These Sable Breton Cookies, aka French Salted Butter Cookies, are the most delicious French Cookies ever: crumbly, melt-in-your mouth cookies you will ever try... and they are super easy to make with 5 ingredients only!
Why we love this recipe
The Americans have their Chocolate Chips Cookies, the Brits the scones, the Aussies the ANZAC biscuits and the French... the Sables Bretons Cookies!
If you are looking for super crunchy or really fudgy cookies, passez-votre chemin (keep looking); these traditional Sable Breton Cookies are neither of those. Instead, they are deliciously crumbly and melt in your mouth instantly.
The use of a good quality butter gives them the best shortbread texture: crumbly on the outside, but soft on the inside. And with a rich butter flavour!
These Sables Bretons are a great easy French recipes for school gathering or "french themed week", and will be a perfect companion to your cup of coffee and bake sale.
What is a Sable Breton Biscuit?
You may have never heard of them, but the Sablés Cookies are high up there on the list of famous, classic French Pastry recipes.
These French Cookies are simple, easy to make and absolutely delicious traditional French Salted Butter Cookie.
If you are familiar with French Pastry, you will have recognised the word Sablé that is also used in Pâte Sablée - the famous Tart and Pie Shortcrust Pastry. Yes, it is the same word. Indeed, these French Butter Biscuits are often called simply "Sable Biscuit" ("biscuit sablé" in French) - or just "Sablés".
In French, Sablé means Sandy and Breton refers to the North-West region of Brittany - known for its delicious, high quality Salted Butter. So they literally mean Sandy Cookies from Brittany! As their name indicates, these little butter cookies are the most delicious flaky, crumbly, melt-in-your mouth treats.
These pastries are also super versatile. They can be used in many different ways other than as simple cookies.
You can use this Sable Breton Biscuit recipe as the base for cakes, like I did in my Lemon Meringue Cake recipe, or as the pastry for fresh fruit tarts for example. They are then often called "Biscuit Breton".
To make these French Shortbread Cookies, you will only need 5 ingredients (scroll down to recipe card for all quantities):
- Egg Yolks: at room temperature
- Confectioner's Sugar: or Powdered Sugar; which is different than icing sugar, although I have made these french biscuits with icing sugar and it will work too
- Salted Butter: soft, at room temperature. Can be replaced with unsalted butter but you will need to add a little bit of salt to the recipe
- Plain / AP Flour
- Baking Powder: just a little bit to give these cookies a lift.
You can also flavour the cookies with many other ingredients like Vanilla (I recommend Vanilla Paste instead of Essence or Extract), some Lemon or Orange Zest,...
It's all about the butter!
Like always when it comes to baking, the quality of the ingredients is extremely important. In our case here, even more so as the butter is what brings flavour to these cookies.
You can make this recipe with Unsalted Butter, but the traditional way to make these "Sables Bretons" is by using Salted Butter. The Salt is essential to balance the rich flavour of the butter - so if you are to use unsalted butter, I would recommend to add about 1/2 teaspoon of Salt to the recipe.
If you can find some Salted Butter from France to make this recipe - great! But do not worry; you can also make it with salted butter you will find in your local supermarket.
Just make sure you get the best quality Butter you can find. It will really make a difference here where butter is what brings the flavours.
Note that most of the flavour of the cookies will come from the Butter - so I do NOT recommend substituting the butter for margarine, coconut oil or any other butter substitute.
How to make these French Sables Cookies
You can make these sable cookies by hand with a silicone spatula and whisk, or simply use your stand mixer with the paddle/leaf attachment.
You will also need a Rolling Pin, some Baking Paper (parchment paper), a round Cookie Cutter and a large Baking Tray.
There are two ways of making these traditional French Biscuits. Some traditional French recipes will mix the Sugar and Egg Yolks first before adding the soft butter, but this recipe uses a slightly different technique.
- Cream together the very soft Butter and Sugar for a couple of minutes. It needs to look pale and have a light, fluffy texture.
- While stirring on low speed, add the Egg Yolks one at the time until fully incorporate.
