Lemon and Fleur de Sel Butter Cookies Recipe

Sablés au Citron à la Fleur de Sel

[Lemon and Fleur de Sel Butter Cookies]

Jackie recently talked about Fleur de Sel on her great Daily Bread blog. As I was adding a comment about my favorite uses of the wonderful substance, I remembered these butter cookies. I was taken up on my offer to share the recipe, so here it is!

This is a recipe I made a few months ago for a Sunday afternoon tea with parents and Maxence’s mother (and this was in my pre-blogging days, hence the lack of actual pic). I had clipped it from a magazine (Biba, if you must know – their cooking section is always great), and followed it pretty closely, apart from the glazing : the Biba recipe called for brushing the cookies with a beaten egg, and this struck me as somewhat drab, so I used my mother’s perfect, sweet and tart glazing recipe instead, which I adore.

The resulting cookie is crisp at the edges and a little crumbly in the center, with a nice lemon flavor made complex by the use of both juice and zest, and the hint of fleur de sel gives it a very nice tang.

Sablés au Citron à la Fleur de Sel

The dough :
– 200 g butter
– 175 g flour
– 75 g confectioner’s sugar
– 75 g powdered almonds (aka ground almonds, almond meal or almond powder)
– 5 to 7 pinches of fleur de sel
– 1 pinch cinnamon
– 1 egg white
– the zest of one lemon
– the juice of half a lemon

The glaze :
– the juice of a lemon
– confectioner’s sugar

(Makes about 40.)

In a food processor, mix together the sugar, flour, almonds, salt, cinnamon, zest. Add the butter, diced, and mix again. Add the lemon juice and egg white and give it a last whirl.

Put the dough between two sheets of parchment paper, and use a rolling pin to spread it out inside, until you get it to a thickness of about 5 mm (a bit under 1/6”). Put the dough in the fridge for about an hour. You may want to split the dough in two and work with only half at a time, thus using four sheets of parchment paper (I know, quite the splurge).

Preheat the oven to 180°C (360°F). Take the dough out of the fridge and peel off the top sheet delicately. Use your cutest cookie shapes to cut out cookies, and place them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or, even better, a silicon baking mat, not too close to one another. You will need to make several batches (unless you have a truly gigantic oven, in which case I need to come over to your house and bake with you).

Put the cookie sheet in the oven to bake, keeping as close an eye on them as the mommy eagle watching the baby eagles in the nest. It will take 12 to 20 minutes for the cookies to be ready, depending on their size and thickness, and depending on how white/golden/brown you like them. Turn them out on a rack to cool.

Once they’ve cooled down, prepare the glaze. Pour about two tablespoons of confectioner’s sugar in a small bowl. Add some lemon juice, a little at a time, whisking with a spoon, until you reach the desired consistency : if it’s creamy, the glazing on the cookies will be thick. If it’s runny, you will get a thin layer of glazing. Don’t pour too much lemon juice, because then it takes an inordinate amount of confectioner’s sugar to mop it up. Using a small brush or the back of a spoon, spread a little glaze on the cookies. Leave out for a little while until the glaze has dried and hardened.

To be nibbled on with a nice cup of tea.

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  • Vanessa Parody

    Mmm, lovely. I love lemony “sweet” things – the tarter the better!

    What kind of butter do you use Clotilde – unsalted, lightly salted?

  • Always delicious reading… forgive me, but I live in a gastronomic wasteland: what are powdered almonds?

    I remember my first experience with Sea Salt and my astonishment at what Fleur de Sel could do to enhance the flavors in a dish. Its been an essential ingredient in my kitchen ever since.

  • Vanessa – I think I used unsalted for this recipe, to leave the salt power to the fleur de sel, but lightly salted would work too.

