I was recently gifted a jar of freshly foraged juniper berries and a container of juniper sugar from my friend and collaborator
Wong. Tama is a forager and conservationist and every winter she collects the berries of the eastern red cedar trees near her home in New Jersey to sell to restaurants in New York. This year, I was lucky enough to get some too! The berries (technically cones) are slightly sweeter and less harsh than commercially available dried juniper berries and they smell absolutely wonderful. When I tasted the juniper sugar, I knew it's sweet foresty flavor and subtle woodsy notes would be just the thing to add to my holiday treat arsenal so I stirred up a batch of my favorite chocolate sablé dough and coated it with the sugar before slicing. The result is a wonderful holiday flavored cookie, perfect for gifting.
More tasty holiday gifts can be found in this post from last year.
In other news:
If you are still searching for an impressive Christmas dessert, check out the
Bûche de Noël I made for Food52 here.
Chocolate Sablés with Juniper Sugar
cookies adapted from Dorie Greenspan
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup confectioners sugar
1 large egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
juniper sugar for rolling (recipe below)
To make juniper sugar blend 3 tablespoons dried juniper berries with 1/2 cup raw sugar in a spice grinder or high powered blender. This can also be done with a mortar and pestle (and elbow grease).
Mix the butter in a large bowl with a wooden spoon until soft. Add in the sugar and cocoa powder. Add in the egg and vanilla, then finally add the flour and salt and mix until just combined. Dump the dough onto a sheet of parchment paper and use the paper to form the dough into a log 2-inches by 12-inches. Chill the dough until firm, at least 2 hours. When firm, roll the dough log in the juniper sugar then cut into slices, just shy of 1/4-inch thick. Place the slices 1-inch apart on lined baking sheets, sprinkle with additional juniper sugar if desired, and bake in a 350º oven until they are just beginning to darken around the edges, 8-10 minutes. Let cool completely on the baking sheets and store in an airtight container.