I think I never had so many pastries as at the time I first came to Paris. It was normal, though, because you simply cannot resist all the beautifully looking desserts and viennoiseries lurking from almost every window shop you pass by. Several years later, I am no longer as easily tempted as I understood that not everything that looks incredibly good indeed tastes incredibly. I would even say that most of desserts I see at the bakeries or even at the stores of certain renowned pastry chefs do not allure me as they did before. However, there are undisputed exceptions and one of my favourite pastry chefs still is the, as Vogue called him, the Picasso of pastry – Pierre Hermé. Hermé is the author of several pasty books and I am a proud owner of Le Larousse des Desserts that features incredible and sometimes demanding recipes.
A couple of years ago, I flipped several of his other books and noted two beautiful recipes that left me astonished by their simplicity and extraordinary result. Today I’m gonna share them here. These are the recipes for buttery French sablés biscuits. They are actually very similar, one for plain butter sablés and another for cacao flavoured ones. Sablés are crispy butter based biscuits that have a specific sandy texture and a light salty flavour. The legend of their creation dates back to the French history, in the 17th century. Today these kind of biscuits are extremely popular and can come in variety of shapes, although the most common are the traditional simple round biscuits. One of the most known are the galettes bretonnes or the round sablés biscuits from Brittany region.
PH’s recipe reminds tremendously of those old Danish butter cookies (you’ll probably remember the tin metal boxes that serve as sewing boxes to our grandmothers). The sablés are buttery, airy and very fragile due to their light texture. I vividly remember making these cookies for the first time without a piping bag, trying to form the round shapes in my hands with the sticky batter. They bake quickly and are best eaten when cooled. I recommend using the piping bag but if I managed to do it by hands you will also if you don’t have one.
Sablés viennois by Pierre Hermé
approximately 40 sablés
95 g butter
15 g egg white (aproximately 1 small egg white)
115 g flour
40 g powdered sugar
scraped seeds from one vanilla bean (or vanilla extract)
pinch of salt
Mix the butter with salt until the butter is creamy. Add sugar and vanilla seeds and whisk again to obtain a homogeneous, creamy mixture.
Whisk separately the egg white and blend it in the butter mixture.
Add the sifted flour and gently mix until you obtain a homogeneous batter.
Put the batter into the piping bag and pipe the batter directly onto the baking paper. If you don’t posses a piping bag you can take a spoonful of batter and form a 3 cm wide patties with hands.
Bake for no more than 10-12 minutes (depending on your oven and the shape and thickness of the cookies) at 180°C.
Cacao Sablés viennois by Pierre Hermé
aproximately 70 sablés
250 g butter
260 g flour
30 g cacao powder
100 g powdered sugar
3 spoons of whisked egg white
pinch of salt
Sift and mix together the flour and cacao powder.
In another bowl mix the butter with salt until the butter is creamy. Add sugar and vanilla seeds and whisk again to obtain a homogeneous, creamy mixture.
Whisk separately the egg white, measure 3 spoons and blend in the butter mixture.
Add the flour and gently mix until you obtain a homogeneous batter.
Put the batter into the piping bag and pipe the batter directly onto the baking paper.
Bake for no more than 10-12 minutes (depending on your oven as well as the shape and thickness of the cookies) at 180°C.
To ensure that the cookies turn out light and airy don’t mix the batter too much.
If you are the kind of a person that usually reduces the amount of sugar from the recipes (as I tend to) don’t do it here. The amount of sugar is just right for the perfect harmony of flavours.