Butter Cookie or Sablé Breton

Salted butter (le buerre salé) is the name of the game when baking this popular French cookie. They hail from Brittany (“Bretagne” in French), a region where butter reins supreme. And, sablé translates to sand as they have a crispy, melt in your mouth texture.

Getting the cookies to the exact same size is easy. Just bake off the rolled-out, slab of refrigerated dough. Then, remove the pan from the oven and carefully but quickly cut out as many cookies as you can with your desired size cookie cutter. I used a 2 ½-inch round fluted edge cutter.

The “shards” of cookies of course can be sampled, or crumbled and sprinkled on top of ice cream, or added to a dessert plate as part of the garnish. I’m going to freeze any remaining crumbs and see what happens when using them as the crust of a holiday cheesecake. I’ll let you know how that works.

1 ¾ cups ( 8 oz / 230 g) all-purpose flour
¼ cup (1 oz / 25 g) almond flour
2 teaspoons baking powder (aluminum free)
½ cup (3 ½ oz / 100 g) granulated sugar
1 plump vanilla bean
zest of one lemon, preferably organic (optional)
2 sticks (8 ounces) salted butter, diced, at room temperature
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
¼ cup (1 oz / 30 g) confectioners’ sugar
3 large egg yolks, room temperature
1 large egg, plus ½ teaspoon water, well-beaten for egg cash

In a medium bowl sift together the flours and baking powder; set aside. In a small bowl weigh (or measure) the granulated sugar. Cut vanilla bean in half lengthwise, scrape the seed pulp and add it to the granulated sugar. If using lemon zest, add it at now as well. Using your fingers, rub the vanilla bean pulp (and zest) into the sugar until blended.

Using the paddle attachment of a stand mixer beat the butter until smooth. Scape down the sides of the bowl. Add the granulated vanilla sugar, and salt and continue beating for about 3 minutes on medium speed, or until smooth. Scrape down the bowl. Beat in confectioners’ sugar and then beat in the yolks one at a time, scraping down the bowl as needed. Add the sifted flour. Mix on low speed until the flour just begins to come together.

Tip the mixture out onto a smooth, lightly floured surface. Using the heel of your hand, smear a bit of dough at a time away from you, then using a bench knife, fold the dough back onto itself. Repeat until the dough has come together in a homogenized mass. This method of mixing dough is called fraisage.

Divide in half and flatten each into of a rectangle. Place each rectangle between sheets of parchment paper. Roll the dough out to a thickness of between 1/4 to 1/8-inch. (The thinner the cookie the crispier they will become after baked and cooled.) I found these rubber rings that are 3/16-inch that I have on my rolling pin. They make rolling out the dough easy and keeps it at an even thickness.

Refrigerate rolled-out dough for at least 2 hours on a sheet pan between the two pieces of parchment paper. When ready to bake, center the rack on the lower third and preheat oven to 375°F. 

From here you can bake them off in one of two ways.
Option 1:  Leave the dough on the sheet pan and remove the top piece of parchment paper. Quickly brush with egg wash. Take the tines of a fork and run them across the dough in a crisscross pattern.

Place the sheet pan in the preheated oven and bake 12 – 15 minutes or until the slab of cookie dough is golden brown around the edges. Remove from the oven and quickly cut each cookie out using your favorite cookie cutter. 

Option 2:  Cut out the cookies from the cold slab of dough. Use a wide offset spatula to move them onto a parchment paper lined sheet pan. Bring the scrapes together, roll one more time and continue cutting out as many as you can. Brush each disk with egg wash and make the crosshatch design on each as shown above.

Either way after baking cool for 15 minutes on the baking sheet and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Resist enjoying the sablés while still warm. They need to cool so that their texture will set up and become crispy.

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