These vanilla bean sablés are everything you want in a cookie: a tender, buttery crumb and the sweet seduction of vanilla. And coming from one of the new grand dames of baking, Sarah Keiffer, you know they have to be great.
There’s never a bad time to nibble on simple, elegant cookies. But don’t let the idea of “simple” lull you into thinking plain or boring. These vanilla bean sablés, made with the best of ingredients, are anything but. Think of them as the sexy little black dress of the cookie tray. Or holiday gift boxes. Or your Christmas cookie swap.
What else can you expect from the talented Sarah Kieffer? For years, I’ve been watching Sarah’s ascendency to the lofty heights of the grand dames of baking. She now keeps company with the Zoë Françoises and Dorie Greenspans of the world. These sablés, her newest offering, will impress you as much as they’ve impressed The One and me.—David Leite
Vanilla Bean Sablés FAQs
How can I get the vanilla bean sables to hold their shape?
Ah, the eternal question. The best way to help hold their shape is to keep them as cold as possible. Chill, chill, chill.
What’s the easiest way to slice the cookies?
Sarah instructs you to use a knife, which works fine. But sometimes I find the pressure from the cutting with a knife can flatten the sides of delicate, buttery cookie dough. Using clean dental floss works flawlessly.
How do I prevent the cookie from developing a flat bottom when chilling the log in the fridge?
I accidentally came up with a foolproof way when making Portuguese Chocolate Salame. Cut a paper-towel cardboard tube down one side to open it. Place the cookie-dough log inside and close with a few elastic bands. Badda bing, badda boom! No weird-shaped cookies.
Can I leave these out overnight?
Assuming you have any left, yes, they can be kept overnight. Cover them tightly in plastic wrap or place them in an airtight container. You definitely want to avoid exposure to air, which can degrade the texture and flavor.
Vanilla Bean Sablés
- 2 sticks (8 oz) unsalted butter at room temperature
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 vanilla bean seeds scraped, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 large egg yolks
- 2 cups all-purpose flour plus more for dusting
- 3/4 cup turbinado or sanding sugar for sprinkling
- In the bowl of a fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy, about 1 minute.
- Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the granulated and confectioners’ sugars, salt, and vanilla bean seeds, if using. Beat on medium speed until creamy and combined, 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again and add the yolks and vanilla extract, if using, and mix on low speed, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the flour and mix again on low speed until just combined.
- Lightly dust a work surface with flour. Scrape the dough onto the work surface and form it into a 12-inch (30 cm) log. Place the log on a piece of plastic wrap a few inches longer than the log.
- Sprinkle the turbinado sugar over all sides of the log, covering the outside of the dough. Gently press the sugar into the dough with your hands, then wrap the log in the plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours, or overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Unwrap the chilled log and slice it into 1/2 inch (13 mm) thick rounds. Arrange slices on the rimmed baking sheets, spacing the rounds about 2 inches (5 cm) apart. Place one baking sheet in the refrigerator to keep the dough chilled. (This will help prevent some spreading during baking.)
- Place the other baking sheet in the oven and bake, rotating the baking sheet after 8 minutes, until the edges of the cookies are very light golden brown, but the centers are still pale, 16 to 18 minutes.
- Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack and let the cookies cool completely. Repeat with the remaining baking sheet and cookies. Cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.
Citrus Sablés variationAdd 2 teaspoons grated citrus zest (lemon, lime, orange, or grapefruit, preferably organic) to the dough along with the salt. Add 1 tablespoon poppy seeds along with the flour, if desired.
Rosemary Chocolate Chip Sablés variationAdd 1/2 cup (90 g) mini chocolate chips (or finely chopped chocolate) and 2 teaspoons minced rosemary to the dough after incorporating the flour, mixing gently to combine.
Pistachio Sablés variationAdd 1/3 cup (40 g) chopped pistachios to the dough after incorporating the flour, mixing gently to combine.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This vanilla bean sablé is tender, sandy, buttery perfection. It’s the kind of cookie that’s not too sweet, doesn’t need gussying up with a bunch of gooey additions, and goes beautifully with an afternoon cup of Earl Gray tea.
