If there’s one cookie that defined my childhood, it is undoubtedly this one: the Breton Salted Butter Sablé, also known in French as the Galette Bretonne. It is a crisp, “sandy” cookie made with the simplest of ingredients: flour, sugar, eggs and a lot of butter enriched with sea salt flakes. It can be found in all bakeries across Brittany, and lots of natives like myself will tell you it is their absolute favorite.
Simply put: it boasts the perfect combination of sweet and salty flavors, finished with a generous amount of salted butter.
Now, like most Brittany recipes, the making of these Breton Salted Butter Sablés is very simple. Brittany cooks like to rely on simple, yet high quality ingredients. So before you start, here are a few notes on your choice of butter and salt – the two most important ingredients in this recipe.
Choose the right butter
A good quality butter will go along way for this sablé cookie, since the buttery taste is so prevalent. But you also need to choose the right butter.
In France, you have the choice between “beurre doux” (unsalted butter), “beurre demi-sel” (slightly salted butter) and “beurre salé” (salted butter, with sea salt flakes – also about 3 to 5% more salty than the “beurre demi-sel”/slightly salted butter). The latter, beurre salé, is mostly consumed in the North-Western part of France, which includes Brittany and Normandy. And it is this one, the “beurre salé” that should be used to make these salted butter sablés. In my kitchen in Canada, I recreate this salted butter by using unsalted butter to which I add fleur de sel. Using unsalted butter allows you to control the amount of salt in the butter, and in the recipe – and to properly recreate this salty, crunchy bite with the sea salt flakes.
Beware – you can now commonly find “demi-sel” French butters in the US/Canada at some grocery stores (such as Echire’s) or even some European-style butter, cultured or not cultured (such as Land O Lakes’). I’d say these are definitly good-quality butters (and I’d strongly suggest using them for other baking projects), but they are not “beurre salé” (salted butter, with coarse sea salt). They do not contain the same amount of salt, nor sea salt crystals in them, and they won’t give the finished sablé that same authentic taste.
Choose the right salt
To salt the butter and achieve an authentic taste, I rely on French Fleur de sel. My pantry is always stocked with a bag or two that I bring back from France, but you can find some original Fleur de sel de Guérande online and in some grocery stores in the US/Canada.
If you can’t find fleur de sel, try to find some other good-quality sea salt flakes. Maldon is very good too. It has fine flakes but the volume can remain the same as fleur de sel in this recipe.
These Breton Salted Butter Sablés are often kept in rectangular tin boxes with a flip lid. They are usually decorated with illustrations or photos depicting Brittany life. After many years living between Brittany and Canada, I brought back several of these to Canada, and I make a great use of them since I always have a few batches of these sablés in my kitchen, ready to eat. If not in a tin box, keep the sables in a sealed Tupperware, as they can last for up to 10 days.
1 cup (250g) unsalted butter, diced and at room temperature
1 1/4 cup (250g) sugar
3 whole eggs + 1 egg yolk
4 cups (500g) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp (8g) flaky sea salt, such as Fleur de sel or Maldon
1 tbsp (15g) milk
In a large mixing bowl, combine the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Stir in the 3 whole eggs, until just incorporated.
Sift together the flour and salt over the butter/sugar/egg mixture. Combine with a spatula until it all comes together into a soft ball. It is essential to stop mixing as soon as the ingredients are all combined; over-mixing will make the sablés too tough. Wrap the dough in plastic film and chill for 1 hour.
Pre-heat your oven to 350F (180C) with a rack in the middle.
Transfer the dough onto a sheet of parchment paper. Lay another sheet of parchment paper on top and roll the dough until it is ½-inch thick (1.27cm). Peel off the top sheet of parchment paper and cut out circles of dough with a 2-inch (5cm) round cookie cutter (scalloped, if you want to stick to the authentic look).
Transfer the dough circles onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. The dough is still quite sticky, you may need a spatula to delicately unpeel the circles.
In a small bowl, beat the egg yolk with the milk and brush the top of the dough circles with this egg wash. Using a fork, create a crosshatch pattern over the dough circles.
Bake for 25 minutes, rotating the baking sheet mid-way.
Transfer the sablés immediately to a cooling rack.
If you try this Breton Salted Butter Sablés recipe, let me know! Leave a comment or share a photo using #pardonyourfrench on Instagram.
This recipe is inspired by the book Aimer La Cuisine de Bretagne, by Jacques Thorel
If you like French cookies and Sablés, you might like: