Tea for Two
If you are a fan of shortbread cookies, then may I present to you, the lightest, crumbliest, most buttery shortbread I’ve ever had! The Palet Breton is a classic French shortbread made with traditionally salted butter from Brittany and has an iconic puck-like thickness that isn’t as dense or heavy as you would expect. And to really make these cookies one of the best I’ve ever had, the specks of salt scattered throughout perfectly balances out the tasting experience.
Watch how to make them below:
Yields: 6 small or 3 large (7cm)
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Chilling Time: 30-60 minutes
Baking Time: 18-25 minutes
Oven Temperature: 160°C (fan oven)
round cookie cutters
sheet pan / baking tray and tart rings
muffin / cupcake pan
1 egg yolk (approx.18g)
35g caster sugar
45g salted butter, room temp*
60g plain flour (10% protein)
½ tsp baking powder
pinch fleur de sel
1 egg yolk, for egg wash (optional)
*room temp = 20°C
Separate an egg and place the yolk into a large mixing bowl.
Add the 35g caster sugar and whisk until pale, and creamy.
Add 45g salted butter and a pinch of fleur de sel and beat in until smooth and no large chunks of butter are visible.
Finally, sift in 60g plain flour and ½ tsp baking powder and on a low speed mix in until just starting to come together.
Scrape down the bowl with a spatula and transfer the dough to a sheet of cling film. The dough may be too soft to handle so using the cling film, gently press the dough into a ball then flatten slightly.
Wrap up the dough and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes up to an hour depending how soft the dough was to start with. You want a fairly firm dough for rolling out.
Preheat the oven to 160°C (fan oven).
If you are baking the cookies in tart rings, line a baking pan with paper.
Take out the dough and on a lightly floured surface roll out the dough to about 1cm thickness.
Depending on your choice and size of bakeware (muffin pan or tart rings), cut out rounds and place them either in the muffin pan directly (no need to grease the pan) or onto the baking pan.
Gently press the left over dough together and roll out again until all the dough is used.
If you wish to ‘decorate’ the cookies, brush the tops of them with a thin layer of egg wash (yolk only) and then take a fork and etch in a cross pattern. Place the tart rings around the dough if using.
Bake at 160°C on the middle rack of the oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. For smaller cookies (muffin pan, around 4-5cm) around 20 minutes and for larger ones (tart rings, around 7cm) around 25 minutes.
Once they have cooled slightly on the tray and can be handled, move them to a wire rack and allow to cool completely (or for as long as you can resist).
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Can I used unsalted butter?
In short, yes you can but you must add a generous pinch of salt to make up for the missing salt content. The classic palet Breton shortbread is traditionally made with salted butter local to Brittany, France which lends a slightly salty flavour profile to the otherwise sweet dough. So, if you’re using unsalted butter, the additional salt is really non-negotiable. The fleur de sel on the other hand, is optional. The larger salt crystals do not fully dissolve when baked, leaving small dots of extra saltiness in the shortbread which in my opinion create a lovely eating experience. But this effect only works with the larger salt crystals - it will not work simply by adding more fine grain salt to the mix. Therefore, adding a pinch of fine grain salt is a must; adding the extra pinch of fleur de sel is up to you.
Do I need to bake the cookies in a pan or tart ring? Can I just bake them on a sheet without either?
This dough is a relatively high fat, high sugar recipe with a fairly weak structure which means when it bakes without a container, it will spread very thin. Whilst this doesn’t really affect the taste (I’ve baked them without pans or rings and they still tasted amazing) they will obviously lose their puck shape and airy texture. So if you want the traditional thickness of these shortbread, use a pan or ring, otherwise, just bake them as is and enjoy (and maybe reduce the baking time).
Should I bake these in a muffin/cupcake pan or tart ring? Which is better?
It’s less about which is better and more about what equipment you have and whether you care if they have the traditional look. Baking in a tart ring will give you the ‘puck’ look and depending how many tart ring sizes you own, you are free to make them as large or small as you want. The downside of using tart rings to bake a batch of shortbread, is having enough rings. Using a muffin/cupcake pan however, means that you will be restricted to the one size (I believe most pans have a roughly 5cm base) and the shortbread will not have uniform edges. For the average home baker who may not have a large selection of tart rings on hand, the muffin/cupcake pan is definitely the easier and more convenient choice.