French Butter Cookies – Les Sablés
Long ago when my grandmother was still of this earth, she shared with me her French Butter Cookies recipe, Sablés Normand. She had been making it for years, but the recipe dates even further back than that…
The cookies have roots dating back to 1670 when Madeleine de Souvre of Touraine, the Marquise de Sablé and maiden of honor to Marie de Médicis, offered the King’s brother a simple but delicious round butter cookie. The Marquise was admired as much for her beauty and free spirit, as for her intellectual and philosophical preoccupations and writings. But it was her cookies that remained so popular over the centuries…
The Sablés were the perfect treat to make in Normandy, a rural and poor region well-known for the quality of the butter produced there from cows grazing on luxurious green meadows. They became very popular in the region and could be found in most bakeries and households.
In modern times, with the arrival of the locomotives, the beach side villages of Deauville and Trouville was only a short train trip and became a popular and chic destination for Parisians. They brought back bags full of butter cookies, renaming them “Sablés Normand”.
A Family Tradition
I imagine my father got to enjoy these tasty treats, and I passed the tradition on by making them for my children as well. Few ingredients, simple and inexpensive to make, and not too sweet. The perfect recipe for little hands to help…
My grandmother’s is a pretty typical recipe from Normandy. There are many regional variations throughout the north half of France, but the “Sablés Normand” keep very close to the original Sablés recipe replacing only the hard-boiled egg yolk with fresh yolk. Others variations may be flavored with almond powder, lemon and orange zest, dipped in chocolate, sandwiched with jam as in the “Lunettes de Romans”, or shaped instead of stamped flat.
When my grandmother wasn’t baking them, she always kept a tin box of “Biscuit de l’Abbaye” in the cupboard. It is still a family run business since 1964, and not too far from the town where my grandmother was born, in Alençon Normandy.
Sablés Normand – French Butter Cookies
Makes 2 dozen cookies. Serve them alongside a cup of coffee, as they do in Normandy.
250gr flour (1 ½ cups)
150gr unsalted butter, melted (1 ½ sticks)
65gr sugar (1/3 cup)
1 egg yolk
- Melt the butter and set aside.
- Mix the sugar with the egg yolk until you get a wet crumbly mixture.
- Add the flour until you get a dry sandy texture.
- Add the melted butter and stir until the dough sticks together (do not over mix).
- Chill the dough 1 hours or until firm, or not! I never have the patience 🙁
- Take a pinch of dough and form a 1” ball that you place on a lightly buttered cookie sheet.
- Flatten each cookie to ¼” to 3/8” with the flat bottom of a glass, or use a pretty cookie stamp. If the dough sticks, lightly dust the bottom of the glass or stamp with either flour or powdered sugar. If you are using a cookie stamp, then leave the cookies out to surface dry for at least a couple of hours. You could also lightly spray the stamps with oil like I did instead of dusting with flour, but that can interfere with drying the surface causing the image to fade as it bakes.
- Bake at 375F (190C) for 10-12 minutes or until lightly golden around the edges.
If you want a more even look, try shaping the dough into a cylinder in plastic wrap and chilling thoroughly before slicing and baking. By the way, “sable” also means sand – the texture you get from mixing the butter, sugar, flour, and egg yolk…
French Butter Cookies – Pictorial Instructions
For those beginner pastry chefs out there, either the preschool version or my sister (just kidding – not!), here are step-by-step visual instructions to help guide you. But all jokes aside, even my little nephew could easily make these cookies!
There pictures were taken one-handed with my smart phone, so pardon if the quality is lacking or if you see some butter smudges…
Happy (tasty) Travels,
-Girl Gone Gallic