Thursday, December 13, 2012

Twelve Cookies of Christmas #10: Pierre Hermé's Sablé Viennois with Stirling Creamery Churn84

Don't let the name Pierre Hermé intimate you. These sablés are surprisingly very easy to make, despite coming from the famed French pastry chef. And these have instantly become my favourite cookie this holiday season.

Sablé Viennois

I recently found out that Stirling Creamery will be making their “European-style” unsalted butter Churn84 available to consumers (it was previously only available through Foodservice). Curious about their higher fat content butter, the folks at Stirling Creamery were nice enough to send me a few samples for me to test out.

But does a higher fat butter really make a difference? Unlike your typical commercial butter you can find at your local supermarket, which contains 80% fat, many European-style butters start at a minimum of 82% fat content. Churn84 contains 84%, hence its name.

Comparing Butters

To see what the difference is with Churn84, I compared it with two other Canadian butter brands that can easily be found in most supermarkets—Gay Lea and Lactantia. I often find that when I’m cutting butter straight out of the fridge, the butter crumbles on me. Churn84, with its higher fat content, was a little easier to cut cold, with less crumbling. And at room temperature, it is definitely creamier in texture than the regular supermarket varieties, and has a much richer dairy flavour to it.

With the baking test, I decided a butter cookie was the perfect choice and that is when I came across the recipe for these sablés. It is a little harder to discern the difference between the butters once the cookies came out of the oven, but once you let them cool down, the cookies baked using Churn84 have a lighter, crisper, melt-in-your-mouth crumb, and definitely have a more intense, sweet butter scent to them.

Sablé Viennois

So is it worth baking with a higher fat content butter? I say yes if it’s a recipe that requires a lot of butter and will benefit from using a higher quality ingredient, like puff pastry, brioche, croissants, shortbreads, or these butter cookies. You’ll definitely taste the difference, and you’ll be thankful you didn’t skimp on ingredients. Luckily for all of us bakers out there (and butter fans), Stirling Creamery’s Churn84 Unsalted will soon be available in 250 gram bars at select retailers in Ontario and Vancouver, making it easier for all of us to enjoy higher fat butters for all our baking (and eating) pleasures.

The only "hard" part of this recipe is the piping of the cookies themselves, especially if you're not used to piping cookies from a bag. Rarely do I ever make piped cookies, and most of them come out of my cookie press. It takes a little practice to get the feeling right so that they pipe out nice and uniform, but once you get the hang of it, it's all smooth sailing from there.

These are rich and buttery, and oh-so-pretty with the piped look and the vanilla seeds speckled throughout. If you want to be even fancier, you can dip half (or the bottom) in some melted chocolate.

Follow along with my Twelve Cookies of Christmas.

Sablé Viennois

Sablé Viennois
Adapted from Pierre Hermé
Makes about 3 dozen

190 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 g fleur de sel
1 vanilla bean, seeds removed (reserve vanilla pod to make vanilla sugar, if desired)
80 g confectioners’ sugar
30 g egg white (from about 1 large egg)
240 g all-purpose flour, sifted

Preheat oven to 350˚F.

In a mixing bowl, whisk the butter with the vanilla seeds and fleur de sel until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add in the confectioners’ sugar and whisk until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Mix in the egg white. Don’t worry if the mixture curdles; it will smoothen out after beating for 2 to 3 minutes. If the mixture still looks a bit curdled, it will smoothen out once the flour is added.

Add in the flour and mix until just combined; do not overmix. The batter will be thick.

Transfer the batter into a piping bag fitted with a star tip. Pipe circles about 1 1/2-inches in diameter on an unlined, nonstick baking sheet, leaving about 2 inches between each cookie. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until just golden brown.

Remove from oven and allow to cool completely on a cooling rack. The cookies will keep in an airtight container for up to a week.


Allison December 13, 2012 at 12:36 p.m.  

Great post! Hooray for 84% fat butter! :)

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