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Poilâne sablé biscuits

Wed, 31 March, 2021

Poilâne sablés made with the finest cornmeal have the texture of the nicest shortbread and the colour of the sun. Recipe comes from the famous Parisian Poilâne bakery owner, Apollonia Poilâne.

poilane bakery sable biscuits

Anti-stress biscuits

Sometimes nothing but a plain, simple biscuit will do. A cup of tea and a biscuit is the famously British way of dealing with stress, calamity, grief, earthquake and war. That a cuppa and a biccie will fix all the ills of the world is a nice sentiment, albeit a little superficial.

But I admit I suffer from occasional bouts of nervous biscuits munching. When I have a problem or a difficult decision to make (I hate making decisions), the biscuit jar in the kitchen or a dark corner at the back of the sweets cupboard is my recourse.

The biscuit jar is usually full of digestives or shortbreads but sometimes it decoratively houses giant meringues. Meringue definitely won’t do for stress though – wrong texture, too sweet, no crunch. Nor will chocolate bars or truffles that sometimes can be found in The Jar. However much I like chocolate, it is not my weapon of choice against worries.

poilane corn shortbreads

If The Jar should unusually be empty (or full of meringues) there is always something stashed at the very back of my sweets, treats, odds and sods cupboard.

It could be very dry sponge fingers that I got for tiramisu, or a packet of Fox’s Crunch leftover from some building works (it’s awfully snobbish of me but I don’t bake biscuits for builders and tradesmen but buy them. And pretend to myself I need to test the competition when I scoff the rest of the packet after the work is done).

So there is always something dry, crunchy and biscuity to be found, with the worst-case scenario of oatcakes, if all else fails.

I don’t drink tea so the cuppa element is redundant or replaced with coffee. But nervously nibbling on one biccie after another does miraculously help resolve whatever my issue is. Even if it doesn’t help my weight management.

poilane sables

Poilane bakery cookies

And the plainer, the simpler, the better my saviour biscuits. Like these, the trademark Poilâne bakery mini-sun round and golden ones with an almighty beautiful crunch.

The recipe is authentic although sourced via NY Times Cooking, by Apollonia Poilâne, the current owner of the famous Parisian bakery. Plain and simple I say that again, as becomes a boulangerie rather than patisserie biscuits.

The biscuits are sablés, the French version of shortbread. Made with very fine corn flour and plain flour, they have wonderful short and crunchy texture, and look jolly and yellow, ‘like minisuns’ according to Mme Poilâne.

poilane biscuits with corn flour

Corn flour or corn starch for the Poilâne cookies?

The only problem is sourcing appropriate flour for the cookies. It is NOT cornflour, aka cornstarch, the very fine white powder used widely for thickening and in Asian cuisine.

Nor is it cornmeal (polenta) as the flour needs to be finer than even fine cornmeal. But that is the right track so I have simply put a quantity of fine cornmeal through a coffee grinder to achieve the finer-than-fine corn flour.

The coffee grinder is a very useful appliance, incidentally, even if hardly used these days in most houses. I keep mine for precisely this purpose: grinding grains, spices, sugar, poppy seeds and occasionally coffee. The mix of flavours doesn’t matter: you can easily clean the grinder after or before each use milling a small amount of rice, breadcrumbs or oats in it, then brushing it out with kitchen tissue. You’re welcome.

sable biscuits from poilane bakery cookbook

Chilling shortcrust pastry

As I have believed for a long time now, the best results with shortcrust or sablé pastry are achieved when the pastry is made with very soft butter, briefly chilled in bulk and the cut oven-ready biscuits are chilled very well and baked from very cold. This is the case here, and the result is excellent.

The pastry is made by creaming sugar with eggs and then with the soft butter before flour is added. The first chilling serves purely the purpose of firming up the pastry so it can be nicely rolled out. Of course, you can apply the ‘fat sausage’ biscuit method where you shape a fat log with the pastry and then slice it into discs when firm.

The biscuits bake for about fifteen minutes and it’s important not to overbake, or they will be excessively brittle. Cooled, they go into my biscuits jar and I can safely embrace the next worry coming my way. I’ve got the biscuits to help me fight it!

Poilâne sablé biscuits

Servings: makes 30 biscuitsTime: 45 minutes


  • 250g (2 cups) fine cornmeal
  • 240g (2 cups) plain flour
  • a pinch of salt
  • 125g (½ cup plus 2 tbsp.) caster sugar
  • 1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 250g (2¼ sticks) unsalted butter, very soft
  • ½ tsp orange essence (optional)


1. Grind the cornmeal in a coffee grinder or a food processor attachment so it’s as powdery as plain flour. If you have coarse cornmeal, use it but blitz it in the grinder longer. Place it in a bowl and stir together with the plain flour and the salt.

milling corn

2. Beat the sugar with the egg and yolk in a standing mixer with a paddle attachment or with a handheld mixer until thick, pale and fluffy. Add the butter and beat again for 2-3 minutes until amalgamated. Beat in the orange essence, if using.

3. Add the flour mix and beat on low speed until combined. Scoop the dough and shape into a flattened ball. Wrap it in cling film and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Dust the work surface lightly with flour. Line 2 baking trays with parchment paper.

4. Roll out the dough to the thickness of about ½ cm. Cut out round biscuits with 4 – 8 cm cutters. Place them on the baking trays spaced only a little apart and chill the trays in the fridge again for 30 minutes.

cutting sables

5. Preheat the oven to 180C no fan if available/350F/gas 4.

6. Bake the biscuits straight from the fridge, for 15-17 minutes until set but not coloured.

baking sables

7. Transfer them onto wire racks to cool completely. Store for about a week in an airtight jar or tin.

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Hello! I'm Anna Gaze, the Cuisine Fiend. Welcome to my recipe collection.

I have lots of recipes for you to choose from: healthy or indulgent, easy or more challenging, quick or involved - but always tasty.


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