Cherry blossoms will always make me think of Japan, but another type of blossom is woven throughout the memories of my childhood. I grew up in Redlands, California—a beautiful sunny town in Southern California that used to be the heart of the largest navel orange producing region in the world. Although many of the old citrus groves are being torn down to make way for urban development, when I was little many orange groves still remained. When the orange blossoms were in bloom the air was filled with their heavy intoxicating scent. This scent will always remind me of home and my childhood. But it will also always remind me of my mother.
This is one of her favorite scents. Despite her seasonal allergies, she was known to open up the windows and take deep breaths, inhaling the scent of the blossoms. My mother is one of my heroes and with Mother’s Day coming up this weekend, I wanted to make something in her honor. Usually when I think of making something for my mom, I go straight for a dessert laden with rich dark chocolate. But this year my mind turned to the orange blossoms of my youth, and I made some delicate orange blossom sable cookies.
Sablés, a popular French confection, are tender buttery shortbread cookies. They are delicious eaten with a bowl of ice cream or simply with a glass of cold milk. These sablés are delicate like their namesake blossoms, and lightly perfumed with orange blossom water and orange zest. These cookies are flexible because the dough can be made ahead and kept in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or in the freezer for up to 2 months.
The cookies are simple to make. You mix up the soft sticky dough, and then form it into logs, which you then wrap in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to chill.
Then you slice them into 1/2-inch slices,
place them on lined baking sheets,
and bake them until they are lightly golden brown on the edges and pale on top.
So for you, my dear sweat beautiful mother, I give you a bowl full of blossoms that won’t make you sneeze. I love you!
Orange Blossom Sablés
Makes about 36 cookies
2 sticks (8 ounces, 1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoons orange blossom water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup almond meal
1. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and orange blossom water together at medium speed until it is smooth and creamy. Add the sugars and the salt and beat until everything is well blended, about 1 minute. Reduce the speed to low and add in the egg yolks and orange zest, beating until the mixture is again well blended.
2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and almond meal. Add this mixture to the mixture in the mixer with the mixer turned off. Drape a kitchen towel over the mixer to prevent flour from flying all over, and pulse the mixer at low speed 5 times for about 2 seconds each time. If there is still a lot of flour on the surface of the dough, pulse a couple of more times. On low speed, mix the dough for about 30 seconds more, just until the flour is incorporated. Don’t worry if the dough looks a bit crumbly—working the dough as little as possible once the flour is added will yield the best texture.
3. Using a rubber spatula, transfer half of the soft, sticky dough onto a piece of plastic wrap and form into a log. Don’t worry if the log isn’t perfect! Wrap the log well in plastic wrap and then repeat with the other half of the dough. Refrigerate the logs for at least 3 hours, preferably longer. (The dough can be kep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months.)
4. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Remove one log from the refrigerator, unwrap it, and slice it into 1/2-inch-thick cookies. Place the rounds on one of the baking sheets, leaving an inch of space between them. Bake the cookies for 15 to 18 minutes, rotating the baking sheet half way through. When done, the cookies will be light brown on the bottom, lightly golden brown around the edges, and pale on top. Remove them from the oven and let the cookies rest for a couple of minutes before carefully lifting them onto a rack with a wide metal spatula to cool to room temperature. (You can also just carefully slide the parchment paper with the cookies on it onto the rack if the rack is wide enough.) The cookies will finish setting as they cool, so do not worry if the tops still feel a bit tender when you remove them from the oven. Repeat with the second log of dough and the remaining lined baking sheet.