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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Blueberry muffins

Great news: our very dear friends Claire and Alex moved to our neighbourhood. Their (awesome) flat is literally 12 minutes from us. I’m very excited about them living so close and all that implies, especially impromptu get-togethers, unplanned weekend lunches, surprise afterwork drinks, etc! Chipmuncher is excited about having his best friend around and they have already organised a Saturday of football watching and crisps munching at our place… Sigh!

On the day they moved to the neighbourhood, Chipmuncher lent his strong arms and helped carry and install pieces of furniture, while I offered to meet everyone a little bit later and bring sweets to the brave. To each their strength, right? Everybody loves blueberry muffins, so I was certain not to go wrong with this one.

I think that most muffin recipes use buttermilk, but not this one. It’s still very soft and scrumptious though so give it a try!

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INGREDIENTS (for about 12 muffins)

  • 110 grams of butter (for a modern twist: try salted butter!)
  • 250 grams of plain flour
  • 250 grams of caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 125 ml of milk
  • 2 tsp of baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp of salt (not if you are using salted butter)
  • 225 grams of fresh blueberries

 METHOD

  • Pre-heat oven to 180 C (gas 4) and line a muffin tin with paper cases.
  • Mix the flour, baking powder and salt (if using any) together in a bowl.
  • In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  • Add the eggs and beat until smooth, then the milk.
  • Add the flour mixture to your wet mix, little by little to avoid any lumps and beat well until all combined.
  • Stir in three quarters of the blueberries, taking care not to break them.
  • Fill your muffin tins 2/3 full (if you overfill them, the muffins won’t rise).
  • Place 2 of the remaining blueberries on top of the mix without pushing them in.
  • Bake at 180 C / gas 4 for 25-35 minutes depending on your oven.
  • When they are golden and a inserted skewer comes out clean, they’re ready! (even if the bottom feels a bit soft, it will all settle when cooled down).

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Pecans and raisins bread and butter pudding

Some weeks ago, I enrolled a course to become an independent art curator (exciting!). It’s keeping me very busy, with classes all Saturdays and research and homework during the week. I’m loving it. And, bizarrely (or not), because I have less free time, I organise it way better! As a result, I have been cooking and baking much more than previously.

Last Sunday, for example, our dear friends visited us one last time before moving out of London and down to the seaside. These two like their food so we wanted to make something extra special for them. Special but unfussy – some honest, homemade, no-nonsense winter comfort food. So I made my pecan and raisins bread & butter pudding!

Now, I say *MY* bread & butter pudding and this is not entirely true. I actually based it on a recipe from Lucy’s Food recipe book and adapted it to our taste. The original recipe has dried apricot and an apricot coulis, but I like my bread & butter pudding a little bit more traditional.

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INGREDIENTS

  • 12 slices of brioche
  • 60 grams of unsalted butter, at room temperature (spreading cold butter on brioche proved nearly impossible and extremely frustrating for short-tempered me 🙂 )
  • 60 grams of pecan nuts, roughly chopped
  • 60 grams of raisins
  • 150 ml of double cream
  • 150 ml of semi-skimmed milk
  • 4 free-range eggs
  • 30 grams of caster sugar
  • 30 grams of cane sugar (or light brown sugar)
  • fresh nutmeg, or cinnamon, or cardamon to taste.

METHOD

  • Pre-heat oven to 190C (gas mark 5).
  • Spread the brioche slices with butter.
  • Layer into an ovenproof dish with the pecans and raisins.
  • In a bowl, mix the cream, milk, eggs, caster sugar and grate a little fresh nutmeg. Depending on the mood and season, you can also add a little cinnamon and cardamon to the eggy cream mixture.
  • Pour the mixture over the brioche.
  • Sprinkle evenly with the cane sugar.
  • Bake in the oven for 40-45 min, or until the pudding has puffed up and the eggs are cooked through (you can check with a knife)

Serve warm with a little double cream.

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Yes, it’s that easy and that tasty!

I like this recipe because I find the brioche makes it a little bit less stodgy than regular bread and butter pudding, and the crunchy pecans give the pudding a nice contrast of textures. I wouldn’t go as far as to pretend it is a light pudding, but definitely lighter than bread and butter puddings I have had before! 😀

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.