Thursday, March 13, 2014

salted butter break-ups

The salted butter break-up is like no cookie I've ever eaten.

I thought about calling it French shortbread, but that's not quite right.

Instead, it's like a crisp but still tender cookie shot through with layers of butter and salt.

Can you kind of see what I mean?

I am torn about the best part of the salted butter break-up: the taste or the process.

The taste, of course, is buttery with a haunting hint of sea salt. The crumb both shatters and gently releases itself in your mouth. (You see, I really can't decide if they are crisp or tender.)

And the process! Well, you roll out a big messy rectangle of dough, brush on some egg glaze, and bake until it puffs into a golden expanse of firm but slightly springy dough.

Once that big cookie is cool, you literally(!) break it up!

Seriously. You just break corners and work your way into the middle until you have pleasing shards of cookie that are perfect alongside your afternoon tea.

Or  if you make this for a dinner party  you can just bring the whole big cookie to the table and let your guests break it up. How fun is that?

All my gratitude goes to the lovely Isabelle from The Little Red Kitchen, who first gave my Celiac husband a little container of these break-ups and said I could eat one, and who also converted them to be gluten-free. And, of course, many thanks for introducing me to Dorie Greenspan's Around My French Table, from which these break-ups originally come.

one year ago: spiced red lentil stew with greens and lemon
two years ago: cheddar corn chowder
three years ago: grand forks borscht
four years ago: canadian boterkoek

salted butter break-ups
via the little red kitchen 
adapted from around my french table by dorie greenspan

1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
     or gluten-free:
     127 g. (4.5 oz) tapioca starch
     42 g. (1.5 oz) sweet rice flour
     42 g. (1.5 oz) sorghum flour
2/3 c. sugar
3/4  1 tsp. sel gris* or kosher salt
9 tbsp. (127 g./4.5 oz) cold butter, cut into 18 pieces
 5 tbsp. cold water
1 egg yolk, for the glaze

Pour the flour(s), sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse to mix. Drop the butter in and pulse until it loks like coarse meal with pea-sized and smaller pieces. While the machine is running, slowly add some of the cold water. Only add enough water to make a dough that almost forms a bowl. It will be very malleable.

Move the dough onto a big clean cutting board and form it into a square. Wrap it in plastic and refrigerate for about 1 hour (or up to 3 days).

When it's time to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and make sure your rack is centred. Line your baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.

Roll the dough out between sheets of plastic wrap until it becomes a rough rectangle that's about 1/4-inch thick and about 5 by 11 inches. Peel it onto your prepared baking sheet.

Whisk the egg yolk with a few drops of cold water, and use a pastry brush to brush the dough with the egg glaze.

Bake 30  40 minutes, or until golden. It should be firm to touch, but with a little spring when you press its centre. Dorie says the perfect break-up is crisp on the outside and still tender on the inside. When it's not too fragile, transfer it to a rack and let it cool to room temperature.

*Dorie says sel gris is "a moist, slightly grey sea salt with crystals that are large enough to be picked up individually." I used Maldon sea salt flakes and loved it.


  1. Hi Stephanie,
    I actually made this 'cookie' from Dorie's cookbook a few weeks ago, and it was good, but the flour combination I used to make it gluten free was too heavy and they didn't have the lightness yours do in the picture. I was going to try to play around with the flours until I got it right - you've saved me the trouble! Thanks so much! Yours look light and crispy. I can't wait to make your recipe, because the idea is fantastic! I really enjoy reading your blog. Thanks, Margaret (Kitchen Frau)

    1. I'm so glad to have saved you the trouble, Margaret! All credit must go to Isabelle at The Little Red Kitchen for coming up with such a good flour combination. It's such a treat when a new gluten-free cookie recipe just works!

  2. This sounds amazing! Like seriously up my alley. I cannot wait to try it

    1. Yup! From reading your blog, I'd say this is definitely up your alley! I've finally bought a stick of Stirling butter and I think I might need to bust it open the next time I make this . . .