Sunday, January 06, 2008


One of my strongest memories of Brittany is that of the food, and in particular, sables or 'sand cookies'. This Breton butter cookie has a crumbly texture akin to that of sand - hence the name - and hails from the region of Normandy.

The sables normally come in a tin box - I purchased one with prints on it mimicking the highly prized porcelain from Quimper. What really left an impression on me was that every person we visited had one of these at home, which tickled but endeared me to the people even more. The Breton sense of identity is very palpable; you can sense it in the architecture, traditional music, their no-holds-barred mannerisms and of course, the food.

Sables, galette bretons or petite buerres were the protocol whenever we popped by someone's place for tea. While everyone was busy catching up in French, I kept busy nibbling on these little golden rounds while trying to pick up certain bits of their conversation.

After all the cooking during the festivities, I found myself wanting to bake something simple. Being in Gloucester for the 2 days just made me miss the countryside so much and brought back memories of my holiday in Bretagne and of dear friends that I have made there. And almost like an after thought, these galette Bretons popped into mind.

So there I was in my kitchen, standing over the fresh batch of warm cookies in all my eagerness to pop one as soon as they were cool enough. One bite into the crumbly cookie brought back a flood of memories and a warm feeling of comfort :)

These cookies aren't very sweet, but that's the way I like it. Feel free to add more sugar if you like your cookies sweet!

Sables (French Butter Cookies)
For this recipe, I used milk in place of egg for the glaze. You can also add a citrus zest or extract or rosewater to the cookies if desired. I wanted mine plain so I stuck with the original recipe

10 tablespoons (140 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated white sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups (280 grams) all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tbsps of milk

In a bowl, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy (2-3 minutes). Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat until blended.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat just until incorporated. Do not over mix the dough.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface, knead the dough a few times to bring it together, and then divide the dough in half. Wrap each half in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm (at least an hour).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and place rack in the center of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Remove one portion of the dough from the refrigerator and place on a lightly floured work surface. Roll out the dough until it is 1/4 inch (1 cm) thick. Using a lightly floured 2 inch (5 cm) round fluted cookie cutter, cut out the cookies, placing them on the prepared sheet. Place the baking sheet of cut out cookies in the refrigerator for about 15 -20 minutes to chill the dough. Remove the cookies from the refrigerator and brush the tops with the milk. Then, with the tines of a fork, make a crisscross pattern on the top of each cookie. Bake cookies in the preheated oven for about 12-14 minutes (depending on size of cookie) or until golden brown around the edges.

Cool cookies on wire rack. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.

adapted from Joy of Baking

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