Variations on a sable

At this point I must have half a dozen sable recipes scattered throughout TMH’s pages.  I just can’t help myself.  And, I have no intention of stopping.

When the Wall Street Journal published their mother recipe for sables in the Off Duty section just before the holidays I was on it like an otter on an oyster.

I had some leftover candied orange peel and ginger from my own holiday baking and decided to throw them in.

As a category, sables are a lesson in simplicity.  Just four ingredients: butter, sugar, flour and salt.  And this recipe my friends, is the closest I’ve come to the golden quadrangle.

Slightly sweet, crumbly and while delicious plain, just asking for fun and unique combinations.

If you decide to fancy-up your sables, you’ll need about 3/4 to 1 cup of goodies.  Need some ideas?  How about:

  • Any kind of freeze dried fruit, chopped (Trader Joes is a great source)
  • Citrus zest: lemon, lime, grapefruit, orange
  • Herbs: fresh mint, rosemary, thyme, lavender (as a note–start with 1 TBS chopped and go from there).  If you are going to herbs, a good way to further infuse flavor is to measure out your sugar and add it and your herbs to a ziplock bag.  Let “steep” for at least an hour.
  • Chocolate: any kind.  Chop it up and add it in
  • Teas: Chai, Earl Grey and fruity teas work well.  Depending on how strong you want the flavor,  start with a teaspoon and go from there
  • Candied fruit

Master Sable Recipe

The Wall Street Journal

makes 24 cookies

note–this recipe doubles very well


  • 11 TBS (1 stick plus 3 TBS) unsalted butter at room temp (use good quality here with high fat content like Plugra)
  • 1/2 C granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp flaky sea salt
  • 1 3/4 C all purpose flour, sifted
  • 1/2 C sanding sugar, turbanado or Demarara for rolling
  • 1 C total mix-ins of choice


  1. Using a stand mixer or electric hand mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and whipped, 2-3 minutes.
  2. Add sugar and continue beating until well incorporated. Add salt and beat to combine.
  3. Add flour and beat until almost all flour disappears into the dough.  Finish by giving the dough a few good folds with a rubber spatula.  The dough will be crumbly.
  4. Divide dough in half (I use the food scale here but eye balling works).  Gently coax first half into a general log shape.  Set the log on to parchment paper and roll it back and forth until you have an even log about 1 1/2 inches in diameter and 8ish inches long.  Set aside and repeat with other log.
  5. Sprinkle the sanding/decorating sugar onto your parchment and gently roll each log until the surface is completely coated.
  6. Roll each log individually in either plastic wrap or parchment.  As a note, I first roll the log in a sheet of parchment, then place in a paper-towel roll and THEN wrap the whole thing in plastic wrap.  Rolls can now be frozen for up to two months.  They can also be baked from frozen but I prefer to move them to the fridge a couple of hours before I want to bake, I think they cut more nicely.
  7. When you are ready to bake, preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Arrange racks in upper and lower thirds in the oven.  Line baking sheets with parchment.
  8. Remove parchment/paper towel/plastic wrap from logs.  Using a sharp knife, cut into 3/8 inch disks.  Arrange cookies on baking sheets with about an inch in-between (the sables will not spread).
  9. Bake for 18-21 minutes rotating sheets halfway through and until sables are lightly toasted.  Let stand for 1-2 minutes then slide the parchment off the pan and onto a heat-proof surface.  Allow cookies to cool completely before removing from parchment.
  10. These freeze well.

Ayyyye Churro Macarona!

Can you believe that when I met him TD had never had a churro?  You think you know someone and BAM a little fact like that slips out.

On the one hand, I’ll admit it was pretty ethnocentric of me to believe that the churro was as ubiquitous in other parts of the country as it is in Southern California.  On the other hand, we’re talking about a man who lists the Choco Taco as a favorite dessert. Explains a lot doesn’t it?

Whether or not churros are a part of your cultural landscape, you can’t deny the allure of cinnamon and sugar together.  Add in a cinnamon infused cream cheese filling and you’ve got yourself an easy win.

Churro Macarons

cinnamon shells with cinnamon cream cheese filling and a dusting of cinnamon sugar on top

for the shells, makes 18-20 shells for 9-10 finished cookies


  • 60 grams almond meal
  • 100 grams confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 50 grams egg whites
  • 20 grams granulated sugar

Note: I did not use food coloring in these guys because the little flecks on cinnamon were too pretty to cover up.


