Sablés are wonderfully buttery and crumbly shortbread cookies from Brittany. Sable in French means sand, and these cookies get this name from the texture of the dough when blending the cold butter, flour and sugar together.
Sablés Bretons, use sea salted butter that is typical of Bretagne. These cookies are crumbly, buttery and blur the line of sweet versus salty.
The quality of the butter will make a difference in the taste and the texture. You will want to use the best European style butter you can find. The higher fat content in European-style butter is essential for the richness and crumbly texture. Do not worry too much about salted vs unsalted butter (unless you can find true sea salted butter from Bretagne, then use that). Salted butter has about 1/2 teaspoon of salt per 250g (8 ounces). In the recipe below, I used unsalted butter and added Fleur de Sel.
This dough is very sticky. To avoid mess and frustration, keep the dough cold and roll between two sheets of parchment paper. If the dough warms up too much, put it back in the fridge for a few minutes. The cookies will stick to the parchment paper; use an offset spatula to carefully pry them from the paper and onto a lined baking sheet.
While optional, Sables Bretons are traditionally scored on the top with a diagonal pattern. Keeping the dough cold will make this step much easier. Apply a light coat of egg-wash before baking for a shiny and golden cookie. And keep a watchful eye as they bake, they brown quickly.
Yields 30 cookies
2 teaspoons fleur de sel
4 large egg yolks
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon water
Blend the butter and salt
In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a medium bowl with a rubber spatula, cream together the butter and fleur de sel.
Beat the egg yolks
In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks and gradually pour in the sugar while whisking. After about a minute of whisking, the mixture will be light and fluffy.
Add yolks to butter
Add the yolks to the butter, mixing on low. Scrape down the sides of the bowl so all the butter gets incorporated.
Fold in the dry ingredients
Gently stir in the flour and baking soda until just incorporated, being careful not to over mix.
Refrigerate the dough
Shape the dough into a rectangle about 1-inch (3cm) thick on a sheet of plastic wrap. Wrap the dough and chill it in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
After chilling, cut the dough in half. You will want to work through the next steps with one half at a time, leaving the second half in the refrigerator. As the dough warms up it gets stickier and more difficult to work with. If it gets too sticky, set it back in the refrigerator to cool for a few minutes.
Roll out the dough
Place the dough between two sheets of parchment and roll out the dough to about 1/2-inch (1.25cm) thick. Because the dough can be so sticky, the parchment will help prevent sticking to the counter or the rolling pin.
Cut out the cookies
Peel off the top layer of parchment and using a 2-inch (5cm) cookie cutter, cut out as many cookies as you can, placing the cookies on a parchment lined baking sheet. The scraps and be gathered and rerolled for more cookies as well. Chill the cookies in the refrigerator until firm.
Repeat with the other half of the dough
When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F)
In a small bowl, beat the egg with a teaspoon of water. Brush the tops of the cookies with the egg wash using a pastry brush and then use a fork to create a hash pattern.
Bake the cookies
Bake the cookies until golden, about 15 minutes. Make sure to rotate the pan halfway through baking to ensure an even bake. Keep an eye on the cookies as they brown quickly.