Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Eat, Memory

My grandpa always joked that my parents bought me from a gypsy family that passed through town. He'd look at me through the slight gap above his reading glasses and say " that's why you can't sit still, and you have music in your blood." Well, the wind was blowing again, and my heart was restless, and I was listening to Beirut, and one morning in February I opened my eyes and I was in Paris. I think we all know that things are never that simple, but to try and explain everything that led to my trip and everything that happened while i was away, and how it felt when I returned would be like including instructions for making butter, milking cows, grinding flour,and washing dishes, in a pancake recipe. It's been a while since I wrote here... if I'm a little rusty bear with me.

There was a bakery downstairs from my tiny room in Paris, where most of my days were begun. The coffee was decent and though like most bakeries in Paris, croissants and baguettes were a plenty, what caught my eye on the first visit, and accompanied my coffees on every subsequent day of my trip was a large plain-looking cookie that a neat paper sign taught me to call a Sablé Au Beurre. This cookie stole my heart with its honest flavour and satisfying texture, but also because when I first tasted one it reminded me of something I could not place. I told the baker (who also worked at the counter) about this hazy distant taste memory and he told me with a smile, that if I ate one every morning I might eventually remember.

On my last morning, when I opened the bakery door he was already grabbing my cookie with a square of waxed paper. I explained that I would like a few more this time, that I would be returning home, and was going to miss the cookies. He told me to wait while he grabbed a small box. I waited for what seemed liek too long to grab a box. It all made sense when he came back and gave me the recipe. As I walked away from the bakery I thought to myself that when I bake these cookies at home, it will be in the future, and that the present moment in Paris, which would then constitute the past, would be the memory I would attach to these cookies... so I stopped trying to figure out what other more distant thing they were reminiscent of. Here I offer you the recipe for what I now think of as the cookies i ate whilst walking around alone in Paris. It's nice to be writing here again. I had really missed it.

Sablé Au Beurre

150g unsalted butter at room temperature
115 g white sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla (his recipe calls for vanilla powder but i used extract)
1.4 tsp citrus zest (whatever you have on hand)
2c A.P. flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 and line two baking trays with parchment or silicone.

With a Hand mixer, beat the sugar and butter for 3 minutes on medium speed. It will be light and fluffy. Then add the egg, vanilla, and zest. Beat one more minute. In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Add the two together and mix until the mixture is crumbly.

Turn out onto a floured board and bring the dough together with your hands. form a short thick log and cut it in half. Press each half down slightly into a disc, wrap in plastic a refrigerate for 15minutes. Using a rolling pin and on a floured surface, roll out to about 1/4" thickness, cut into desired shapes and place on a parchment lined baking tray.

These cookies should not spread, so they do not need to be too spaced out. Using a sharp knife score the surface of the cookies and brush the tops with egg wash (1egg beaten with 1tsp milk or water). Bake 8-12minutes or until the tops are golden brown.

NOTE: if you are baking in batches, keep what you are not baking in the fridge while the rest bake, and apply the egg wash JUST before putting the cookies in the oven. Also, the the cookies I ate in paris were the size of the palm of my hand, but I only have smaller cutters, which make cookies this size:


  1. I'm so glad you're back. I was wondering...

    1. I'm glad you're still reading! so nice to be back!

  2. gorgeous! bravo!
    so glad you're back (to echo Tracy) !

    Beautiful photos, beautiful story...

  3. This looks very similar to the cookie I enjoyed, from the bakery beneath my apartment, while I walked around alone in Paris. I like your story.

    1. there must be something about being alone in paris that goes well with buttery cookies ;)

  4. I love sable biscuits. I went through a phase of making them quite a lot but then drifted out of the habit. I will try your recipe. Glad to have you back