As I was browsing through Barnes and Noble I picked up a book called East of Paris : The New Cuisines of Austria and the Danube, which had many interesting stories and recipes from Eastern Europe. While traveling through Austria a few years back, I was surprised to find how many great pastries are made in the area. Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary and most Eastern European countries serve very well made, detailed pastries for often half the price of their western counterparts. The cafe atmosphere in the East is also much more humble and inviting than those in big cities like Paris and London. In Vienna there is a ritual called the “Jause” where the city stops at 4pm to enjoy coffee and pastry at their local cafes. If I took a random sample of New Yorkers at 4pm on a weekday, chances are I’d find the majority are getting water from the cooler and stealing candy from their office mate’s desk.
In my attempt to bring a little of this ideology to New York, I spent my afternoon baking cookies from a recipe I found in the book. I made Cinnamon Sables, the Austrian version of the snickerdoodle (although some sources say the sable cookie was a French invention, but who knows?) The cookie has a cinnamon dough base that is rolled in granulated sugar for a sweet, sparkly finish. The dough is dense and crumbly, and has a slight sandy texture. The picture of the Cinnamon Sable in the book looked like a plain, round circular cookie, and decided to make it a bit more interesting by rolling the dough in spirals. My plan didn’t work out, since the spirals merged together while chilling in the refrigerator.
Besides the failed spiral effect, the cookies came out great. The directions say to bake until the edges are a golden brown, but since the cookie is covered in sugar and already a dark brown color I think it is more useful to just follow your nose. If your oven is properly baking at 325ºF, take the cookies out after 12-13 minutes for a soft, chewy cookie, or leave it in for the full 15 minutes if you prefer a crunchier cookie. I also recommended rolling the individual slices of cookie in extra sugar, since it makes it look great and taste even better in the end.
Recipe by David Bouley
Makes 7 dozen
1 1/2 cups plus 6 tablespoons unsalted butter (3 3/4 sticks)
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
2 large eggs
3 2/3 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
Granulated sugar for rolling cookies
1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a food processor, beat the butter and brown sugar until smooth. Then add one of the eggs and mix to combine. Add the flour, cinnamon and salt and beat or pulse to form a dough.
Roll the doug to form one or two long cylinders about 2 inches in diameter. Wrap them in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or as long as 3 days.
2. Preheat oven to 325ºF. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick liners.
3. Beat the remaining egg in a bowl. Pour about 1/4 inch of granulated sugar into a shallow dish. Brush the outside of the dough log with the beaten egg, then roll the log in sugar to coat it.
Slice 1/4 inch coins of cookie dough from the log, and arrange them on prepared baking sheets.
4. Bake until lightly browned around the edges and firm, about 15 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheets. Cookies will keep up to 1 week in an airtight container at room temperature.
Note: I made half the recipe, which yielded 15 cookies (yes, you really can use half an egg.) I don’t believe that the full recipe will yield 7 dozen as indicated in the book.