  • Preheat oven to 315 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment.  I like to draw the circles with Sharpie on a couple of pieces of parchment as a stencil. In order to use them multiple times I lay another piece of parchment over the top.
  • Weigh and measure out all of your ingredients.  When I’m making multiple batches I actually weigh out the almond flour, sugar and any other dry ingredients into separate zip-lock baggies and label them.
  • In a food processor fitted with a blade, pulse together almond meal, cinnamon and confectioner’s sugar.  Give it a few pulses then sift into a medium bowl.  Set aside.
  • In a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or an electric hand mixer), add the egg whites.  Beat on medium low until frothy.
  • Increase the speed and slowly add the granulated sugar and pinch of salt.
  • Beat eggs until they form soft peaks.
  • Working in three batches, add first portion of almond meal mixture to the egg-whites.  Gently fold until just combined.  Repeat with the additional two portions of meal folding to combine while using as few folds as possible.
  • To test if the batter is ready to pipe, scoop about 1/4 tsp onto a flat surface.  The batter should act like lava and spread enough to lose its peak but not its shape.  I usually do this test several times starting at the point where everything is just combined.  If you under-mix the batter you can always give it a few more folds.  However, you are out of luck if you over mix.  So, err on the side of multiple tests.
  • When the batter is ready, pour it into your piping bag.  To be honest, I don’t bother with a tip, I just snip the bag about an inch or so from the tip.
  • Pipe your shells onto the parchment-lined baking sheets.
  • Allow to sit for 10-60 minutes or until the shells appear dry.  I have found this process is heavily dependent on the weather.  The more moisture in the air, the longer they need to sit.
  • Working with one sheet at a time, bake for about 20 minutes.  To test, gently grab one corner of the parchment and attempt to peel it from the shell.  A clean peel means the shells are done.  If they are sticky, back in the oven for another 5 minutes and test again.
  • Let the shells cool but once cool, carefully remove from the parchment.  I have found that you don’t want to let the cooled shells sit on the parchment.

for the filling


  • 4 ounces cream cheese (I like to use a lower fat version to keep the filling from being too heavy)
  • 1 C confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon (more to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • Optional: 4 TBS or so of cinnamon sugar for dusting (4TBS granulated sugar + 1 /2 tsp cinnamon)


  1. Beat the cream cheese with an electric hand-mixer until smooth.
  2. Add- in remaining ingredients and beat until combined.
  3. Once the sandwich cookies are filled, dip the finished cookie in a shallow dish of cinnamon and sugar.  The surface tension should be enough to keep some of the fine granules stuck to the cookie.


Hey sugar, how about a lime?

I decided to try this recipe just so I could have an excuse to make lime sugar.

I know, right?

I used a citrus zester because I like to live a little dangerously and risk peeling half my thumb when zesting limes.  You could easily remove lime peel with a sharp pairing knife.  I also think a microplane rasper would work as well (though it would change the texture of your final product).  Once your limes are zested and said zest is chopped, then there is grinding.  With sugar.  Sounds dirty doesn’t it?

The result is fantastic.  Lime sugar is like WD40.   One product, many uses.  Want a little extra zing to your margarita?  Rim your glass with lime sugar.  Want glowing skin?  Just add coconut oil and you’ve got a fresh sugar scrub.  I could go on for days.

In this instance however, we’re making cookies with it.  Sugar cookies to be exact.

In the original recipe, the dough is rolled into a log and chilled.  I was feeling a little frisky and decided to roll-out mine  using this fail-proof method.  One note here, this dough is much softer than a traditional cut-out cookie dough.  For this reason, chill well, cut-out quickly and then re-chill the shaped dough before it goes into the oven.

After cutting-out the flowers, I dipped each in superfine sugar for some added texture.  These would also do well iced.   They are simple but pack a nice punch of flavor.  Lovely with an iced-tea on a summer’s day.


Vampire Weekend.  To me, this band is like all the good things of summer rolled-into one.  Their music makes me want to pop my polo collar, throw off my shoes and wiggle my toes in the sand.   With one exception.  Unlike Vampire Weekend, I do give a f&*k about the Oxford Comma.  Well, insofar as I detest it.  Serial comma?  More like serial killer of my patience.  Why anyone would think it necessary to punctuate before an obviously terminal conjunction is beyond me.

Lime Sugar Cookies

Gourmet, July 2000


  • 3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons cold vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup lime sugar (see below for instructions)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


  1. Beat together butter, shortening, granulated sugar, and 2 tablespoons lime sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together over egg mixture, then beat on low speed until just combined.
  2. Form dough into a 10-inch log (2 inches in diameter) on wax paper, then wrap in wax paper. Chill dough until firm, at least 4 hours.  Alternately, roll-out dough between two sheets of parchment or wax paper.  Chill until firm and cut-out as desired.  Dough can be re-rolled but will need to be chilled in-between (dough is very soft).
  3. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  4. Remove wax paper and cut log into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Bake cookies 1/2 inch apart on ungreased baking sheets in batches in middle of oven 10 to 12 minutes, or until pale golden. Immediately transfer with a metal spatula to a rack set over a sheet of wax paper and sprinkle tops with remaining lime sugar. Cool cookies.

