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The Very Best And Butteriest Sand Cookie

I admit to being a Normandy chauviniste which means that when something is delicious in Normandy, it is the most delicious in the world.

The Best Sablé in Normandy

While doing research in Normandy, I discovered the very best, most tender sablés in a patisserie in a small town called Caumont l’Eventé.  It was by chance that I found them – I’d been driving in the region for hours and I was starving, so I pulled over, ran into the patisserie, bought the sablés, and took off.  I opened the bag as I drove and ate a sablé.  I looked in the rearview, hit the brakes, did a U-turn.  That taste, that tenderness, that pure butteriness was the answer to my desires. 

FRENCH FARMHOUSE

When I got back to the patisserie it was closed, and there was no way to rouse anyone, so I copied down the phone number and called the next day.  The rest of the story is in FRENCH FARMHOUSE.   

Where Does the Sable Come From?

Since I had this perfect sablé in Normandy, I did some research that convinced me the cookie was a Norman specialty.  It is.  But it is also a Breton specialty, and renowned in the Loire Valley too.  So, I leave it to the true chauvinists to fight over which origin is the true one. 

Anywhere…North of Lyon

My suspicion?  All origins are the true one.  The buttery, tender, “sand cookie” is from everywhere north of Lyon, any region that traditionally used butter as the basis of its patisserie.  One story goes that chef François Vatel, who worked for the Prince of Condé and was head chef at the Chateau de Chantilly, purportedly served a variety of tiny butter cookies at the Prince’s quarters in Paris, and they became famous there. 

Truly the Best

The ones I’m about to offer you truly are the best, regardless of regional origin.  How can I say that? I’ve been sampling sables throughout France for longer than you want to know. I still try them wherever I go; these remain the best.

Versatile But Especially Good with Fruit

These are a year-round recipe, but I like to make them now because they are perfect with summer fruits, fresh or lightly cooked.  You can also make “cookie sandwiches” by spreading a sablé with lemon curd, ganache, a homemade jelly, and topping it with another sablé.

Makes Many

The recipe makes many.  I freeze half the dough once I’ve rolled it into logs then bake them as I need or want them.  Instant, and delicious, cookies.

SAND COOKIES FROM NORMANDY - LES SABLES DE NORMANDIE

Course: Dessert, Snack
Cuisine: French
Keyword: flour, unsalted butter, vanilla, vanilla sugar
Servings: 70 Cookies

Ingredients

  • cups plus 2 tablespoons; 13 ounces;400g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons; 140g 140g vanilla confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 large egg lightly beaten
  • 3-3/4 cups;500g all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder

For rolling the sablés:

  • ½ cup;100 g vanilla sugar

Instructions

  • In a large bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, mix the butter until it is soft and pale yellow. Add the confectioners’ sugar and mix well. Add the egg and mix until it is blended.
  • Sift the flour, the salt and the baking powder onto a piece of parchment paper and add to the butter and sugar mixture and mix well. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide it into six pieces. Roll each piece into a log that measures 1-inch (2.5cm) in diameter. Sprinkle the vanilla sugar on a flat work surface, and roll each log in the sugar to coat it evenly. Wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.
  • Preheat the oven to 425 F (220 C). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • Cut the logs into 1/4-inch (.75 cm) thick rounds, and set them on the prepared baking sheet, leaving about ½-inch between each sablé. Bake in the center of the oven until they are golden at the edges, 7 to 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer them to wire racks to cool. Repeat with the remaining dough.

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