Sablés Bretons

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.

Ingredients:

Yields 30 cookies

150g butter
2 teaspoons fleur de sel

4 large egg yolks
200g sugar

210g flour
4 teaspoons baking powder

Egg-wash:

1 egg
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)

Egg-wash

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.

Bossche Bollen

Bossche Bollen are essentially giant profiteroles filled with cream and covered in chocolate, originating from the Dutch city, Den Bosch. They look impressive and are deceptively simple to make.

While they originate from Den Bosch, you can find them throughout the Netherlands either by the name of Bossche Bol or Moorkop.

Like all Dutch treats, the most authentic way to eat these is with a kopje koffie. Also, they should be eaten with your hands. While it may be messy, it is tradition.

Ingredients:

Yields 6 Bossche Bollen

Choux Pastry

100ml water
40g butter
1/4 teaspoon salt

50g flour
2 large eggs

Cream Filling

500ml double cream or whipping cream
2 egg whites
30g icing sugar or confectioner’s sugar, to taste
1 vanilla pod

Chocolate Glaze

100g icing sugar or confectioner’s sugar
11g cocoa powder

1 egg white

Choux Pastry

Preheat the oven

Preheat the oven 225°C.

Bring wet ingredients to a simmer

Bring the water, butter and salt to a simmer in a heavy-bottomed saucepan.

Stir in the flour

Slowly pour in the flour whisking constantly until the mixture comes together into a ball in the pan.

Whisk in the eggs

Take the pan off the heat and add the eggs, one at a time, whisking until completely incorporated before adding the second. Whisk until the dough is smooth and glossy.

Divide and bake

Spoon the dough into six mounds onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a non-stick baking mat. 

If you prefer a more polished look, you could use piping bag. I prefer a more rustic, home-baked look and spooned them on the baking sheet.

Bake the choux for 20 minutes until they are puffed and golden brown.

Cool the Choux pastry

Turn off the oven and crack the door open. Let the choux pastries cool inside the oven. This decreases the chances that they deflate when they cool.

Cream Filling

Scrape the vanilla pod

Slice the vanilla pod in two the long way. Using a paring knife, scape out the contents of the vanilla pod for use in the cream filling.

Whip the filling ingredients

In a large bowl, or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the cream, egg whites, icing sugar and vanilla until stiff peaks form. Including egg whites helps stabilize the cream and prevents it from running out of the choux pastry.

Fill the choux

Once the choux have cooled, cut a small ‘X’ on the bottom of each. Transfer the cream filling into a piping bag. Fill each choux through the opening cut in the bottom. You will feel when they are full as the cream filling pushes out the sides of the pastry.

Chocolate Glaze

Sift the cocoa powder and icing sugar

Sift together the cocoa powder and icing sugar to prevent any lumps in the glaze.

Mix the glaze

Pour in the egg white, drop by drop, stirring as you go. The glaze should be thick and glossy.

Glaze the bollen

Glaze the choux with a generous amount of the chocolate mixture.

Chocolate Cake with Coffee Cardamom Glaze

In London we were teased with two weeks of spring: the crocuses, daffodils and magnolias started blooming and I was brought back to when I lived in Spain and sun was a given.

And then, suddenly, London came back to its senses.

This is a cake to warm you back up and enjoy inside as the rain patters at your windows.

This cake is rich and dense, like a pound cake. Blooming the cocoa with coffee instead of water not only intensifies the chocolate flavor, but adds complementary complexity to the chocolate.

Coffee, chocolate and cardamom are a classic combination often found in the cakes and pastries from the Nordics regularly shared for fika. Fika is like a coffee break, usually enjoyed amongst friends, family or colleagues, with something sweet to eat. What is most important for fika is that it is convivial; a shared experience. It is not fika to have coffee and cake by yourself. So, make this cake, brew a pot of coffee, and share with those that matter to you.

Ingredients:

Chocolate Cake

150 ml freshly brewed coffee
150g Butter
40g Dutch-process cocoa powder

260g Sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Salt
160g Plain flour

2 Eggs
75g Creme Fraiche
1 teaspoon Vanilla extract

Coffee Cardamom Glaze

140g powdered sugar
1 teaspoon cardamom
2 tablespoons espresso

Preheat the oven and prepare the cake pan:

Preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F) and grease and flour a loaf pan.

Bloom the cocoa:

In a small sauce pan, heat the coffee, butter and cocoa powder over low heat until the butter melts. Whisk to combine and set aside to cool slightly while preparing the other ingredients.

Mix the dry ingredients:

In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and flour. Set aside.

Combine the wet ingredients:

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, crème fraîche and vanilla extract.

Make the batter:

Pour the chocolate mixture into the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Then, fold in the egg mixture until just combined.

Bake the cake:

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50-60 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Let the cake cook for 10 – 20 minutes before turning the cake out of the pan onto a cooling rack. Let cool to room temperature before glazing.

Make the glaze:

In a mixing bowl whisk together the powdered sugar and cardamom. Whisk in the espresso. If the glaze is too thick, it may be thinned with a splash of milk.

Pour the glaze over the cake and let it set.