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!
- 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
- Pre-heat a fan oven oven to 150 C. Line a large flat baking tray with baking paper.
- Mix the dry ingredients (flour and caster sugar) in a large mixing bowl.
- Make a well in the centre and add the 2 egg yolks, the melted butter, the vanilla extract (and, if using, the lemon zest).
- 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.
- Cover with clean cling film and place in the fridge to rest for an hour.
- 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.
- 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.
- Brush the biscuits with the egg wash. Sprinkle iced sugar using a sieve.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes. You don’t want too much colour on these, sablés bretons are a very light golden colour.