French Sand Cookies (Sablés)

Sablés are French shortbread cookies, although more delicate than, say, Scottish shortbread. They’re also known as sand cookies, due to their texture and they can crumble easily. These cookies cannot take a bashing without ending up as a pile of crumbs. I first made them when my family was SCD, using almond flour – so if you’re grain-free/paleo/SCD/GAPS, head over to that recipe!

I’m getting back into my groove – aside from one recipe that still isn’t working I almost feel like things are back to normal again in the kitchen of Z, particularly in the baking department, after making these cookies.

I was going through my blog archives a couple or so days ago, from two thousand oh nine: when I was posting recipes nearly every single day, when my photography still left much to be desired. (I thought I was such a pro then.) I’m looking at those recipes and picking the ones I’d like to make to feature again or that I think can be made better, so that hopefully they’ll get better appreciation. These cookies are the first.

The first time I made them was when my family was SCD, so lots of almond flour. Oh, how past experience paints our expectations: as I was mixing the mixed flours into the wet ingredients, I had mixed feelings of disappointment and a slight panic attack as the dough was not forming. Then I remembered – of course it was going to act differently, I was using four different flours compared to just almond flour and these flours were infinitely more complex than using just ground almonds. (Plus, I was using cold butter – see the second head note before the recipe below.)

Then I relaxed and kneaded it into dough with my hands. And the cookies worked out, otherwise I wouldn’t have posted them and you wouldn’t be reading this post now.

While I’ve been generally keeping to my regime of Twittering in the evenings and early mornings, before I start my day, I’ve also been cutting back on what I consider superfluous tweeting. Not that I do much of it, but I have started to weigh more often what I want to say before I click to send it off: how much does it matter if I do or don’t share this with my followers? is it really that important? So, for better or worse, some of those potential tweets have piled up (I mainly use Echofon, which allows you to save your tweets as drafts) and I’ve decided to share them here in more than a hundred and forty characters can allow. Little moments I wanted to share, some personal, some simply observations on life and mundane things.

A week ago (though it feels longer) the duck pond in a park flooded after a heavy rainstorm. It was like stepping into another world. So was I absorbed in taking it all in that I forgot my iPod to take any photos and my sister ended up taking them all with hers, most of them with a cool app that does 360º panoramas.

This second one is my favourite for the angle and composition, not to mention that it also includes moi. At this moment I was trying to see a blue heron that we both had beheld as it flew and landed in the reeds. It was a moment that could only be described as breathtaking and majestic.

The duck pond is slowly resuming its regular size as the excess water is being absorbed into the soil as you can see in the below photo, which I took yesterday. For a while, the ducks could practically swim all the way up to the pathway.

The weather is gradually becoming warmer. The crocuses have come through the ground – one of the first signs of spring for me, always. When we went to see the duck pond, I remembered and clumsily started to recite e.e. cummings “In Just–” (clumsily because I messed up a couple words but it didn’t matter because my heart was full of joy). Then remembered my own inspired riff that I’d done last year, with “frost steaming off the fence by the thawing sun.”

French Sand Cookies (Sablés)
Adapted from Joy of Baking

Makes about 28 cookies (people keep eating dough on me, so I haven’t had an exact count yet)

If you want to make this completely dairy-free, simply use all coconut oil (10 tablespoons). If you’re grain-free/paleo/SCD/GAPS, use this recipe when I made these cookies with almond flour and coconut oil. The sablés made with almond flour are firmer and not as delicate.

Whether you use cold butter or room temperature butter, you’ll get the same results. The only difference is in the dough: cookies made with cold butter will result in something resembling a crumble topping that you have to work with your hands to form a dough and is crumbly, whereas cookie dough made with room temperature butter will make a soft, pillow-y dough.

56 grams butter (salted or unsalted)
5 tbsp. coconut oil, liquid or solid
1/4 cup honey (liquid or creamed)
1 large or medium egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
65 grams brown rice flour
65 grams sweet rice flour
65 grams millet flour
65 grams cornstarch or tapioca starch/flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt (omit if using salted butter)

Egg wash:

1 large egg
1 tbsp. water

Cream the butter, coconut oil, and honey together. Add the egg and vanilla extract.

In a separate bowl, blend the flours together with the baking soda and salt (if using). Gently mix the flours into the wet ingredients.

Next, on a clean surface or just in the bowl, knead the dough together to make a ball.

Divide the ball of dough into two and wrap in plastic. Chill in the fridge for 1 hour, until firm.

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Roll one ball of dough to 1/4-inch thickness between two sheets of plastic wrap or wax paper and cut with a 2-inch round fluted cookie cutter. (You can also use a regular, plain cookie cutter, although fluted makes them look a bit more fancier.) Place on the prepared baking sheet, setting two inches apart, and chill cut cookies in the fridge for 20 minutes to firm the dough. Repeat with second ball of dough.

Beat egg and water together to make the egg wash. Make crisscross patterns on the tops of the cookies with a toothpick, tines of a fork, or even a plastic knife. Use a pastry brush to brush the tops of the cookies with egg wash.

Bake for 10-14 minutes, until the edges are golden brown and the tops are just lightly browned (blond). Remove from oven and cool before transferring to a plate.



I’m submitting these cookies to Shirley’s launch of her Virtual Gluten-Free Support Group. Shirley’s blog gluten-free easily already provided a wonderful resource for those with gluten intolerance and celiac et al – and now her virtual support group extends even more of a helping hand! She already runs a support group in King George, Virginia and for all those who wish to attend her support meetings but can’t make it because of geographical location differences, this is it. Check it out!

6 thoughts on “French Sand Cookies (Sablés)

  1. Your baking mojo is clearly back, Zoe! These are such beautifully done cookies. I’m tickled pink that you’re contributing them to our first GFE Virtual Gluten-Free Support Group! Thanks so much for sharing the info on my new event, and such lovely words! 🙂


    1. Thank you, Shirley, for creating your virtual support group! I am more than sure it’ll be a great help and resource for many. Thanks, too, about the cookies – I wish I could send some to you, if only they shipped well.

  2. Hi! Just discovered your blog. My daughter and I have been gluten free for some time now and I am always searching for good recipes. I remember making these years ago with the recipe from Joy of Baking so it will be fun to see how close these come. That second photo is amazing–just beautiful! I’d be wanting to frame that one.
    All the best,

    1. Thanks, Lynne, and welcome! Do you mean the second photo my sister took, or of the cookies? I’d love to know how these cookies worked for you and how you and your daughter liked them, if you try the recipe. 🙂

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