Sablés bretons – Breton shortbread biscuits

The sablé breton – literally “Breton sand biscuit” in reference to its short, crumbly, sand-like texture – is an old traditional biscuit from the French Brittany/Normandy region: the glorious land of salted butter! History teaches us that in 1341, King Philip VI of France introduced a national tax on salt, the “Gabelle of salt”, that suddenly made salt very expensive throughout the country. If salt remained used to conserve fresh ingredients, salted butter became a luxurious product that peasants could not longer afford to make… Brittany however was not only exempt from this tax, it was also a region producing its own salt. Quickly, salted butter became a regional speciality, sought after and sold in the rest of the country. Up until now, Breton salted butter is the best you can buy (along with Guerande sea-salted butter: with its natural sea salt flakes, I could eat the whole thing on fresh baguette in one seating).

The sablé breton  (also known as galette bretonne) is a simple and rustic biscuit that goes wonderfully well with a cup of tea or afternoon coffee. The salted butter balances the sugar, making the biscuit light but also very moorish – you’ve been warned!

This was my first attempt at making them and I must say I was very pleased with the finished product. They were delicious and their texture was perfect. *Patting myself on the back for resisting the temptation to keep kneading the dough past the stage where it forms a ball*. The only thing I might change in the future is the thickness: as they cooked, the biscuits expanded a little bit, which made them thinner than I would have wished. I might also try and be a little bit more creative with the top of the biscuit in the future: a criss-cross pattern would look good and rustic. Well, any good excuse to make them again!

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Recipe for +/- 30 biscuits
Ingredients
  • 320 gr. flour
  • 120 gr. caster sugar
  • 1 drop vanilla extract
  • 2 free range egg yolks
  • 200 gr. melted salted butter (ideally French or even Breton but I might be purist)
  • Optional: a lemon zest
  • Egg wash: 1 egg yolk + 1 tsp water
  • 1 tbsp icing sugar
Method:
  1. Pre-heat a fan oven oven to 150 C. Line a large flat baking tray with baking paper.
  2. Mix the dry ingredients (flour and caster sugar) in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Make a well in the centre and add the 2 egg yolks, the melted butter, the vanilla extract (and, if using, the lemon zest).
  4. Knead and form a ball. This is where you want to be extra careful not to overwork the dough: just gather it into a ball and put it down.
  5. Cover with clean cling film and place in the fridge to rest for an hour.
  6. Roll the cold dough between two sheets of baking paper to a thickness of about 3-5 mm. I did 5mm and it was a bit too thin to my taste, so I will probably go up to 6-8mm next time.
  7. Cut out circles with a cookie cutter (diam. 7 cm) and place on a baking tray, leaving enough room for the biscuits to expand a little bit.
  8. Brush the biscuits with the egg wash. Sprinkle iced sugar using a sieve.
  9. Bake for 25-30 minutes. You don’t want too much colour on these, sablés bretons are a very light golden colour.

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Pumpkin blondies

I have been off the web for months now, can’t believe it’s gone by so quickly! Let me explain: I went on holiday for 2 weeks in the South of France (had amazing food there, especially in a lovely Bed&Breakfast in Nice where we were served 100% homemade breakfast every morning: from yoghurt, to jam, bread, croissants, everything! An amazing place I will probably write about at some point because I couldn’t recommend it enough). Then I moved houses right when we returned from holiday, before having the most manic of times at work at the end of October… To be honest I barely had time to bake / cook at all, let alone write about it! It’s crazy to think it’s November now and I haven’t written a thing since August.

But we are  finally all settled down in the new house. It’s gorgeous and I’m getting to know our new oven little by little. Isn’t it weird that it always takes weeks to get used to a new oven? This one is a gas one, like before, but fan assisted which my old one wasn’t; I am still working around it and trying to adapt cooking times from recipes… I had a few catastrophes with a cranberry frangipane tart that I burnt; and a bread a butter pudding that the boyfriend just managed to save (by scraping the black bits off the top!).

