September 25, 2004

cookies, compared

Thursday, September 23

I am fortunate to have some friends who have shared tempting food and cooking ingredients that are hard to find on this island with me, and the other day I had some fleur de sel, fine sea salt, of not just one but three different origins (Camargue, Guerande, both in France, and Portugal). Among a neverending list of things to use the precious salt for that I had had in my mind, I particularly wanted to try lemon and fleur de sel sable cookies.

It was a while ago that I read Clotilde's post with recipe on sables au citron a la fleur de sel, it instantly became one of my most-anticipated items to try out. I love lemon, I love lemon cookies, and I have had a slightly salty lemon cookies before, so I knew this is going to be my favorite.

It has been quite a while since that time, and suring then I came across another recipe for lemon and seal salt sables in Amanda Hesser's book Cooking for Mr. Latte: a food lover's courtship, with recipes (2003, W.W. Norton & Co.).

The two recipes of lemon cookies were interestingly different from each other: while both are rich in butter and use lemon and sea salt, Clotilde's uses egg white on one hand and Amanda Hesser's uses egg yolks on the other; and the former uses ground almonds and lemon juice other than lemon zest, the latter doesn't. Also, Clotilde's finishes cookies with lemon icing, whereas the other decorate the sides of cookies with granulated sugar before baking. Furthermore, the flour used in Clotilde's recipe, while it isn't so specified, might be pastry flour and cookies for Mr. Latte are clearly made using all-purpose flour.

I had made up my mind to try both of the recipes, and it was now a matter of which one to try first; since I couldn't decide, I just made them both at one time - this way I could compare the two! To control factors that are not directly related to the difference in the ingredients between the two, I used butter, eggs, and sugar of the same brand in the same package, and also used Meyers lemon and fleur de sel de Camargue, for both of the recipes.
As Amanda Hesser says that the cookies need time to develop its flavor and thus taste better, I saved the cookies in a ziploc and stored them in a cupboard.

Okay, here comes the time to taste the two:

I started off with an Amanda Hesser's cookie, which was lemony (as she clearly mentioned) with just a hint of saltiness.

They were good cookies, although they felt a bit too dense, which might have been because of the flour (all-purpose flour tends to make baked stuff too dense) and the fact that I made them a wee bit too thick and baked them a little too long. Also I slightly reduced the sugar, but I could have reduced it further - they were pretty sweet to me. But they were fine.

However, the other cookies were just fabulous; light but just rightly moist, perhaps thanks to the ground almonds (I actually ground unblanched almonds at home, so the cookies have brown stains here and there - but that was minor).
The lemon icing boosted the lemony flavor of the already lemony cookies, and the subtle saltiness was perfect with it. I fell for them at once. (He apparently couldn't choose one from the two - they are both excellent, he said.)

Well, you might have noticed that on the plate in the picture above, there seem to be three kinds of cookies. And there were. I whipped up pistachio and orange cookies using whole, raw, unsalted pistachios that are also from the same friend of mine. That was a disaster, though. The cookies tasted good, with a plenty of freshly-ground pistachio paired with orange zest in the batter, but they didn't turn out how they were meant to be at all.

I am too embarrassed to indicate the recipe that I used here, but I might give it a revenge sometime and should it turn out successful, I will disclose the "hidden" recipe. Perhaps.


Reid said...

Hi Chika,

The cookies look delicious! What type of cookie is the third one from the top (with the white glaze)? I'm almost tempted to try and make the pistachio one (I love pistachios). =)

chika said...

Hi Reid,
the cookies with the white glaze are by Clotilde's recipe that I linked. I usually skip glazing/icing/frosting stuff, but for this one it was great.
I love pistachio, too... I have a few other things I want to try with them, but if there is any nut lefy I will try this cookie one last time....