I have never been a great fan of cinnamon, that is until I discovered Saigon cinnamon!
It is Saigon cinnamon’s spicy sweet flavor and intoxicating aroma that sets it apart from all other cinnamon varieties and considered the finest cinnamon in the world. If you have ever found yourself lingered over a steaming bowl of Vietnamese Pho it is the faint aroma of Saigon cinnamon that teases your appetite into utter submission.
Vietnamese cassia trees, a South East Asian evergreen, are mostly grown in the central highland province of Quang Ngai. The bark is stripped from the trees, dried, bundled or finely ground, and sent to Saigon for export. Thus, the name Saigon cinnamon. The Vietnamese cassia bark has the highest essential oil content of any cinnamon and gives Saigon cinnamon such a unique flavor and aroma. Available at specialty spice shops and online vendors.
Saigon Cinnamon Sables?
Some friends recently brought back a nice cache of Saigon cinnamon for me from Hanoi. Hanoi is the Paris of Vietnam if you will, and I was drawn to the idea of using the cinnamon in sables, which are in keeping with the French influences left behind in Vietnam following the French Indochine era. Sables are a classic French shortbread biscuit with a light crumbly texture of sand. It just seemed like a perfect fit. A light buttery spiced biscuit with a hint of salt and the aroma of Saigon cinnamon… et voila!
Saigon Cinnamon Sables Makes about 36 (2 ½ inch) sables
I prefer mixing the ingredients for this recipe the old fashioned way, by hand. The secret to success here is to not overwork the dough, which will then produce a light airy sable.
- 5.5 ounces (150 grams) best quality salted butter (at room temperature)
- 1 teaspoon flaked sea salt (Maldon)
- 2/3 cup fine natural sugar (or white)
- 1/3 cup confectioners sugar (measured after sifting)
- 3 large organic egg yolks
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 4 teaspoons fine ground Saigon cinnamon
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 teaspoon water
- cinnamon sugar for sprinkling
Place the room temperature butter and salt in a mixing bowl and cream the butter using a silicone spoon until smooth, about 1 minute.
In a separate bowl beat 3 egg yolks until light and fluffy. Then gradually add the sugars while beating until the mixture is smooth and velvety. Add the vanilla and beat until incorporated.
Add the egg/sugar mixture to the creamed butter and beat until incorporated, about 1 minute.
Using a separate bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, and cinnamon and stir until evenly combined. Then add the flour mixture to the butter mixture all at once. Begin folding the flour into the butter mixture until the flour is absorbed into the butter and the mixture looks like a coarse meal, or damp sand if you will. You want the dough to be loose rather than clumping together. The less you work the dough the better.
Line a baking tray with cling film and transfer half the dough onto the cling film lengthwise, evenly mounding the dough down the center of the cling film to about 9 inches in length. Then fold the cling film nearest you over the dough and gently roll the dough into a log shape without overly compressing the dough until it is completely encased in the cling film. The log should be roughly 2 inches in diameter. Gently twist both ends of the cling film to completely seal the dough. The dough can then be refrigerated for up to 5 days or frozen for later use.
Repeat this process for the remaining dough and refrigerate both logs of dough for at least 1 hour before you intend to bake the sables.
Baking: Prepare 3 baking trays lined with parchment.
Clear space in your fridge for chilling the baking trays of sables before they are baked.
Preheat oven to 350f/180c Best to use an oven thermometer to insure the oven is heated to the right temperature before baking each tray of sables.
Remove one of the logs from the fridge and gently adjust the shape of the log so it is as round as possible, without using too much pressure as you do not want to overly compress the dough!
Open the cling film and, using a very sharp knife, slice the dough into 1/3 to ½ inch rounds and place them 1 inch apart on a parchment lined baking tray; about 12 to a tray. Return the remaining dough to the fridge.
Whisk the remaining egg yolk with a teaspoon of water. Using a pastry brush, glaze the top of each slice of dough. Sprinkle the top of each with cinnamon sugar and return the tray to the fridge to chill for ten minutes before baking.
Then transfer the tray to the oven. Total cooking time will vary slightly, but about 14 to 16 minutes total, turning the tray midway through the baking for even coloring.
What to expect: The sables will spread within the first couple of minutes and then begin to rise. When fully baked the bottoms should be golden color, the edges very slightly colored, and the tops pale. Timing is everything with sables so bake on the side of caution, checking the first batch frequently to be sure you don’t over bake these delicate delights. You can then bake the remaining batches with confidence.
While the first batch is baking you can prepare the next batch and place them in the fridge until you are ready to bake.
Once the sables are perfectly baked remove the tray from the oven and set aside to rest for a minute and then slide the parchment with the sables onto a cooling rack.
Before baking the next batch be sure that the oven returns to 350f/180c.
Once all the sables are baked and are completely cool you can place them in a cookie tin. With the tin filled, drape a sheet of cling film over the top and press the lid on tightly. This will insure that the sables will remain fresh for up to 5 days stored at room temperature.
Sables are a perfect match served with tea or coffee, or with ice cream!
Adding Saigon cinnamon to French pressed coffee is another favorite. Just add a half teaspoon of Saigon cinnamon and a pinch of sea salt to ground coffee. Add boiled water and allow to rest for several minutes before pressing and serving.