Oh, people. I seem to have gotten obsessed. Again. And, as usual, it all started rather innocently: a tart margarita, a brief foray in Mexico, some beans. Yet here we are four days past vacation’s final curtain and all I can think of is limes and tequila, chili peppers and salt, charred meats and bright colors, and I think we’re in for the long haul.
Since I’ve been back from vacation, I’ve had this real bee in my bonnet, a hankering for a cookie with all of the flavors of a margarita neatly packaged in a safe-for-your-blood-alcohol-level treat. And if a margarita cookie sounds too awful for words to you–as it did to everyone I mentioned it to this week–then consider these things: One, limes contrasted with a buttery crust makes for one of the greatest things in the world: a key lime tart. Two, there’s little surprise that the sharp yet floral flavor orange zest, whether in French toast or candied and dipped and chocolate is one of pastry chefs most beloved muses. Three, what is vanilla extract but a flavor-infused alcohol? What if that flavor was, say, agave instead? And four, if there’s anything this fancy salt trend of the last couple years has taught us is that salt at just the right level is a dessert dream-come-true. It’s curiosity, but also balance. And besides all that–cocktail cookies? I dare you to resist.
After sifting through endless recipes for inspiration, I finally found what I was looking for in Dorie Greenspan’s Lemon Sables, and frankly, I was thrilled because I have yet to make anything of hers that’s been anything short of flawlessly structured and swiftly consumed. Had I actually remembered to bring these babies in to work today, (and not, say, left at home with this small, scampering issue that I really, really don’t want to talk right now but, by the way, was the cause a multi-hour wildly unpleasant cleanup last night, ghuh, and I’m still a little traumatized) I’m sure my unpaid recipe-testers would agree: it actually worked. I replaced the lemon zest with an amplified amount of both lime and orange zest, the vanilla was swapped for 1800 gold and I replaced the regular sugar with the clear sanding variety with a hefty pinch of flaky Maldon salt. Now, we all know how I feel about uppity ingredients, but I can’t imagine this working with anything but a flaky, lightweight salt such as this. (That said, if you like the results you get with table salt, be sure to let us know.)
The cookies are supposed to be one to one-and-one-quarter inch in diameter, and I think my old thumb trick (estimating an inch with the top joint in my thumb) failed me, because these are even more eensy than they’re supposed to be. But otherwise, I wouldn’t change a thing. I loved that they kept their green and orange flecks from beginning to end, but even more so that when I opened the oven door, it smelled like margarita. Siiigh.
Up next: margarita chicken. I wasn’t kidding when I called this an obsession.
Hey Look! There’s an over-caffeinated interview interview with dorky old me in which I say “Good Morning, Honolulu!” up at Culinate, a Porland food magazine.
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Sablés au Citron
Makes about 50 cookies
2 sticks (8 ounces; 230 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup (70 grams) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
Pinch of salt
2 teaspoons tequila
Grated zest of 2 limes
Grate zest of half an orange
2 cups (280 grams) all-purpose flour
Approximately 1/2 cup clear sanding or other coarse sugar
2 teaspoons flaky Maldon sea salt*
1. Put the butter in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat at medium speed until it is smooth. Add the sifted confectioners’ sugar and beat again until the mixture is smooth and silky. Beat in 1 of the egg yolks, followed by the salt, tequila, grated lime and orange zest. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour, beating just until it disappears. It is better to underbeat than overbeat at this point; if the flour isn’t fully incorporated, that’s ok–just blend in whatever remaining flour needs blending with a rubber spatula. Turn the dough out onto a counter, gather it into a ball, and divide it in half. Wrap each piece of dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
2. Working on a smooth surface, form each piece of dough into a log that is about 1 to 1 1/4 inches (2.5 to 3.2 cm) thick. (Get the thickness right, and the length you end up with will be fine.) Wrap the logs in plastic and chill for 2 hours. (The dough can be wrapped airtight and kept refrigerated for up to 3 days or stored in the freezer for up to 1 month.)
3. Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
4. While the oven is preheating, work on the sugar coating: Whisk the remaining egg yolk in a small bowl until it is smooth and liquid enough to use as a glaze. Mix the coarse sugar and flaky salt well and spread the mixture out on a piece of wax paper. Remove the logs of dough from the refrigerator, unwrap them, and brush them lightly with a little egg yolk. Roll the logs in the sugar, pressing the sugar/salt mixture gently to get it to stick if necessary, then, using a sharp slender knife, slice each log into cookies about 1/4 inch (7 mm) thick. [Deb note: To get the sugar/salt mixture to stick better, I moved the log over to a piece of plastic wrap, and in the sort of technique you’d see a sushi chef use to shape a roll, use the plastic to press the sugar in by wrapping it tightly.] (You can make the cookies thicker if you’d like; just bake them longer.) Place the cookies on the lined baking sheets, leaving about 1/2 inch (1.5 cm) space between them.
5. Bake the cookies for 12 to 14 minutes, or until they are set but not browned. (It’s fine if the yolk-brushed edges brown a smidgen.) Transfer the cookies to cooling racks to cool to room temperature.
Keeping: Packed airtight, the cookies will keep for about 5 days at room temperature. Because the sugar coating will melt, these cookies are not suitable for freezing.
* Updated to add that if you should choose to use regular table salt and not Maldon, use less! Much less. Probably half or less. Because Maldon has such volume, the equivalent amount of a finer salt would be much more pungent. Better on the safe side than sorry, right?