- Finally, sift in your dry ingredients: Flour and a little bit of Baking Powder. Note that if you are using Unsalted Butter, you should add your Salt at this point too. Slowly mix them into the rest of the dough, stopping to scrap the edges of the bowl with a spatula if needed. Stop as soon as the cookie dough comes together
Note that the butter needs to be very soft and at room temperature, but not melted. If the butter is too cold, the dough will seem to split when you add the egg yolks.
The Egg Yolks should also be at room temperature to be easily incorporated into the creamed butter and sugar.
This recipe is adapted from my favourite cookbook ever, "French Patisserie" by Ferrandi School of Culinary Arts in Paris. For me, they are simply the best Sablé Breton Cookies ever!
Cutting out the Cookies
Once the cookie dough comes together into the bowl, stop the mixing. It is really important not to overmix the dough to avoid getting hard cookies.
Transfer the dough between two sheets of baking paper and use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a large circle. You can make the Sablés as thin or thick as you want (make sure to adapt the baking time); I recommend a thickness of 0.5 to 1 cm (0.2 to 0.4 inch).
Then, using a round Cookie Cutter (again, the size is up to you - I used a 6 cm/2.5 inch wide cookie cutter), cut out the cookies. Use a small offset spatula to transfer each cookie over a flat baking tray lined with baking paper or a baking mat.
If the dough seems to be very soft when you cut out the cookies and you struggle to move the sables, place the dough over a flat tray and leave in the fridge to set for 5 to 10 minutes. The butter will harden again and it will be easier to transfer.
Optionally, you can create the traditional "criss-cross" pattern over each biscuit using the back of a fork. If the fork sticks to the dough, dip it in water (and wipe it).
For a golden finish, you can also brush a little bit of egg yolk over each cookie.
Finally, bake for 12 to 15 minutes (more or less depending on the size and thickness of the cookies) or until the edges start to look golden. Transfer over a cooling rack and leave to cool down completely.
More Traditional French Desserts:
- Cherry Clafoutis
- Pear Frangipane Tartlets
- Raspberry Almond Madeleines
- White Peach Frangipane Tart
- Choux à la Crème (French Cream Puffs)
- Classic Ice Cream Profiteroles
- Easy Raspberry Coulis
- Choux au Craquelin
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Sablé Breton Cookies
- 3 Egg Yolks - at room temperature
- 50 gr (7 tablespoons) Confectioner's Sugar - or Powdered Sugar
- 100 gr (7 tablespoons) Salted Butter, soft
- 175 gr (1 cup + 2 tbsp) Plain Flour
- 1/2 teasp. Baking Powder
- Take the butter out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before starting the recipe and pre-cut it into small cubes. The butter needs to be very soft, but not melted.
- Preheat your oven on 160'C/325'F. Prepare a baking tray lined with a baking mat or parchment paper.
- Seperate your Egg Yolks and Whites. Keep the Egg Whites in the fridge for another recipe.
- In the bowl of your mixer fitted with the paddle/leaf attachment, cream the very soft salted Butter and confectionners Sugar for about 2 minutes, or until light and fluffy.
- Add one Egg Yolk at the time while beating on low speed until all incorporated. Stop to scrap the edges of the bowl with a spatula if needed.
- Sift and stir in the Plain Flour and Baking Powder. Stop as soon as the dough comes together.
- Place the dough between two sheets of baking paper. Roll the dough between the two sheets with a rolling pin. The dough should be about 0.5cm to 1 cm / 0.2inch to 0.4 thick.
- Remove the top baking paper sheet and use a cookie cutter to cut out the cookies (1)
- Using a small offset spatula, lift the cookies and place them on the lined baking tray (2)Optional: Use the back of a fork to create the cross pattern (if the fork sticks to the cookie, dip it in a little bit of water).
- Repeat the process with any leftover dough. If the dough starts to become really soft, place in the fridge for a few minutes to harden.
- Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, then carefully place the cookies on a cooling rack until completely cool. Keep in an air-tight container for up to 3 days.
- I used a round cookie cutter about 6 cm / 2,5 inch wide.
- If the dough seems to be too soft to lift, place it over a flat tray and leave in the fridge for 5 to 10 minutes to harden.