well with a spoon. Press into bottom of a 9 inch spring form pan. I used the measuring cup to press down the crumbs. I buy the graham cracker crumbs already crumbed. If I buy a box of graham crackers, you can find me by following the trail of crumbs.

Filling

24 ounces cream cheese

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup sugar

3 eggs

Cream the cream cheese well. Slowly beat in 1 cup of sugar. Add one egg at a time, beating well after each additional egg. Add 1 tsp. vanilla. Spoon mixture into prepared pan. Bake in pre-heated oven at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes. It may need longer. The sides will look firm. Touch the center with your finger. It should feel somewhat firm. If it cracks, that’s ok. It will be covered up with the sour cream topping. Remove the pan from the oven and raise temperature of over to 500 degrees..
Topping

2 cups sour cream

3 tbsp. sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

Mix together while oven is heating up. I like to wait until right before I put the cheese cake in the oven before I add the topping. The cake may fall a little. It’s ok. More room for the topping. Spread the topping on cheese cake and cook for about 5 minutes. I usually set my oven to 450 degrees. I can’t reach the smoke detector myself, so I avoid higher temperatures. Just cook it for an extra 1 to 2 minutes. Remove and let the cheese cake cool on a cooling rack. Never put anything hot into a refrigerator. Once it is just warm to touch, put in the fridge. I like to make this in the morning and serve at night. It really needs to chill. When I am ready to serve, I unclasp the sides and put it on a cake stand. Seems more elegant that way. You can also see who is trying to swipe a finger-full.

If you are adventurous, a raspberry coulis is the perfect addition.

Enjoy!