SALTED BUTTER BREAKUPS
Adapted from From Around My French Table, by Dorie Greenspan
Even if this weren’t wonderfully good, and it is, I’d want to make it just because it’s so much fun to serve. Essentially a large, buttery, flaky, salty, sweet rectangular cookie with a pretty little cross-hatch pattern on top, it gets put in the center of the table and, instead of cutting portions for your guests, your guests get to serve themselves by reaching over and breaking off pieces of the sweet. Yes, it’s messy – it’s impossible for this to be a crumbless endeavor – but everyone, young and old, easy-going and stuffy, likes it. Of course, for neatness’ sake, you could break the cookie up in the kitchen or you could even roll the dough out and cut it into cookie shapes, but that wouldn’t be as amusing, would it?
Called broyés in French, meaning crushed, the cookies are a tradition in the Poitou region, where butter is prized, so don’t even think about a substitute. Similarly, another of the cookies’ defining characteristics is its saltiness – it is undeniably salty and, now and again, you can even feel the salt on your tongue. In France, the cookies are made with sel gris, a moist, slightly grey (or gris) sea salt with crystals that are large enough to be picked up individually. If you can’t find sel gris, go with kosher salt.
Makes 4 servings
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
3/4 to 1 teaspoon sel gris (see above) or kosher salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespooons) cold unsalted butter, cut into 18 pieces
3 to 5 tablespoons cold water
1 egg yolk, for the glaze
Put the flour, sugar and salt in the workbowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Drop in the pieces of butter and pulse until the mixture looks like coarse meal – you’ll have big, pea-size pieces and small flakes. With the machine running, start adding the cold water gradually. Add just enough water to produce a dough that almost forms a ball. When you reach into the bowl to feel the dough, it should be very malleable.
Scrape the dough onto a work surface, form it into a square and pat the square down to flatten it a bit. Wrap the dough in plastic and chill it for about 1 hour (or for as long as overnight).
When you’re ready to bake, center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper.
Remove the dough from the fridge and, if it’s very hard, bash it a few times with your rolling pin to soften it. Put the dough between sheets of plastic film or wax paper and roll it – or pat it – into a rectangle that’s about 1/4-inch thick and about 5-x-11 inches; accuracy and neatness don’t count for a lot here. Transfer the dough to the lined baking sheet.
Beat the egg yolk with a few drops of cold water and, using a pastry brush, paint the top surface of the dough with the egg wash. Using the back of a table fork, decorate the cookie in a cross-hatch pattern.
Bake the cookie for 30 to 40 minutes, or until it is golden. It will be firm to the touch, but have a little spring when pressed in the center – the perfect break-up is crisp on the outside and still tender within. Transfer the baking sheet to a rack and allow the cookie to cool to room temperature.
Serving: If fun is what you’re after, bring the break-up to the table whole and let everyone break off pieces big and small; if order suits you better, break the cookie in the kitchen and serve the pieces on a plate.
Storing: The baked cookie will keep in a container for about 3 days. You can make the dough up to 3 days ahead and keep it in the refrigerator, or you can wrap it airtight and freeze it for up to 2 months. Don’t brush the dough with egg wash until you’re ready to bake it.