13 May 2009
SHORTBREAD : I have always liked butter…. but in small quantities – feeling that too much of a good thing overwhelms the pleasures of the palate. Unfortunately, when I was a little girl my grandfather did not share these sentiments, and when asked to make us sandwiches for tea, he was prone to far more generous layers of butter, than bread & cucumber combined. There was then a mad dash to remove 90% of the golden spread & hide it in a napkin, before he returned to check that everything was ok!
All this being said, there is one area of baking where the less is more butter philosophy is brought into question – this being sablé (shortbread) cookie making. Butter is the defining building block, the foundation of this biscuit, without which you would be left with smiply flour & sugar. It’s quality is therefore of the utmost importance and once you have tasted these cookies, home made with fresh butter, you understand why the storebought variety always seems to have this slightly unpleasant aftertaste … it’s the butter.
It reminds me of the final scene in the movie ‘Mostly Martha’, where Martha (a famous Hamburg Chef) tastes the lemon tart her psychiatrist has prepared for her, using her recipe.
- some thing’s not right… she says
- how can that be? I followed your instructions to the letter?… he replies
- you heated the oven to exactly 210°?
- you didn’t over knead the pastry?
- and the sugar, did you use Belgian sugar?
- Do you mean to say that you can tell what kind of sugar I used?
- No, of course not, but I can tell what kind you DIDN’T use!
This is my second dedication to the ‘Comme un Chef‘ cookbook – a delectable recipe for Sablés Viennois (Viennese Shortbread), which I can only think of improving by dipping one end in sinful dark chocolate that melts ever so slowly on your tongue. Otherwise they PERFECT.
While the recipe calls for a 9mm nozzle (douille), I used an 8m as that is what I had on hand. Though in future I would follow the original instructions, as a larger nozzle makes the cookie formation far easier. You will also find that as you work with the piping bag and the dough warms, the cookies are easier to form.
RECIPE – SWEET PEABlog
- 200gr unsalted butter
- 75gr icing sugar
- 1 pinch of salt
- 1/2 vanilla bean pod
- 1 egg white
- 225gr white all-purpose flour
- Let the butter naturally come to room temperature (Guide to Butter & Baking)
- Pre-heat the oven to 180°C / 350°F convection heat
- Beat the butter until it becomes white
- Add sugar, salt, vanilla* and egg white
- Beat for 30 seconds! This is important – do not over beat or the mixture will start to separate
- Gently mix in the flour – chef’s tip was NOT to over mix, you just want the flour to be evenly combined.
- Prepare the pasty bag and then add heaping spoon-fulls of dough into the bottom of the bag (avoiding air pockets), until all the dough is used.
- Next, on a lined baking sheet, pipe out the cookies (see photo), leaving 2cm /1 inch in between each cookie
- Bake for 12 minutes or until just golden.
- Leave to cool on a cooling rack
*Take 1/2 a vanilla bean pod, slice it lengthwise & remove the inside by scrapping with a teaspoon