Lime Sugar

  • 6 limes
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  1. Remove zest from limes in strips with a vegetable peeler (or zester or pairing knife) and cut away any white pith from zest (pith imparts a bitter flavor). Chop zest (about 1/2 cup), then grind in a food processor with sugar until mixture is pale green with bits of zest still visible.
  2. Misanthropic Hostess note.  Now you are left with 6 naked limes that will quickly go South if you don’t use them immediately.    So what do you do when life gives you limes?  You make lime simple syrup for warm weather cocktails.  Juice your limes and combine 1/2 C of  water with 1 C of sugar in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly until sugar is dissolved.  When mixture reaches boiling, turn off heat and add lime juice (and any extra lime zest you might have).  Store in a covered container in the fridge.




Sex and the City and muffins

I was at the gym the other day watching Sex and the City on Closed Caption while toiling away on the rowing machine.  I think it’s funny that I get most of my pop culture via subtitle while at the gym.  Of course this can lead to confusion like the time I was watching VH1 while on the treadmill and spent an entire music video thinking Menudo were the Jonas Brothers (all the while opining, ‘hey, these Jonas Brothers are way cooler than I thought…what with the retro-vibe and all’) only to find out that the subtitles were on a two-minute delay.  In this case Menudo really was Menudo.

Anyhow, as a West Coast girl, my impression of New York City is almost entirely derived from a combination of Sex and the City, the Sopranos,  SNL and old episodes of Felicity.  Oh, and of course, the season finale of Glee.

I loved S.A.T.C.–though will  admit I was a late-comer to the show. In fact, I may have missed it entirely if I hadn’t started dating TD who, on our first Sunday evening together casually said, “hey, don’t you want to watch Sex and the City.”  Which really meant, “I want to watch Sex and the City but as a manly man need to use you as my beard.”  By then, the show was in its third season.  One episode and I understand what the big deal was…even if the 27-year-old in me thought those old-broads were acting a little immature for their age.

Fast forward just over ten years to my recent time on the rowing machine.  They were showing Catch-38–the episode where Carrie realizes that at 38 she should or should-not be making some important decisions about her life.  Wait…I just turned 38…when did I catch up with the S.A.T.C. girls?  You know, those “old broads.”  Oh dear.  Oh crap.

Existential crises aside, that episode motivated me to try a recipe for New York-Style Crumb Cake Muffins from Cooks Illustrated (January 1, 2008).  If I can no longer have the fashion S.A.T.C. brought me, at least I could have a vaguely reminiscent baked good (what…I’ve stretched it too far?).

I have a weakness for crumb-topped coffee cake.  But really, who doesn’t?  You start this recipe by making the topping.  And, let’s be honest, this is the most important part.  While tasty, the muffin is just the delivery method for these buttery, sugar-cinnamony crumbles.  Melted butter, sugars and cinnamon (duh) are combined.

Until they form a dough which is then set aside to cool.

Then the muffin dough is pulled together.  Butter is added to the dry ingredients little by little until crumbly sand forms.  Then the eggs and buttermilk are added until the mixture is light and fluffy.

The beauty of this recipe is that it only makes 12 muffins–which is great for a Sunday morning treat.  After portioning-out the dough into lined cupcake molds, the topping gets broken into large pieces and arranged on top of the muffin batter.  You’ll feel like you’ve got too much crumble dough–do not worry, just pack-in-on, the muffins will rise in the oven.

Once out of the oven, you are supposed to wait 20 minutes before removing them from the pan and another 20 before eating.  Good luck with that.

These were fantastic for brunch.  And, even better,  I’m going to “transform” this recipe in a couple of weeks for a bridal shower by adding an icing and calling them cupcakes.

New York-Style Crumb Cake Muffins

Posted verbatim from Cooks Illustrated, January 1, 2008

Makes 12 muffins

Don’t be tempted to substitute all-purpose flour for the cake flour, as doing so will make a dry, tough muffin. If you can’t find buttermilk, you can substitute an equal amount of plain, low-fat yogurt. When topping the muffins, take care to not push the crumbs into the batter. Cooled leftovers can be wrapped in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 2 days.


