Lemon Poppy Seed Sablés

August 19, 2011

There are not many things in life that I'm 100% certain about, but I do know that calendars will always be a source of lethargic frustration and that grating lemons will always induce a sometimes unintentional Mona Lisa smile.
It doesn't take much to make me happy (sometimes it doesn't take much to bring me to a Wuthering Heights-level melancholy either). I over-think. It's a problem that's always on standby, a subtle yet potent fear who's always two steps ahead of happiness. But as I near my 30...(somewhere between 33 and 35) birthday, I'm beginning to realize that if I can't stop doubt, I can at least turn around and kick it in the groin. :-)

Unlike baking powder, flour, or your car's music volume at a red light, you don't have to second guess anything about a lemon. All it wants is to be grated, juiced, and loved. It won't ask questions, it won't cause you to ask yourself any questions. There is no such thing as too much lemon zest. If you're not sure what 1 Tablespoon of rind is (because who measures that anyway?), just grate as many lemons as your lemon-loving heart desires.

I've made lemon sablés before for Tuesdays with Dorie. In fact, this is another Dorie Greenspan recipe. I tweaked it just a bit by tossing in some poppy seeds, swapping vanilla extract with almond, and adding zest to the crunchy coating. The results are astounding!

Sablés are heavenly cookies. They're not chewy or soft, but don't let that fact derail your desire to make them. The word 'sablé' means sand. Imagine what a clean, sugary, buttery, lemon-filled beach of sand would taste like if you were to mold a handful into a disk and bake it in the summer sun.

While you're baking up a batch of these cookies, don't forget to smile. They may not all be the same size, some may not even be perfect circles, but when you've got lemons on your side, who cares about the little things?

Lemon Poppy Seed Sablés Print
(adapted from Dorie Greenspan's gorgeous book, Paris Sweets)
Depending on how large you slice the dough, this will make 40-50 cookies.

for the sugar coat
1/2 cup (100 grams) of sugar
zest of 1 lemon
1 egg yolk

for the cookies
1 cup (that's 2 sticks, or 8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup (70 grams) of confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 egg yolk
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of pure almond extract
Zest of 2 lemons (3 if they're small)
2 cups (280 grams) all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon of poppy seeds

what to do
Prepare the sugar coating: In a mini food processor, combine the 1/2 cup of sugar and zest from one lemon. Pulse until the zest is fully incorporated into the sugar (you will be able to tell when it's ready by the wonderful fragrance and and pale yellow colour of the sugar). Place the mixture into a bowl, cover well, and set aside. [Note: If you don't have a mini food processor, just rub the zest into the sugar using your fingertips.] Place the egg yolk in a separate small bowl, cover and chill until ready to use.

Prepare the cookies! Put the butter in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (you can also use a hand-held mixer, just be sure that the bowl is large enough to accommodate everything). On medium speed, beat the butter for about 3-5 minutes until it's smooth. Add the sifted confectioners' sugar and beat until the mixture becomes smooth and creamy. Add the egg yolk and beat till incorporated. Add the salt, almond extract, and zest, beat till well combined. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour and poppy seeds, beating just until the streaks of white have disappeared and the seeds are evenly dispersed. Be gentle, it's better to underbeat than overbeat at this stage. The less you work the dough, the more tender and crumbly the cookies will be. If you notice a few chunks of flour here and there, just fold them in with a large rubber spatula.
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface, gather it into a ball, and divide it in half. Wrap each half in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Working on a smooth, lightly floured surface, form each piece of dough into a log that is about 1-1/4-inches thick. Don't worry about the length, if you get the thickness right, everything else will fall into place. Re-wrap the logs and refrigerate for 2 hours.
Divide the oven into thirds. [Note: This always used to confuse my fraction-loathing brain, but it's actually quite simple. One rack should be placed on the second notch from the bottom, while the other rack is on the second notch from the top.]
Preheat the oven to 350F. (180 C). And line baking sheets with parchment paper.
Remove the egg yolk from the refrigerator and give it a whisk so that it becomes smooth enough to use as a glaze.
Spread the lemon sugar mixture out on a large piece of wax or parchment paper.
Remove the logs of dough from the refrigerator, unwrap them, and brush each one lightly with the egg yolk.
Roll the logs in the lemon-sugar mixture, pressing gently as you roll to make sure it sticks.
Using a sharp knife, carefully slice each log into cookies that are about 1/4-inch thick. [Note: I made mine slightly thicker.]
Place the cookies on the prepared cookie sheets, leaving at least 1/2-inch of space between them.
Bake for 10-14 minutes, or until they are set but not browned. Rotate the sheets from top to bottom half-way through. The thicker the cookies, the longer the baking time. Don't worry if the egg washed edges turn brown.
Remove the sheets from the oven and allow the cookies to rest for about 5 minutes before gently transferring them to a cooling rack.

Makes 40-50 cookies


  1. Lemon are just magical. Love your take on Dorie's sables.

  2. i have the exact same problem! i actually just had this conversation with a friend last night. i was having a tiny breakdown due to my over analyzing of everything all the time. the major thing is that i ruminate a lot and that takes up most of my energy and brain space. i gotta stop doing that!

  3. Mmmhhh, wonderful! They look terribly addictive.



  4. @Connie, When my mind starts to overwork itself with useless worrying, I find that doing something simple, such as peeling carrots (or grating lemons) can be quite therapeutic.

    Simplicity will always trump complexity. I just wish that I didn't have to keep reminding myself of that 24/7. :-)

  5. Great call on the almond extract. I do love lemon and poppy seed. I'm on a cookie binge, these days. These are lovely. They look so fancy!

  6. That is so peculiar, just yesterday i was grating lemons and thinking about how it has the potential to be one of the more tedious kitchen tasks but its actually one of my favourites. I love the way my fingers smell all fresh n zesty for a fair while after :) I adore everything about your little sables, im sure they taste delightful - how can you lose with such a flavour combo!

  7. I agree with you as well. Lemons make me happy. I think the oils releasing into the air have a "go to your happy place" chemical.

    And I adore poppy seed, so would add them as well. These are going into my must try file, and I will -- as soon as I can stand to turn on my oven again!

  8. I already have a serious addiction to chocolate sables, and with my love for all things lemon - these could be my new favorite cookie!

  9. These look divine! I love citrus, and poppy seeds too. Citrus really DOES have power, no? Beautiful photos, and recipe! Can't wait to try this out! Definitely bookmarked (but I'm almost afraid to try them as I know I'll make a little pig of myself ;-)

  10. I think I'm an underthinker, but I don't really want to think about it. I'll just go ahead and say it, then maybe think about it later. 'kay? I don't even have to think about these cookies, because I know I'd love them--lemon and almond are great together.

  11. These look so good. And you described them so beautifully, I could almost taste them!

  12. These look ingredible!! Thanks!

  13. I am definitely a thinker~

    Ces biscuits..semblent parfaits!

  14. Beautiful recipe (and photos) - but I am a purist. I will use vanilla extract - I just don’t see almond and lemon together. Vanilla adds a little “oomph” - but the lemon is what really stands out. The minute you put almond extract into cookie dough - it turns to “almond cookies” - due to the high flavor profile. Anyway, to each his own I guess - but I have to say they are lovely cookies - as one commenter said “elegant” - would make a wonderful gift at Christmas :-)


Thanks for visiting, and for taking the time to read through my ramblings!
If you have a recipe comment or question, I'd love to hear from you.

Happy Baking!
♥ Valerie


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