French Butter Cookies, also known as Sablé Breton Cookies, are made with only 5 ingredients! crisp, buttery cookies with the perfect sweet-salty flavour. They're perfect simply as a snack with your afternoon coffee or for a gift during the Holiday season.
The French are known for their world-famous patisseries such as croissants, pain au chocolate, profiteroles and eclairs. But they have the most unbelievable array of cookies too. Think madeleines, palmiers, petites beurres, tulles and lace cookies.
Butter Cookies are quintessentially French, and when you take one bite, you'll transport yourself to the middle of France. Don't be fooled by their simple appearance, they deliver bucket loads on taste!
🌟 Why You'll Love This Recipe
- Uses basic ingredients. Five ingredients, and that's it to make this recipe.
- Unbelievable taste. Being so butter-forward, these cookies are always going to taste amazing. The egg yolks also impart incredible richness, which you can't beat! You're going to love these!
- Easy to make. These traditional Breton cookies come together in only a couple of easy steps. I share how to get that eye-catching shiny top too.
- Family-favourite. The kids will love helping you out to make this butter cookies recipe. I guarantee making the design on the top will be their favourite part!
- Perfect for any occasion: These are a year-round treat suitable for afternoon snacks (le goûter in France), treats and everyday cookie enjoyment.
❓ What is Sablé Breton?
Sablé, when translated from French, literally means sandy. This refers to the sandy consistency of the dough but also the texture of the cookies once baked.
Originating from Brittany, France, the cookies are made with the region's famous beurre salé (salted butter). It contains Fleur de Sel, a specialist salt from the area, which gives the cookies a sweet and salty flavour that's irresistible!
Made with only 5-ingredients, the dough is similar to a traditional shortbread cookie. The difference is that these use salted butter and egg yolks for a uniquely rich buttery flavour and crumbly texture.
Brushed with egg wash for their characteristic shine, they're finished off with a criss-cross design making them instantly recognisable. These sablé cookies are an absolute delight. It's used as the base for my delicious Strawberry Sablé Breton Tart topped with Crème Légère.
🧾 Ingredients Needed
As with any recipe where there are few ingredients, it's particularly important to use the best quality ingredients that you can find.
There's no hiding behind adding other flavourings, such as vanilla extract. Each ingredient plays an important role in this recipe to make it as delicious as it should be.
- Egg Yolks - Only the yolks are needed for this recipe. Three yolks in the cookie dough and one extra to be used as an egg wash. Use large eggs and separate the egg whites from the yolks whilst the eggs are cold. Then bring the yolks to room temperature.
- Flour - All-purpose (plain) flour is perfect for these cookies. Even though I provide US customary measurements in the recipe card, I never bake this way. I always use digital scales as it's so much more accurate. In this recipe, too much flour will lead to a dough that's hard to bring together and dry, overly crumbly cookies.
- Sugar - I recommend caster sugar or white granulated. I don't recommend light brown sugar or brown sugar as the molasses in these two products will add too much moisture to the cookies affecting the overall result.
- Salt - If you can find fleur de sel from Brittany, incorporate it into the recipe. Flaked sea salt is a perfect alternative. My favourite salt is Maldon Sea Salt which is globally widely available.
🧈 What's the Best Butter To Use?
Ok, so as mentioned, if sticking to the authentic way of making Breton Cookies, they need to be baked with salted butter.
My top tip is to find the best quality European butter that you can find. The quality is essential in these cookies. European butter has a higher fat content (82% or more) and lowers water content, leading to richer, more flavourful cookies. It's well worth it!
Where to Find Salted Butter:
Alright, so high-quality butter isn't actually hard to find. Most well-stocked supermarkets, grocery stores or specialist delis will stock European-style butter.
- In the UK, I love Isigny Ste-Mère Unpasturised Salted Butter, Président Butter with sea salt crystals or President slightly salted butter.
- In the US - Vermont Creamery, Graziers, Organic Valley and Kerrygold are good options. Even Trader Joe's has good quality European salted butter.
Can I Use Unsalted Butter?
My intent isn't to make you go on a wild goose chase, looking for 'difficult-to-find' products. I just want to give you the recipe true to tradition. But like most traditions, they can be adapted.
If you can't find good quality salted butter, that's no problem. Go for European unsalted butter instead! But, you'll need to add an extra scant 1 teaspoon of flaked sea salt or fleur de sel to the recipe to get that cherished salty kick from these cookies.
Sablé is a versatile style of dough typically used as the base of tarts. Here are some of my favourite ideas of flavourings to add to your cookies.
