Thursday, May 28, 2015

Honey, I burned the sugar*

...and baked it into cookies.

Lavender Burnt Sugar Sable Cookies | Cheesy Pennies

Burn, baby, burn!

Burnt Sugar for Sable Cookies | Cheesy Pennies
Lavender Burnt Sugar Sable Cookies | Cheesy Pennies
Lavender Burnt Sugar Sable Cookies | Cheesy Pennies

Burn that motha' down!

Lavender Burnt Sugar Sables
Burnt Sugar Sable Cookies | Cheesy Pennies
by Sharon Graves
Prep Time: 40 minutes, plus chilling time
Cook Time: 15 minutes
In an attempt to duplicate the Burnt Sugar and Fennel Shortbread cookies from Lark Fine Foods that friends and I inhaled on recent trip, I cribbed the burnt sugar bits from the Ovenly Stumptown Shorty recipe, folded them into Dorie Greenspan's Vanilla Bean Sable recipe, and added a hint of lavender because I forgot that the cookies I was copying used fennel and I had lavender in my garden.  It was a fortuitous oversight (yow!) but I'm sure these will be equally spectacular with the original spice as well. The combination of the meltingly tender butter cookie with nubs of deeply caramelized crispy sugar bits inside and the crusty outside is incredible. Next time**, I'm thinking of trying them with orange zest, or espresso powder, or cardamom, or tarragon...

Oooh, I just can't stop!  When my spark gets hot!

  • 1/3 c. sugar
  • 3-4 small fronds of fresh lavender flowers, washed and dried, or 1 tsp. fennel seeds, toasted and ground with a mortar and pestle
  • 1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter softened
  • 1/2 tsp. (generous) kosher salt
  • 1/3 c. powdered sugar, sifted
  • 2 large egg yolks, 1 for dough, 1 for finishing
  • 2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 c. burnt sugar bits (see NOTE)
  • 1/2 c. raw Turbinado sugar, for finishing
  • NOTE: You will need 1 c. regular sugar for the burnt bits

Begin by making the burnt sugar bits.

Spray a 9 x 13-inch rimmed sheet pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Place sugar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan or skillet, and heat over medium-high heat. Stir the sugar continuously with a wooden spoon until it has completely melted and is dark golden-brown. In spite of the name here, do not burn the sugar! As you are stirring, break any clumps apart with the spoon. The entire process should take about 5 minutes.

Burnt Sugar in the Making | Cheesy Pennies

Carefully pour the melted sugar onto the prepared sheet pan and tilt the pan to spread it out evenly to a thickness of about 1/4 inch. Allow to cool completely, about 30 minutes at room temperature. Turn out onto a cutting board. Using a knife or small hammer, crack the sugar into loads of smaller pieces. The burnt sugar bits can be kept indefinitely in an airtight container stored in a cool, dry place.

Now, on to the cookies!

Place the sugar in a small bowl, and add the lavender fronds. Using your hands, gently crush/press the flowers into the sugar using your fingers, taking care to keep the actual flowers intact so you can remove them after crushing. The idea is to add the lavender flavor to the sugar without actually putting the petals and stem into the dough. If you are using fennel, you'll crush that in as well, but leave the spice in with the sugar.

Using a hand mixer or a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, mix the butter on low speed until smooth and creamy, about one minute. Add the salt, and then add the lavender/fennel sugar and the powdered sugar and mix for another minute until smooth. Scrape down the bowl as needed along the way. Add one egg yolk and mix for one minute. Still on low speed, mix in the flour just until blended. The dough will be soft. Finally, using a spatula or wooden spoon and not the mixer, stir in the burnt sugar bits.

Burnt Sugar Bits going into the dough | Cheesy Pennies

Turn the dough out onto a clean surface and knead it gently a few times. Divide it in half and shape each half into a log about an inch and a half in diameter. Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least three hours or overnight.

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or silicone baking mat.

Roll of Sables | Cheesy Pennies

Sprinkle about 1/2 cup of the raw sugar onto another baking sheet. Mix the remaining egg yolk with a splash of water in a small bowl and whisk with a fork. Brush each log with the egg wash and roll it in the raw sugar until evenly coated. Cut the dough into 1/3 inch thick rounds. Put them on the baking sheets, leaving about two inches between the cookies.

Lavender Burnt Sugar Sables 3 | Cheesy Pennies

Bake the cookies until brown around the edges and golden on the bottom, 13 to 15 minutes. Allow to cool on the baking sheet for five minutes; then carefully transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely before serving.

Lavender Burnt Sugar Sables 2 | Cheesy Pennies

* Well, technically, the sugar didn't actually burn, but that number from Tavares was kind of necessary today, yes? Can I get an amen on those outfits?
** There will 100% be a next time. These are definitely some of the best treats I have ever made.


  1. Be still, my heart. I've never met a shard of hard caramel I didn't like, and these look like they'd taste like creme brulee with a cookie base in place of the custard base. What a grand idea. I'm doing this, this week.

    P.S. You've been very funny over on Michael Procopio's blog recently.

    1. Welcome, Maggie! Any fan of Michael's is an honored guest here. You nailed it in terms of the creme brulee analogy. Bonus: No blowtorch needed! Let me know how yours come out.