One of my favorite cookies, thanks to France, is the crumbly, buttery sablé. I’ve made them with hazelnuts and chocolate chips. I’ve also made versions with pecans, peanuts, and pistachios, along with so many other iterations I can’t even remember them all. Shortbread is the English name for these delicate cookies, but they’re called sablés in France because of their sandy texture, which I’ll go with every time because I think the name is more elegant and it more accurately describes them.
I can’t eat a sablé without thinking of the coast of Normandy, which is where these cookies originated. There are many brands of sablé cookies to choose from in the French supermarkets — they come boxed or tinned, all of them with old fashioned designs and illustrations, and all made with butter. There is nothing newfangled or modern about a sablé, which is why I love them so. Plus they’re perfect with coffee.
That said, this recipe isn’t like any other I’ve tried before, and it’s wonderful because the cookies are ever so slightly nutty, leaving you wondering why. You don’t think, “ah, tahini,” when you eat the first one, or even the second or third, because it’s not an ingredient most of us associate with sweet things. But after I made Chocolate Madeleines + Tahini Glaze not long ago, I realized that it was time for me to see what else I could do with my old hummus friend.
It’s funny how we always think about certain ingredients paired up a certain way, and then once that boundary is crossed, we realize there was no boundary at all. The only walls were our own.
Makes 4 to 5 dozen
Adapted from “Soframiz” by Ana Sortun and Maura Kilpatrick and The New York Times
- 1 ¼ sticks butter at room temperature
- ¾ cup powdered sugar
- 1 cup tahini*
- 1 ¾ cups flour
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- ⅓ cup white sesame seeds
- ⅓ cup black sesame seeds
- Put the butter, powdered sugar, and tahini in a mixer bowl and combine. Mix in the flour and salt.
- Divide the dough into two pieces and roll each one into a log about 1-inch in diameter. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm.
- When you’re ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 375°F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Slice the cookies into 1/4-inch discs and place them on the baking sheets about 1/2-inch apart (these cookies aren’t big spreaders). Sprinkle with white sesame seeds, then black, pressing them gently into the dough. Bake for 12 minutes or until the bottoms are lightly browned. Let cool on the pan for a few minutes, then put on a baking rack to finish cooling. These cookies are best when they’ve been allowed to completely cool. Store in an airtight container.
*I like the Al Wadi brand of tahini, available online or at Middle Eastern grocery stores.