I used Kerrygold Irish butter, which I love when the ingredients are few but they need to shine. The real vanilla bean comes through subtly but sumptuously. I made an additional batch with lemon zest and finely chopped pistachios which was just as lovely because the additions were used judiciously. And it happens to be an extremely simple and quick recipe to make. I suspect it would freeze well in logs to be able to slice and bake up batches at a moment’s notice. This recipe goes in my permanent file!
Plain and simple, I adored these vanilla bean sablés. There was nothing not to love about them. From the very first bite, you got it all. An immediate taste of the tender, buttery crumb, which was perfectly salted and sweetly flavored by the single vanilla bean. The flavors never waxed or waned but remained consistent until the very last bite. A bonus was the accompanying slight crunch from the lightly golden brown edges enveloped in the sanding sugar.
A cookie perfect enough to gift, serve for a special occasion or, for the ultimate tasting experience, pair with and drown in a dish of affogato. And the process itself to achieve this little gem was a further bonus. Absent the chilling time, these sweet vanilla bean sablés were cooling on the racks in a little less than an hour. Almost instant gratification!
I also tested the rosemary-chocolate chip variation and the combination of the fresh rosemary and mini chocolate chips was a match made in heaven. Clearly took an already perfect cookie to the next level. The right proportion in the recipe of the fresh rosemary and chocolate produced a welcomed sweet/savory dimension. It just worked well and each captivating bite drew you willingly and unabashedly into the next.
Enjoy these little gems with your morning cup of coffee, evening cocktail(s)/glass(es) of wine. Or nestle them onto your next charcuterie board, or gift them to some lucky soul.
These vanilla bean sablés turned out a bit cakier than other sablés I have made, but they were really delicious! After baking them for 16 minutes, they had a nice tenderness with a bit of fun texture from the crunchy sugar coating the sides of the cookie. If you wanted them to have a bit more bite, you could easily cut the rounds slightly thinner or bake them for a few more minutes until they reach a deeper golden color. I stuck with the classic vanilla bean variation, ended up with 24 cookies, and gifted some of them to my cousin for her birthday, who pronounced these “super yummy!!”
I found this recipe very easy to follow and made just a few minor adjustments, most importantly scraping down the sides of the bowl several times throughout the mixing process, especially prior to adding new ingredients so everything incorporates well. As much as I love turbinado sugar, I was only able to use about half of the cup suggested before my whole dough log was fully coated. The recipe also mentions having some extra granulated sugar for sprinkling in addition to what you put in the dough, but this isn’t actually used anywhere, since the turbinado sugar goes on the outside of the log.
One other tip—since not all of the cookies will fit on one baking sheet, refrigerate the rest of your dough log as you wait for the first batch to bake so that your separate batches will turn out more identical to one another. This would also be really important if you don’t have multiple baking sheets and need to wait for the first batch to cool before moving on to the second. (Related: I only needed two cookie sheets rather than three for the 24 cookies this recipe yielded for me!)
Timing-wise I found the recipe pretty accurate. It took my butter 1.5 minutes to become creamy, 30 seconds for my egg yolks to incorporate, and 50 seconds for my flour to mix in until the dough, which was quite soft. Next time I make these (there certainly will be a next time!), I might try rolling the log to have a bit smaller diameter and play with some of the tasty-sounding flavor variations!
While a little too sweet for me on their own, the vanilla bean sablés are the perfect accompaniment for a morning cup of coffee or tea. I had all the ingredients in my pantry and with only 10 minutes of active prep time, what’s not to like? I prepped the batter and let them rest in the refrigerator while I cooked dinner. After 4 hours, I baked the sablés for 20 minutes and they were perfectly cooked.
I made 2 versions of this recipe—one with only vanilla bean and the other with pistachio. I preferred the pistachio sablés as did the other tasters (my family and co-workers). One small change for future versions of this recipe—I would decrease the amount of sugar just a bit. It was a little too sweet on its own—but the sugar was balanced out when we had it with coffee.
Originally published December 20, 2021