I decided to finally try a new recipe from my Ladurée book of dreams, that I’ve been meaning to make for quite a while. I am so glad I got a spare afternoon…so very glad!
If you’ve ever been travelling in France, you’ll know there are a few things you need as staples when you’re heading out on a long, enclosed journey (I’m talking about trains or cars more then anything here). Croissants are one of them – that’s pretty obvious – baguettes with cheese and ham are another, bananas, water etc, that’s all pretty standard fare. Spritz biscuits are one of my staples. Partially because they are delicious and partially for the nostalgia value. I’m instantly transported to my family’s jaunts through Europe in an old, bright orange VW campervan. Cheesy, blurry-lensed montages a-plenty over here today.
Anyway, these biscuits are Viennese sable biscuits. Piped, light, and buttery shortbread essentially, and when you bake them yourself, they are truly incredible. If you buy the “all-butter” (I’m very dubious about this claim) navy blue biscuit tins at Christmas, you will like these. They are like these, on taste steroids. Now, don’t pretend you’re not intrigued. Let’s get down to business.
Sablès Viennois (Viennese Shortbread)
190g butter, cubed into small-ish pieces (BUTTER, absolutely not margarine or Stork! Literally the best butter you can afford)
1 pinch of coarse sea salt
75g icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg white
225g cake flour (fine self-raising flour)
100g good quality dark chocolate
– Preheat your oven to 150C/130C (fan)/gas mark 2 and line a biscuit sheet with greaseproof (dot the corners with butter to stop it sliding around when you pipe the biscuits).
– Over a double boiler, set the butter and salt in a medium bowl. It doesn’t need to melt per-se, but it needs to be very VERY soft, semi liquid almost, so beat it hard with a wooden spoon until it’s all creamy and lovely.
– Remove the butter and whisk it to make sure it’s beautifully smooth (no lumpy butter bits in this mix, oh no!). Add the icing sugar, and mix until well incorporated. Don’t worry about the texture at this point – it’ll get there my lovelies, no stress! Add the vanilla next, and mix again until mixed in nicely. Then add the egg white and stir it in as best you can, it won’t end up a perfect mix, it’ll probably look a little lumpy, just stir it in as best you can, when you add the flour it’ll right itself.
– Add two tablespoons of the flour in and mix until it’s beginning to look like a normal batter/dough. Then add the remaining flour in three stages, just to keep things easy.
– At this point your dough might be runny enough to pipe, but don’t panic. Making this in a really cold kitchen can make the butter start to solidify again, and come on. This is England, even in May it’s single digits, so it will be cold enough to re-solidify butter.
– The best way to test this is to touch the dough, if it’s substantial enough to roll, it’s far too thick. It’s easily remedied though, add milk, a few tablespoons at a time (mix it in in between each addition so you don’t end up with a soup!).
– Once you’ve sorted out the consistency, transfer to a big piping bag, fitted with a large open-star nozzle. You know the huge nozzle you make beautiful cupcake swirls with? Yeah, you can’t use that here. Or you can use whatever nozzle you like really, I’m just going with the one that I liked.
– Pipe into small stars, or fingers, or swirls. Whatever you want really and pop them in the oven for 15-20 minutes. If you’re doing all small stars, keep an eye on them after 10 minutes. They will go a beautiful golden colour at the edges, but they don’t need to brown, they will dry a little when they come out the oven, and it’s best to keep them pale.
– Once they’ve cooled down, melt your chocolate up and dip away. Dip the tip, dip half, dip the whole thing. The world is your oyster.
– Viennese Shortbread – good looped around your espresso cup in the morning.