  • Crumb Topping
  • 1/3cup granulated sugar (2 2/3 ounces)
  • 1/3cup dark brown sugar (2 2/3 ounces)
  • 3/4teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8teaspoon table salt
  • 8tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), melted and still warm
  • 1 3/4cups cake flour (7 ounces)
  • Muffins
  • 1 1/4cups cake flour (5 ounces)
  • 1/2cup granulated sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
  • 1/4teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4teaspoon table salt
  • 6tablespoons unsalted butter (3/4 stick), cut into 6 pieces, softened but still cool
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3cup buttermilk
  • Confectioners’ sugar for dusting


  1. 1. FOR THE TOPPING: Whisk sugars, cinnamon, salt, and butter in medium bowl to combine. Add flour and stir with rubber spatula or wooden spoon until mixture resembles thick, cohesive dough; set aside to cool to room temperature, 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. 2. FOR THE MUFFINS: Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Line standard-sized muffin pan (cups have 1/2 cup capacity) with baking-cup liners.
  3. 3. In bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt on low speed to combine. With mixer running at low speed, add butter one piece at a time; continue beating until mixture resembles moist crumbs, with no visible butter chunks remaining, 1 to 2 minutes. Add egg, yolk, vanilla, and buttermilk; beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute, scraping once if necessary.
  4. 4. Using 1/4-cup measure or ice cream scoop, divide batter evenly among muffin cups; using small rubber spatula, spread batter into even layer. Following photos below, break apart crumb topping into large pea-sized pieces and spread in even layer over batter (about 1/4 cup of crumbs per muffin), beginning with edges and then working toward center. Bake until crumbs are golden and wooden skewer inserted into center of muffin comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool muffins in pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack at least 20 minutes. Dust with confectioners’ sugar just before serving.

Homer has died and gone to heaven: Doughnut Muffins

Yeah, yeah, I know, you watch “Best Thing I Ever Ate” on the Food Network too. This blog does not claim to be particularly original. Tasty yes. Ground breaking? Eh. So, when I saw the episode about Sprinkles’ founder Candace Nelson’s favorite baked good I knew I had to find the recipe and bring it here. I mean come on—this is what the sister grand pubha of cupcakes puts at the top of her list. It’s gotta be good. And it is, really good. Like, reaaalllly gooood. But there is a secret to the doughnut-muffin that makes them extra super excellent that they don’t share with you on the show that I will share with you here. Promise.

Start with all room temperature ingredients. The butter, milk, buttermilk and eggs—the whole lot—at room temperature (I know you’ve hear this before). What’s more, this is no delicate batter. While you could do it with a hand-mixer, I recommend the big guns (and no TD, I don’t mean your biceps).

Grease the muffin pans but don’t use liners. You’ll see why in a second. The original recipe says to use about ½ cup of batter in each muffin cup. For me, 1/3 cup was perfect (once you see the amount of levening agent in this recipe you’ll understand why).

The batter on its own isn’t particularly interesting or unique. It’s when they come out of the oven that the magic occurs (but just the ordinary magic, not the super special magic part I’m going to tell you about at the end of this post).

While your buns are in the over, melt some butter. A lot of butter. And while you are at it, whisk together a cinnamon sugar party.

Now, as soon as you can handle the muffins without either burning yourself or crushing the muffin, the real fun begins. Start with a nice, all over butter bath. That’s right, bathe these cakes in butter.

Then, before the butter sinks in, give them a sugar scrub all over.

Don’t be shy with the sugar baby.

The doughnut muffin is definitely greater than the sum of its parts. The outside is cinnamon-sugary with a little bit of crunch while the inside is moist and crumbly.

These are delectable as they are but wait. Oh yeah, I’m going there. The only thing better than a plain doughnut muffin.

Is a jelly doughnut muffin. But that isn’t the secret part.

Here is the secret part.

If you have the discipline, let them sit in a tightly sealed container over-night. What they lose in crunch they gain in doughnuttyness. Is there anything better than a doughnut the size of a muffin?

Doughnut Muffins

Kathleen Stewart, Downtown Bakery and Creamery

12 oz. (24 Tbs.) unsalted butter, warmed to room temperature
1-3/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 lb. 11 oz. (6 cups) all-purpose flour
1 Tbs. plus 2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1-3/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1-2/3 cups milk
1/4 cup buttermilk

For dipping:
8 oz. (16 Tbs.) unsalted butter; more as needed
2 cups sugar
2 Tbs. ground cinnamon

To make the muffins

Put a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. In a stand mixer or a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until just mixed in. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg. Combine the milk and buttermilk. With a wooden spoon, mix a quarter of the dry ingredients into the butter mixture. Then mix in a third of the milk mixture. Continue mixing in the remaining dry and wet ingredients alternately, ending with the dry. Mix until well combined and smooth, but don’t overmix. Grease and flour a standard-size muffin tin. Scoop enough batter into each tin so that the top of the batter is even with the rim of the cup, about 1/2 cup (I used 1/3 C) Bake the muffins until firm to the touch, 30 to 35 min.

Melt the butter for the dipping mixture. Combine the sugar and cinnamon. When the muffins are just cool enough to handle, remove them from the tin, dip them into or brush them all over with the melted butter, and then roll them in the cinnamon sugar.