The Pumpkin blondies are ready

The Pumpkin blondies are ready

Last weekend, I decided to try my luck again and somehow celebrate the halloween season with some pumpkin blondies. I used a recipe from Table for Two and adapted it to the ingredients I could find. It was the first time ever I used (and even came across) pumpkin puree. Obviously, before putting it in anything I was going to bake, I tasted the pumpkin puree on its own and out of the can. Errrrrr can’t say I thoroughly enjoyed it, it tasted of something somewhere between baby food and overcooked mash. I know you are not supposed to eat it out of the can; and once baked I did enjoy it, but I thought you should know my feelings about it 🙂

Ingredients

  • 320 grams of plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 1 tbsp of cinnamon powder
  • 225g of unsalted butter, melted
  • 220g of dark brown sugar
  • 100g of caster sugar
  • 1 free-range egg
  • 1 tbsp of vanilla extract
  • 1 can of pumpkin puree (Table for Two says not to use pumpkin pie filling, but in the UK I could only find a single sort of pumpkin puree anyway – Libby’s – so decided to worry about the subtlety)
  • 100 grams of fudge chunks
  • 100 grams of white chocolate, roughly cut into chunks
  • 100 grams of unsalted toasted peanuts, chopped roughly

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Preparation

Preheat oven to gaz 4 (around 175c) and line a baking tray with baking paper.

In a bowl, mix together the flour, cinnamon powder and salt. You can sift it if you’re a sifter (I’m not!).

In a separate bowl, combine the butter (cooled down to room temperature) and both types of sugar and whisk until smooth. Add the egg, vanilla extract and pumpkin puree. Stir until well combined.

Slowly add in the flour mixture and mix until fully incorporated and your mix is thick and smooth.

Finally, fold in the fudge and white chocolate chunks and the chopped peanuts.

Pour the preparation into your lined baking tray and bake for 55-60 minutes (the original recipe said 40-45 minutes, but I had to put it back for an extra 15 minutes). It is actually a bit difficult to check the cooking of this brownie with a skewer as the fudge chunks and chocolate chips make it look wet. Trust your guts and remember it is better to take it out too early and put it back in for a while; rather than risk overcooking it!

When you take it out of the oven, leave to cool fully in the baking tray (as it will be soft before that and you’d risk breaking it if you handling it too much).

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Once cooled down completely, cut it into (generously big) square; pour yourself a cuppa coffee and eat as many as you can before the rest of your household’s inhabitants storm into the kitchen.

 

 

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Fruit Tea Loaf by Buon Cibo

About 2 weeks ago I found this recipe by fellow blogger Buon Cibo and thought OH MON DIEU! I must try it.

My (future) father-in-law loves fruit cakes and fruit loaves and always complains that no one makes them for him. It was therefore a great opportunity for me to shine!

The fruit loaf is let to cool on a rack

The fruit loaf is let to cool on a rack

Because there are no eggs in the recipe, I was a bit concerned that it wouldn’t hold together, but stephstephxo kindly advised me. Reassured, I pulled my sleeves up and made it on Friday night (while chimpuncher was getting drunk with his work colleagues… cough cough…)

It is SO easy and quick. Almost easier than spreading butter on a piece of toast. No seriously, the easiest recipe for fruit loaf you’ll ever find.

I am not going to repost the recipe as you can find it on the link above, but I thought I’d share the photos anyway.

Hopefully, this will make you want to bake this too.

Victoria sandwich with fresh strawberries

Last weekend was Chipmuncher’s birthday. Don’t remind him about it, he thinks he’s growing old, and he has a bald patch.

Birthday = cake, so I made a cake. I wanted something light because I knew this was going to be a weekend filled with food and drinks, so I opted for a very British Victoria sponge cake, with whipped cream and fresh strawberries. I don’t know if it’s because I’m craving summer but I’m obsessed with strawberries at the moment…

I wouldn’t say the Victoria sandwich was a *massive* success as I overcooked the sponge and it didn’t turn out as soft as I would have liked. But, still, it was edible. Tasty even.

The 'finished' product

The ‘finished’ product

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 eggs
  • 225 gr. caster sugar
  • 225 gr. self-raising flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 225 gr. soft butter (room temperature, not melted)
  • Strawberry jam (Bonne Maman is always the best, unless you’re making your own jam of course)
  • Whipped double cream

METHOD:

  1. Preheat oven to 180C
  2. Grease and line 2 x 20 cm tins (mine were bigger, hence sponge overcooked, hence it wasn’t soft enough. I’ve warned you, don’t mess this up.)
  3. Mix the eggs, sugar, flour, baking powder and butter into a mixing bowl until everything is well-combined and texture is soft.
  4. Divide the mixture between both tins.
  5. Bake for 25 minutes and DO NOT open the oven door in the first 20 minutes (or your sponge will collapse). Check the cakes are cooked with a skewer: if it comes out clean, it’s done. Take the cakes out and turn them out onto a cooling rack.
  6. Once cooled, assemble your sandwich: jam, whipped cream, fresh fruits.
  7. For extra naughtiness, you can even add cream + fruits on top of the sandwich. Of course, that’s what I did.