Why yes, I did choose to post salted butter break-ups for Valentine’s Day. If butter is your true love – as it is mine – this is a great vehicle for it, and one made for sharing.
I’m all for sharing desserts – and food in general – bringing out a big bar of bashed-up chocolate or pints of gelato with a stack of bowls and spoons for everyone at the table to dig into at their own speed is a great way to finish a meal. You’ve heard of communal tables? This here is a communal cookie. In the Poitou region of France, it’s traditionally served in one big piece, set out in the middle of the table for guests to break off in chunks.
The dough is blitzed together in the food processor, then rolled out between sheets of parchment, painted with beaten egg yolk (you could colour the yolk with a drop of food colouring for a more dramatic effect) and crosshatched with the tines of a fork.
If you’re like me, you’ll find this part oddly satisfying.
The yolk paint makes the surface smooth and glossy and buttery yellow, and you can hear the butter itself sizzling as the cookie comes out of the oven. It’s a perfect dinner party dessert, perhaps served with a bashed-up bar of dark chocolate, ice cream or fruit in season. Thanks once again to Dorie Greenspan – her book Around my French Table is one that will never be purged from my collection.
Salted Butter Break-Ups
Adapted only slightly from Around my French Table by Dorie Greenspan.
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/2-1 tsp. sea salt (use less if you’re using salted butter)
1/2 cup salted or unsalted butter, chilled and cut into pieces
4-5 Tbsp. cold water
1 egg yolk
Put the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Drop in the pieces of butter and pulse the mixture until it looks like coarse meal, with bigger clumps of butter the size of a pea. With the machine running, pour in the cold water gradually, adding just enough to allow the dough to start pulling away from the side of the bowl; if you squeeze it together, it will form a dough. Dump out onto a piece of plastic wrap, pat it down to flatten into a disc, then wrap it in plastic and chill it for about 1 hour, or up to 3 days. (It also freezes for up to 2 months.)
When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment and put the dough between two sheets of parchment. If it’s very firm, you may need to bash it a bit with your rolling pin to soften it up. Roll it into a rectangle that’s about 5×11-inches. Transfer the dough to the lined baking sheet and peel off the top piece of parchment. Beat the egg yolk with a few drops of cold water and brush the surface all over. With the tines of a fork, decorate the top with a crosshatch pattern.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until golden. It will be firm to the touch but will have a little spring when pressed in the center — the perfect break-up is crisp on the outside and still tender within. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Serve it whole on a platter or cutting board, set in the middle of the table. Serves 10-15.