It’s mid-November, and somehow my herb garden is still kicking, despite a few days of near-freezing temps in Chicago. My sage in particular is simultaneously taking over the herb pot and giving mother nature the middle finger.
Every year when the weather turns cold, I start scheming up ways to use up the last of the growth, but truthfully, most of the greenery perishes in the pots before I get around to making 27-herb medley pesto, or to freezing small amounts in ice cubes trays for later use. Hey, we can’t all be Martha Stewart. But it’s really not a big deal. I get a lot of use out of those plants during the warmer months. At $2-3 per herb plant, I get more than my money’s worth, so I don’t feel guilty when I leave perfectly fresh herbs to die in nature’s freezer. But every November I do try to use up small amounts of the bounty.
These Brown Butter and Sage Squeezed Sables are one of those ideas. So much sage, so little time!
Don’t know what a sable is? It’s a simple French butter cookie, pronounced sah-bleh, with emphasis on the first syllable. It’s named for it’s delicate, sandy texture, similar to shortbread. Sable dough is usually rolled out and cut into shapes before baking, but rolling out sandy cookie dough can be a mess. There’s no clean way to lightly-flour a counter top. It gets everywhere, and sometimes that fine, but other times you just don’t want to deal with that chaos and clean up. Enter the squeezed sable. No rolling, no cutting, no mess. If you’re super brave and don’t mind finding random bits of cookie dough in the tiny crevices around your kitchen for the next month, you could even do the squeeze-shaping with your kids. Doesn’t that sound like a great time?
These sables are a direct take off of Clothilde Dusoulier’s Roasted Flour Squeeze Cookies. Her brilliant recipe riffs off of a traditional sable by roasting the flour, which imparts an unbelievably rich, nutty quality to the finished cookie. If you haven’t tried baking with roasted flour, make haste to your kitchen. You’ll be amazed at how easily it amplifies the flavor of cookies and cakes.
When I think of sage, my mind immediately jumps to browned butter. Those two simple ingredients make a hell of a flavor statement, so I started wondering how they would translate into something sweet. These sables already have a nutty back note from the roasted flour, but browning the butter took it to a whole new level. This cookie dough smelled of toasty pecans, walnuts, and cashews with nary a nut in site. Do people develop nut allergies later on in life? Because if you know a nut-lover with a life-threatening nut allergy, these cookies could fill that nutless-void in a beautiful way.
And as for the backyard-harvested sage? I sprinkled a tablespoon of the chopped leaves into the butter and let them infuse into the butter as it browned. All of the roasting and browning, along with the fresh sage and a hefty pinch of crushed sea salt puts these cookies in that gorgeous gray area, where sweet and savory meld together. This is a really delicious cookie/biscuit hybrid to be eaten on it’s own, but could also easily round out a cheese plate. And if you squint a little bit these rustic beauties kind of look like seahorses. Just a little added bonus!
It’s worth noting that you don’t need an electric mixer or food processor for this cookie recipe, as all of the mixing can be done by hand with pastry cutter. Double bonus!
Brown Butter and Sage Squeezed Sables
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon minced fresh sage leaves
1-1/3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon crushed sea salt
1 egg yolk
3-4 tablespoons milk
Preheat oven to 300°F.
Fill a large bowl with ice cubes and 1-2 cups of cold water, so that the ice cubes float. In a small saucepan, cook butter and sage over a medium-low flame until the butter browns and there are small dark brown flecks at the bottom of the pan. It will smell very nutty. Submerge the hot pan in the bowl of ice to stop the butter from cooking. Stir butter occassionally while it is still fluid to speed up the cooling process. Chill until the butter is completely solid.
Spread flour into a thin layer on a rimmed cookie sheet. Roast in the oven without stirring, until the flour has gone from white to a sandy color all over, about 30-35 minutes. Cool the flour completely. You won’t use the oven again for a while, so decide if you want to keep it on or turn it off until the cookies are ready to bake.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, stir together the roasted flour, sugar, and salt until they are thoroughly incorporated. Cut the cold butter into 1/4 inch chunks and add to the dry ingredients. Use a pastry cutter to incorporate the butter and dry ingredients, until the mixture is coarse and the butter chunks are smaller than peas. Shaking the bowl gently from time to time will force any remaining large chunks of butter to the top so that you can cut them into smaller bits. Add the egg yold and 3 tablespoons of milk and stir the mixture together until everything is well combined. Squeeze a bit of dough in your hand. If it holds together easily, you are ready to form the sables. If it crumbles instead of holding together, add an additional tablespoon of milk and stir until just combined.
Squeeze 1-2 tablespoons of dough in your fingers to form 2-1/2 inch long cookies. Place the cookies about 1-1/2 inches apart on the parchment-lined cookie sheet. Refrigerate the sheet for 1 hour, or until the cookie dough is chilled and firm.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Bake the sables for 16-18 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies are golden brown. Cool the cookies on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes. Gently transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.