- Citrus: Add in the zest of an orange or lemon. Rub the zest into the sugar to release its oils and create even more flavour. Add a ½ teaspoon of orange or lemon extract for a stronger citrus taste.
- Spices: Add ground cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg or allspice for an interesting take on these cookies.
- Chocolate: Substitute a ¼ cup of flour with cocoa powder and add some finely chopped chocolate into the dough. The kids will love chocolate sablés!
- Vanilla: Add in a teaspoon of vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste for the added, well-rounded flavours of vanilla.
👩🏻🍳 Step-by-Step Instructions
Making these cookies couldn't be any easier. Like with any cutout cookie dough that has a lot of butter, the dough needs to be cold before the cookies are baked to hold their shape.
If the dough is baked when warm, you'll end up with unsightly puddles, not the look we're after. The heat of the dough and the ambient room temperature plays a huge factor.
*Be sure to see the recipe card below for the full ingredients list & instructions!*
STEP 1. Cream butter and sugar together.
Cut the butter into cubes to make it come to room temperature much quicker than leaving it in a block. Cream the two together for a good minute or two until pale and creamy. This incorporates air which helps prevent the biscuits from being dense, as opposed to crumbly.
STEP 2. Incorporate egg yolks.
Add the yolks into the butter and beat until fully combined. Yolks should be at room temperature when added. They emulsify into the creamed butter far better at room temperature and not cold.
STEP 3. Add flour and salt to form a dough.
Sift in the flour and add the salt (Image 5), beat until the dough starts to come together. As soon as it starts to clump together, then stops beating (Image 6). You don't want to overbeat at this point. It may look quite dry and sandy, don't worry. Use your hands to squeeze the dough together, using your hands to push the dough onto the dry bits in the bottom of the bowl (Image 7).
STEP 4. Refrigerate dough.
Use your hands to squeeze the dough into a disc and wrap well in cling wrap (Image 8). It may look a little jagged, but once wrapped in plastic wrap, smooth the dough with your fingertips. It magically comes together! (Image 9)
Pop the disc in the fridge for 30-minutes to one hour. The depends on how soft the dough is to start off with. It needs to firm up enough for it to roll out easily.
STEP 5: Roll out the disc.
If the disc has gone rock-solid, place the dough on a bench top for a couple of minutes. Rolling out dough that is too cold with cause it to crack.
Roll the dough out in-between two pieces of parchment paper to a thickness of 6mm (¼ inch). (Images 10, 11 & 12)
STEP 6: Stamp out cookies and mark. (Preheat the oven to 180C (350F)
Cut out cookies: Use a 6cm (2 ¼ inch) cookie cutter to stamp out cookie rounds (Image 13). I love the edges of a fluted cookie cutter, but a plain round one is a popular option too. If necessary, use an offset spatula to lift the cookie rounds onto a baking tray lined with baking paper. Gather dough scraps together and re-roll for more cookies.
Mark the tops of the cookies. You can get as creative as you like here. Use the side of a fork to indent lines into the dough if you want lots of lines, or use the tines of the fork to indent for a few lines. Both are good options. (Images 14 and 15)
An important note on your ambient room temperature: If you live in a hot and humid climate, the dough may have softened quickly whilst rolling it out. If it starts to feel too soft, then pop the dough back in the fridge for 20-30 minutes to chill and firm up. Or when the cookies are on the baking tray, and they are too soft, refrigerate. (Or freeze for 15 minutes!)
STEP 7. Brush tops with egg wash.
An egg wash on the cookies gives the most incredible sheen and golden lustre. It's a really iconic trait of these French Butter Cookies, so don't miss it out! But there's a little trick to get the ultimate sheen .... double egg washing!
Whisk 1 tablespoon of water with the remaining egg yolk. Brush the cookies over the top, ensuring it doesn't drip all down the edge of the cookies (Image 16). Then wait for five minutes. This gives a chance for the egg wash to air dry.
And then brush another coat of egg wash on top (Image 17)! You'll achieve the most unbelievable golden top by doing this.
STEP 8: Bake!
Compared to standard shortbread, these cookies are baked for a lot longer. The aim is not for a barely cooked, soft texture. It's crumbly and crisp around the edges. Bake for 15-18 minutes (depending on their thickness). The edges should be golden (Image 18).
Cool the cookies completely on a wire rack once baked.
Once the French Butter Cookies are baked and cooled, tuck right in. They are perfect served with your coffee or tea (and actually make fantastic dunking cookies!)
