Yves Cameborde is a celebrated French chef known as the ‘King of bistronomy’. I personally celebrate him because he wrote this amazing recipe for sablés, the Breton version of shortbread. I found the recipe on Chocolate and Zucchini, a bilingual blog I love because it’s written by a French woman living in Paris who has been very inspired by the melting-pot cuisine of California, as she lived there for many years. Being a Francophile born and bred in California, I can relate!
As Clotilde at C&Z points out, these sablés are so exceptional because they are slow baked at a lower temperature, allowing them to have a crispy crunch and a nice, caramelized golden brown exterior. They are the best of Brittany: the perfect showcase for exceptional Breton salted butter. And they couldn’t be easier to make…
Sablés (Breton shortbread)
Prep time: 15 minutes Cook time: 30 minute Overall time: 1 hour, 45 minutes
200 grams (7 ounces, or 1 cup minus 2 tablespoons) good-quality unsalted butter, at room temperature (I used beautiful Breton salted butter, and didn’t add salt to the recipe)
90 grams (scant 1/2 cup) sugar
a good pinch salt (as I used salted butter, I skipped this)
1 or 2 vanilla beans, depending on their size
250 grams (8 3/4 ounces, about 2 cups) flour
1 egg yolk or 3 tablespoons milk for brushing
coarse sugar for coating (I use a large-crystal unrefined cane sugar)
- Mixing bowl
- Stand mixer (optional, can also be mixed by hand)
- Plastic wrap
- Parchment paper
- In a medium mixing bowl, beat the butter with a spatula until creamy. Add the sugar and salt and mix them in thoroughly.
- Split the vanilla bean(s) down its (their) length and collect the seeds by scraping the insides of the bean with the dull side of a knife. Stir the seeds into the mixture. (Save the empty pods for another use — to make vanilla sugar or vanilla oil, to infuse in milk, etc.)
- Add the flour and rub it into the butter mixture with the tips of your fingers until incorporated.
- Although Camdeborde recommends making the dough by hand to avoid heating it, Clotilde at C&Z confessed she made it in her stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. I made it the old school way because I like to get my hands dirty!
- Gather the dough into a ball without kneading (this is the fun part because it’s like playing with Play-Doh. Divide into 4 pieces and roll each piece into a log, about 3 cm (1 1/4 inches) in diameter. Wrap the logs in plastic wrap or parchment paper, and place in the fridge to firm up for at least 1 hour. (Alternatively, you can freeze all or part of the logs to bake later; thaw partially at room temperature for about 1 hour before proceeding with the rest of the recipe.)
- Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°C) and line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or a sheet of parchment paper.
- Remove the logs from the fridge. Beat the egg yolk, if using, with a few drops of water to thin it out. Working with each log in turn, use a pastry brush to coat the log with egg yolk or milk on all sides, then sprinkle with coarse sugar until coated all over.
- Use a sharp knife to slice the logs into rounds, about 1 cm (1/3 inch) in thickness. Arrange the slices on the prepared baking sheet, leaving just a little space around the sablés — they won’t expand much.
- Bake for 30 minutes, until the dough is set in the center — the cookies will barely color — and the sugar is lightly caramelized on the sides. Let rest on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a rack to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining dough.
- The sablés will keep for about a week in an airtight container at room temperature.