Any French person, whether they be Parisian or Provincial, will tell you that the best butter comes from Brittany. The combination of happy grass-fed cows and epically magnificent sea salt (Sel de Guérande) makes for some pretty righteous stuff. So righteous in fact that when I smuggled some home to California for Christmas one year and busted it out for my family to taste, they all closed their eyes and sighed as it melted on their tongues. Heaven, they said.
This salted butter is Brittany’s culinary gem and it pops up in every famous Breton specialty. No galette would show it’s face on a plate without a heaping portion of beurre melting all over it. The display cases of every boulangerie are bursting full of butter, from the kouign amanns to the tart crusts to the cookies. But one cookie is particularly symbolic of Brittany and its butter: the sablé.
Sable means sand in French. Not the most appetizing name for a cookie I suppose, but it makes sense as the cookie is crumbly and crunchy and grainy like sand. The best comparison for a sablé is shortbread, though they are lighter and less dense than their Scottish counterparts.
Sablé au chocolat Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Makes 40 to 48 2-inch thin cookies, fewer if thicker
1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (30 grams) cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup (1 stick, 4 ounces or 115 grams) salted butter, at room temperature
1/2 to 2/3 cup (100 to 135 grams) granulated sugar (less for a more bittersweet cookie)
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 large egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 ounces (100 grams) dark chocolate, finely chopped until almost powdery in a food processor (you can grate the chocolate if you don’t have a food processor, but this is a long and tedious project)
Coarse sugar for decor (optional)
Sift together the flour, cocoa and baking soda together into a bowl and set aside.
Cream butter, sugar and salt together in a large bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add egg yolk and vanilla, beating until combined, then scraping down sides. Add dry ingredients and grated chocolate together and mix until just combined.
Scrape dough onto a piece of plastic wrap, wrap it up and chill it in the frige until just firm, about 30 to 45 minutes.
Heat oven to 350 degrees. On a floured surface, roll dough gently to desired thickness (they will puff ever so slightly in the oven). I did half of mine very thin (1/8″) for a crispier cookie and the other half a bit thicker (approximately 1/4″) for a more toothsome cookie. They’re delicious both ways!
Once the dough is rolled out to desired thickness, cut into creative shapes with cookies cutters and space them an inch apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle decoratively with coarse sugar. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes (for thinner cookies) or 10 to 12 minutes (for thicker ones). Leave cookies on baking sheets out of the oven for a couple minutes before gently, carefully transferring them to cooling racks, as they’ll be fragile until they cool.
Cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to two weeks of 4 p.m. rations.