    Donna – Powdered almonds are ground almonds, used a lot in French or German baking. It is also sometimes know as almond meal, or almond powder (I have updated the recipe to include this). If you can’t find any, you could make your own by grinding blanched almonds in a food processor. Take care to do it in short pulses so the almonds don’t get too hot, because you’ll get almond butter if you grind them too fast! (Which would be great, too, just not for this recipe!)

  • What is it about almond? I don’t think of myself as a huge fan of it, but it does come across well in baked goods. My stepmother, who is a master when it comes to baking, uses some almond extract in her buttercream frosting for sugar cookies, and people go NUTS for it.

    This does look like a good recipe, though perhaps a bit above my competency level — as soon as I read the words “rolling pin,” I get scared!

  • Jackie – Don’t be intimidated by the rolling pin! Here you’re just using it to flatten the dough between the sheets, so there is no risk of it sticking to the pin, which is the only difficulty of the tool, really. Use a bottle of wine instead, it should make it less scary! :)

  • I don’t know why you think I’d have a bottle of wine handy…! :)

    Okay, okay — you have convinced me. I will report back soon.

  • Would it be too salty if you sprinkled a bit of fleur de sel on the top of the glaze? Overkill, maybe?

  • Oh, now, you’ve gone and mentioned something I’ve never heard of. I’ve got several very good grocery stores available here in Portland, Oregon, USA, but whom do I ask for Fleur de Sel? And is there an “American” name by which it might be known? Thanks! The cookies sound wonderful!

  • I cannot wait to try these. They sound so lovely!

  • Desmona

    Clotilde: I keep trying to find pictures
    and info on real french crepes but little
    comes up.

    I know that in Paris, they’ve got little stands set up on the street.

    Have you ever considered reviewing more local restaurants on your site?
    The little ones that regularly get passed by un-noticed?

  • Jackie – Oooh by no means did I want to imply that… um… you… uh… never mind.

    Jenny – My feeling is that the hint of salt from the dough is enough, but maybe you could try it on a few and do a side-by-side taste test? And report back? :)

    Kristi – If you have good “gourmet-type” grocery stores around, I’m sure they will carry fleur de sel. I also remember seeing tubs of it at Williams Sonoma, too, if you have a store near you. And Fleur de Sel is the name it would go by, I think. And if all else fails, I’m sure you could substitute kosher salt to great results!

    Allison – I hope you like them!

    Desdemona – Next time I make crepes, I’ll be sure to blog about it!

  • Ok, now I’m drooling…I *love* lemony things, and these cookies sound delicious! The diet be damned, I’ve got to make these soon.

    Kristi – Williams-Sonoma does sell fleur de sel, it’s $10.50 for 8.8 oz. Now I’ve got try to convince my husband to let me spend that much on salt!

  • Thanks, Clotilde and Kel. We do have a Williams-Sonoma store in town. I’ll have to skip a lunch or three to justify that price, but I’m sure I’ll get away with it somehow! My husband is a big lemon fan, so I’m sure he’ll love the cookies, too.

  • Christy

    I recently checked out your Chocolate and Zucchini book from the library and made this recipe. It was incredible. I dipped some of the sables in chocolate, and that went over very well, but I liked the plain lemon ones best. I also tried it with lime, but it wasn’t as amazing as the lemon ones, to my surprise. Really splendid recipe.

  • Christy – Thanks for reporting back, I’m delighted you liked the lemon sablés from my book! (Note, however, that it isn’t the same recipe as this one.)

  • Adriana

    Hi clotilde, I just made them and the dough is quite soft… Is that normal? I tried to cut them out with a cutter after having put them in the fridge but still too soft. Any suggestions? Ps I love your yogurt cakes!!! Thanks

    • Hi Adriana, the dough should be too soft to cut with a cookie cutter. If it is, it’s likely that it needed more flour. I don’t recommend adding more flour now, as you may end up overworking the dough. Instead, I would use your current batch to make slice-and-bake cookies: roll up the dough into logs, place in the freezer to harden slightly, then cut into slices and bake.

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