These cookies are made from rich buttery dough flavoured with vanilla, cinnamon and almonds. They are extremely tempting and taste a little bit like shortbread.
Sables biscuits come from Sable-sur-Sarthe in the North East of France where they were first made more than 300 years ago. In French the word ‘sable’ translates into English as ‘sand’. This is a term French bakers use, in English we say breadcrumbs.
The texture and flakiness of the pastry is very dependent on the type of butter that is used. It should be a butter containing at least 82 per cent fat. Brands with lower butter content have too much water in them and create steam during the baking process.
The dough can be prepared well in advance of cooking and kept in the fridge for three to four days or stored in the freezer. The finished biscuits can be kept for up to one month in an airtight container or tin. This recipe makes approximately twenty five small biscuits (though it does depend on the size of the biscuit cutter used).
Traditionally these biscuits are round but they can be cut into any shape you wish. You can also decorate them with chocolate or icing, or fill them with jam. They can even be made into savoury biscuits by replacing the almonds, cinnamon and vanilla with gorgonzola cheese and chopped walnuts. The variations are endless.
150g plain flour
75g granulated sugar
50g finely ground almonds
Pinch of ground cinnamon (optional but gives a lovely spicey flavour).
100g French butter (84% butter content)
Teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1 smallfree range egg (about 30g)
Sift the flour and the almonds and combine them in a bowl and then add the cinnamon. Put to one side
Place the butter, vanilla and salt in your mixer bowl and, using the paddle attachment, mix on medium speed for two minutes. Or mix by hand. Add the egg and mix for a further two minutes.
Add the dry ingredients and mix until the dough just comes together.
Place a sheet of cling-film on a flat surface and flatten the dough to about 1/2 cm thick. Wrap it in plastic wrap and keep in the fridge for at least two hours (preferably overnight).
When you are ready to roll out the dough, remove from the fridge and leave for a few minutes to reach room temperature.
Meanwhile pre-heat the oven to Gas Mark 3/325 degrees with the rack positioned in the middle of the oven. Line a large baking tray with parchment paper.
Dust your work surface with plenty of flour and roll out the pastry to a depth of about 1 cm and cut the shapes with the biscuit cutters of your choice.
Brush the tops of the biscuits with egg wash, being careful not to allow it to drip down the sides of the biscuits. Leave for ten minutes then brush them with egg wash again.
Put in the oven and cook for fifteen to twenty minutes (turning the tray in the oven halfway through cooking). Remove when they are a golden brown colour and put on a rack to cool.
You can then just enjoy them as they are or decorate them.