Sables Bretons

Butter is my favorite food.  Not kidding.

I don’t think I’ve ever actually eaten it on its own (though I’ve been tempted); but it does make just about anything better.  Especially butter cookies. Especially, especially French butter cookies.

I made my first batch of sables Breton years and year ago after TD and I returned from France.  Brittany the region in the Northwest corner of the country, is famous for its high fat, ultra rich butter.  Enough years have passed since that trip that I am no longer embarrassed by how many of these cookies I ate while there.  These French biscuits are everything I want in a cookie: simple, just barely sweet and sandy in texture.

The sandy element is incredibly important: sable is French for sand.  And, made possible by the letter B for butter.  The first recipe I used was from Martha Stewart.  I made that recipe several times and then drifted away over the years.  As one does.

When I came across David Lebovitz’s recipe, I was reminded of our early fall trip to Bayeux and immediately pulled the butter from the freezer.

These cookies are known for the deep criss-cross pattern on the tops.  I made this batch over the course of a weekend and chilled them after cutting them into circles but before adding the cross hatching.  Cold butter doesn’t make for easy criss crosses and I did not press hard enough.  Do as I say, not as I do.

While butter is the front and center flavor in this cookie, the salt is equally important, so use the good stuff.

The uniformity in shape of these crumbly cookies make them lovely as gifts packaged up in a clear bag with some red and blue ribbon (think Bastille Day or Fourth of July).

Sables Bretons

by David Lebovitz (adapted just slightly by TMH)

Ingredients

  • 2/3 C (5.2 ounces, 150g) high quality high fat butter at room temp (I like Plugra but for best results, David Lebovitz recommends a cultured butter)
  • 2 tsps flaky sea salt
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 C (200g) sugar
  • 1 3/4 C (210g) all-purpose flour
  • 4 tsp aluminum-free baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp water

Directions

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and salt together on low speed until smooth (about 30 seconds).
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks, gradually adding the sugar while whisking until the yolks are light and fluffy–about a minute.  With the mixer on low, add the egg yolk mixture to the butter, stopping the mixer to scrape down any butter clinging to the sides.  Mix until everything is incorporated.
  3. Sift together the flour and baking powder in a separate bowl.  Stir into creamed butter mixture until it’s just, but completely, incorporated.
  4. Pat the dough into a rectangle about 1-inh thick.  Wrap in plastic and chill for an hour (dough can be made up to five days in advance and stored in the fridge).
  5. Line baking sheet with parchment. Cut the rectangle of chilled dough in half and place the first half between two pieces of parchment.  Roll out the dough to about 1/3 inch thickness.  Using a 2-3 inch cookie cutter, cut out circles of dough.  Place them on the prepared baking sheet.  Set aside scraps and repeat with second half of dough.  Once you have completed the first layer of cut-out circles, top with two sheet of parchment and start with the second. Top circles with another piece of parchment and into the fridge for another 15 minutes.
  6. Gather your scraps.  Roll again between pieces of parchment.  If dough is still cold enough, cut out more circles.  If not, pop in fridge until cold.  Repeat process until all dough is used.
  7. Preheat over to 350 degrees.  Adjust oven rack to middle of the oven. Line baking sheets with parchment.  You want to bake-off cookies one sheet at-a-time.
  8. Beat an egg with 1 tsp water.  Place first round of dough circle on pan leaving a couple of inches in between each.  Brush the tops of the cookies with the egg wash then use a fork to cross hatch a pattern on the top of the cookies.
  9. Bake the cookies until the tops are golden brown, rotating baking sheets halfway through, about 15 minutes.  Cool on wire rack.
  10. Repeat with dough until all cookies are baked.

 

Tartine’s Shortbread

I’ve lost count of the number of shortbread and sable recipes palling around on the Misanthropic Hostess.

I think shortbread has become my holy grail. Such a simple cookie.  And, probably because of this, so easy to get “not quite right.”

This recipe comes from the first Tartine cookbook.  I bought the book for the famed bakery’s laminated dough recipe.  But, like a moth to the flame, this, not their croissants was the first recipe I tried.

And, it does not disappoint. It’s crisp yet tender, light yet sings of butter.   In fact, of all the recipes I’ve tried over the years, this one comes the closest to, what I’m beginning to suspect is an imagined shortbread ideal.

Shortbread

Tartine

Ingredients

  • 1 C + 1 TBS (9 oz, 255 g) unsalted high-quality butter, very soft
  • 1/2 tsp (2 ml) salt (TMH uses kosher)
  • 1 3/4 + 2 TBS (9 oz, 255 g) all purpose flour
  • 1/2 C + 2TBS (2 2/3 oz, 75g) cornstarch
  • 1/3 C (2 1/2 oz, 70g) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 C superfine or granulated sugar for topping

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Butter a 6X10 or 8X8 glass baking dish.
  2. Place butter (should be the consistency of mayonnaise) in a mixing bowl.  Add-in salt and mix well with a wooden spoon.
  3. Add granulated sugar until just combined.
  4. Sift-in flour and cornstarch.  Mix only until a smooth dough forms.
  5. Pat the dough evenly into the prepped baking dish.
  6. Bake until the top and bottom are light brown, about 30 minutes though it took about 40 in my oven.
  7. Let cool on a wire rack just until the shortbread is warm.  Do not allow to cool completely.
  8. Sprinkle the shortbread with superfine sugar.  Tilt the dish so that the sugar coats the entire surface evenly, top out the excess sugar.
  9. With a thin, sharp knife, cut shortbread into fingers or squares.
  10. Chill completely before removing the squares from the pan.
  11. Will keep in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.