Sablé is French for “sandy,” an apt description for the delicate crumbly texture of these buttery, almond-enriched cookies that originated in Sablé-sur-Sarthe, France. Also known as Sablé Breton, or French butter cookies, they are cousins to shortbread but are shaped into rounds rather than fingers. As I have been working more with natural sweeteners, these are made with maple sugar, rather than the usual cane sugar, in a recipe adapted from British chef Dione Lucas, the first female graduate of Le Cordon Bleu.
The luscious lavender ice cream is a snap to prepare without need for an ice cream maker. You’ll just need whipping cream, whole milk steeped with culinary-grade lavender, vanilla paste, and sweetened condensed milk. The lavender flowers add little pops of flavor and a beautiful scent. NOTE: You’ll want to prepare the ice cream the day before serving—it takes six hours to freeze.
FOR LAVENDER ICE CREAM (MAKES 3 PINTS)
• 1 cup whole milk
• 3 teaspoons culinary-grade dried lavender
• 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
• 2 pints (four cups) heavy whipping cream
• 2, 14-oz cans sweetened condensed milk
FOR ALMOND SABLÉS
• 1 cup blanched slivered almonds, divided (half for the dough; half to top cookies)
• 1 1/2 sticks butter, slightly softened
• 1/2 cup maple sugar
• 1/8 teaspoon salt
• 2 tablespoons spiced rum
• 2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
• 1 large egg yolk mixed with 1 teaspoon water
FOR LAVENDER ICE CREAM
Prepare milk: In a small pot over medium heat, warm milk to a simmer. Remove from heat. Stir in 3 teaspoons dried culinary-grade lavender and vanilla paste. Pour into a bowl. Press a sheet of plastic wrap into the bowl to come in contact with the surface of the milk. Refrigerate for two hours, while you make the cookies.
Finish ice cream: In the bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, whip heavy whipping cream to peaks. Using a spatula and an over/under motion, fold in the sweetened condensed milk. Stir in the lavender milk. Pour mixture into three shallow two-cup containers with lids. Press plastic wrap in contact with the surface of the cream. Cover with lids. Freeze until firm (about six hours).
FOR ALMOND SABLÉS
Set oven rack to the center position. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grind 1/2 cup of the blanched almond slivers very fine. (A well-cleaned spice or coffee grinder works well for this, pulse in short bursts.) Set aside.
In the bowl of a standing mixer with the paddle attachment, whip the butter until fluffy. Add the maple sugar and pinch of salt and whip again until smooth. Add the rum and ground almonds. Beat again until incorporated. Working a scoop at a time, with mixer on low speed, beat in the flour, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Beat until all flour has been added and the dough is smooth.
Spread a clean work surface with plastic wrap. Scoop dough onto plastic. Gather up the corners of the plastic and squeezing through it, work and knead the dough until there are no crumbles. Place the dough on your work surface, knead just a bit more. Shape into a ball and divide in half. Spread worksurface with parchment paper. Flatten half of the dough into a rectangle on the paper, cover with plastic wrap and roll out into 1/8 inch thickness. Leaving dough rectangle on parchment, transfer to a cookie sheet and refrigerate. Repeat with remaining ball of dough.
Once dough is well chilled, use a 1 1/2inch round cutter to cut dough into circles. Place cookies close together on parchment-lined sheet pans. Brush with egg wash. Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup of slivered almonds onto tops of cookies. Press nuts into cookies. Brush again with more egg wash. Bake in 350-degree oven for 13 to 15 minutes until golden brown. Cool cookies on wire racks.