They taste so buttery and rich, and the salt is such a welcome addition. Being an absolute salt fiend, I adore that saltiness and go so far as to sprinkle the cookies with even more salt once they're egg washed!!
💭 Recipe Pro Tips
- Chill the dough once rolled out. Being so butter-forward, the butter needs to re-solidify once the dough is made. This gives you the best chance of the cookies maintaining their shape, but it also allows the flour to hydrate, resulting in more tender cookies.
- Chill the cutout cookies before baking. This depends on your environment. If your kitchen is warm and the dough has softened before baking, then the dough will benefit from a short stint in the refrigerator (or freezer) to firm up.
- Keep an eye on the baking time. This will depend on the thickness of the cookies or the size of your cutouts. The sides need to be lovely, a golden - slightly more than you would typically bake cookies at.
📋 Recipe FAQs
Absolutely. The dough can be made and wrapped well in cling wrap. The unbaked dough can be refrigerated for 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months.
Thaw it overnight in the refrigerator. Before rolling it, leave it at room temperature for ten minutes to soften. Follow instructions as per the recipe.
Whilst both are made with only a handful of ingredients, shortbread incorporates only a small amount of egg and, in some recipes, none. Sablé, on the other hand, uses three whole yolks to bring richness and flavour to the cookies.
My first question would be asking if you measured the flour by grams or cups. More often than not, using cups provides an inaccurate measurement, and you may have overmeasured the flour, which causes the cookies to be dry. I urge you to use a digital scale for accurate results.
❄️ How to store and freeze
To store: The sable biscuits are best stored in an air-tight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.
To freeze: The unbaked dough can be frozen, as mentioned in the FAQ section.
You can also flash freeze the cut-out cookies on a lined baking tray. Do not egg-wash them before freezing. Once frozen, add them to a ziplock bag and freeze for up to three months. To bake, place them onto a baking tray, egg wash the tops and bake, adding a couple of extra minutes to the bake time.
I do not recommend freezing baked cookies.
If you tried this Sablé Breton Cookies recipe or any other recipe on my website, please let me know how you go in the comments below. I love hearing from you. Also, please leave a 🌟 star rating whilst you're there!
🍪 More cookie recipes
French Butter Cookies Recipe
- 170 g salted butter, preferable European-style butter
- 100g caster sugar
- 3 large egg yolks, plus 1 extra egg yolk for egg wash
- 340 g plain flour (all-purpose)
- 1 teaspoon flaked sea salt, or 'fleur de sel'
- 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
- Cream butter and sugar together. Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or an electric hand-held mixer), beat the butter and sugar on medium speed for 2-3 minutes until pale and creamy.
- Incorporate egg yolks. Add in the egg yolks and mix for until well combined, about a minute.
- Add flour and salt to form a dough. Sift the flour into the mixing bowling add in the salt. Mix on low speed until just incorporated and the dough starts to clump. Use your hands to bring the dough together by gently squeezing it together.
- Refrigerate dough. Form dough into a rough disc and wrap well in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour depending on how soft and sticky the dough is to start off with.
- Roll out disc. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) Roll the dough between two sheets of parchment paper until the dough is 6mm (¼ inch) thickness.
- Stamp out cookies and mark. Peel off the top layer of parchment paper and stamp out cookie rounds using a fluted or plain 6cm (2 ¼ inch) cookie cutter. Use an offset spatular to help lift the cookies off the parchment paper and transfer them to parchment paper lined cookie trays. Using the tines of a fork, a skewer or edge of a cutlery handle, mark cross hatch lines on the top of each cookie.Note: if you live in a warm environment and the dough has softened, then refrigerate the stamped out cookies on the baking tray for 20-30 minutes, or freeze the tray for 15 minutes for the dough to firm up before egg washing. The cookie dough should not be soft when going into the oven.Gather the scrapes together and re-roll and stamp out extra cookies.
- Brush tops with egg wash. Whisk together the remaining egg yolk and 1 tablespoon of water and brush the tops of the cookies with egg wash, making sure not to drip down the sides. Let the cookies sit for fives minutes for the egg wash to dry, then repeat brushing the tops with a second coating of egg wash.
- Bake. Bake in the preheated oven for 15-18 minutes, until the tops turn golden brown and the edges of the cookies are lightly golden. Cool completely on a wire rack.
All recipes are developed and tested in Metric grams. I strongly recommend that you bake using digital scales for a more accurate result. I have provided a conversion to US customary in the recipe but please note that I haven’t tested using this method.