Framboises, myrtilles and mûres too, adding raspberries, blueberries and blackberries to the strawberries whose discovery today’s title celebrates. (“Ah, voici las fraises!” = “Ah, here are the strawberries!”) What else would one say in France, when finding the perfect topping for three slices of local shortbread?
Sablé Breton (or, “Brittany Sandies”) is France’s version of the classic Scottish dessert, though the French add eggs and even more butter, proportionally, than do the Scots, resulting in a thicker and softer shortbread somewhat reminiscent of a cross between it and pound cake. The eggs provide the requisite puffiness, while all that butter makes it beautifully delicious. Of course – it’s French and from a province renowned for its dairy farms, so lots and lots of butter:
The original recipe was found on a site called Baker Sweet Maker, which pairs the shortbread with lemon curd to create a particularly fancy lemon bar. Superb, yes, but we already produced lemon bars a couple year ago, and Scones with Lemon Curd even more recently yet, calling for more tinkering.
Fortunately, a raspberry sauce is an ideal thing to drizzle over the shortbread. Add a mixture of berries, all striving for mid-summer perfection, and you have a rich, flavorful, French version of strawberry shortcake, completed with a dollop of fresh whipped cream.
By the way, the dough does contain a zested lemon, a nod to the topping the original recipe suggests, as well as an anticipation of the berries’ sweet tang. As mentioned earlier, sablé Breton also contains egg yolks, unique to the French version, which gives it a bright yellow color. Here’s today’s offering, before hitting the oven: After baking, the pastry puffs to triple its original thickness, resulting in something a bit more like a cake than anything else. What better time than high summer to top it all with the berry excellence bursting from gardens, orchards and shrubs everywhere? Now is the berries’ moment, and this is the dessert to celebrate it. Ou sont las fraises? Ici!
For the sablé biscuits:
- 8 egg yolks
- 1 and 1/2 cups sugar
- 2 and 3/4 sticks unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch slices and brought to room temperature
- 3 and 1/4 cups flour, sifted (*1)
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 lemon peel, grated (*2)
For the raspberry sauce:
- 1 jar (10 ounces) raspberry preserves
- 1/3 cup fresh raspberries
- 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
For the whipped cream:
- 1 small carton (one pint) heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups various fresh berries, to taste (*3)
Press heavy aluminum foil smoothly into a shallow four-sided baking tray, not just on the bottom, but up the sides and hanging beyond the edges. Spritz lightly with cooking spray. Lay on a piece of parchment paper and dust lightly with flour. Reference picture above to see what I mean.
Fit a mixer with the whisk attachment, then pour the egg yolks into the bowl. Whip at medium speed for two minutes. Reduce speed to low and, with the mixer still running, gradually pour in the sugar. Blend for another two minutes.
Turn off the mixer and remove he whisk attachment. Using a spatula, scrape back into the bowl any of the egg mixture stuck in the whisk. Switch to the conventional paddle blade and power motor back up to its lowest setting. Add the lemon zest, if using. Gradually add the butter, a piece at a time, then continue mixing for another minute. Turn off motor.
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Once again, restore the mixer to its lowest speed. Slowly pour in the flour mixture, working in four batches and pausing between additions. Turn off mixer as soon as the last of the flour is incorporated. You don’t want to overmix it.
With a spatula, scrape any batter from the blade back into the bowl, and then scrape all the batter onto the baking sheet you prepared. Using your hands (the Almighty supplies the best tools, doesn’t He? Or…Nature…doesn’t she?, if that’s your poison) press down and smooth out the dough to a reasonably uniform thickness, again, as illustrated above.
Take a bamboo skewer, a matchstick or something similar and “dock” the dough by poking holes at about two-inch intervals. Don’t worry about poking all the way through to the baking sheet, as the punctures largely will “heal” by the time the biscuit cooks. (*4) Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a couple hours.
Meanwhile, make the raspberry sauce by blending the preserves, the raspberries and the powdered sugar in a blender. Pulse until smooth, then pour into a bowl, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use.
About half an hour before the dough finishes chilling, preheat the oven to 350°. Wash the mixing bowl and the whisk attachment and put both in the freezer.
Take the baking tray from the refrigerator and remove and discard the plastic wrap. Cook for 20-25 minutes, until the surface is very lightly browned, just barely in fact. Remove to cool on a wire rack.
Take the mixing bowl and whisk from the freezer and attach to the mixer, Pour the cram into the bowl. With the motor running at lowest speed, add the powdered sugar and the vanilla extract, When incorporated, gradually increase the motor speed to its highest setting. Continue thusly until the cream is light and fluffy, about ten minutes.
Set a large cutting board, bigger than the tray, on the baking sheet and, keeping everything together, flip upside-down in one smooth motion. Lift off the baking tray, then carefully peel away the aluminum foil and the parchment paper. Using a pizza cutter or, lacking that, a metal spatula, cut the sablé Breton into eight even pieces. Do this by making a cut down the length, then another one 90° to it, from top to bottom. This will give you four squares, each of these you will halve again, giving you eight pieces.
To assemble, “shingle” two our three slices in a serving bowl, trimming the sablé if necessary to fit. Pour 1/4 cup or so of raspberry sauce down the middle of each stack of biscuits. Lay on about 1/3 cup of mixed fresh berries, then drizzle with another tablespoon of sauce. Pipe on some of your whipped cream to garnish, then serve.
1 – After preparing this, I found another recipe suggesting almond flour instead of wheat flour. Not a bad substitution, particularly, as it would make this gluten-free.
2 – As mentioned in the opening text, the lemon is an option not found in the original recipe. It does add a nice touch, though, that compliments the berries. Better yet if you use a Meyer lemon!
3 – As you can see, I used strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries. Boysenberries would be another good option, as would gooseberries or even lingonberries (for a Nordic twist!).
4 – Also, before covering the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerating it, I used a butter knife to make the cuts ahead of time, making it easier to produce biscuit-sized pieces after the pastry bakes.