These French Butter Cookies, Petit Beurre, are simple, buttery, crisp, barely sweet but addictive, easily made and last indefinitely.
While these cookies are wonderful on their own they are also used in the no bake Bajadera cookie bar from Serbia or Croatia, both of whom claim it. I'll be posting those next week.
To get the requisite crispness these cookies are leavened with Ammonium Carbonate also known as baker’s ammonia. Baking powder can be substituted but the cookies won’t be as crisp. They also benefit from being baked ahead and stored in an air tight container where they will last for weeks.
Traditionally, these cookies have little extensions at each corner called "ears" and wavy edges. For the sake of expediency I omit the "ears" and use a pastry cutter when cutting the cookies. Plain edges are fine also.
All ingredients are listed left to right.
Back Row: all-purpose flour, milk. Middle Row: unsalted butter, granulated sugar. Front row: ammonium carbonate, vanilla, salt.
- Butter - Unsalted European butter with its higher fat content is best here since these depend upon butter for their flavor.
- Ammonium Carbonate - Also known as Baker's Ammonia is used for the crispest cookies and crackers. While baking powder can be used the cookies won't be as crisp.
See recipe card for quantities
Step 1. Flour, salt, and ammonium carbonate are placed in the bowl of a processor.
Step 2. Cold, cut up butter is placed over the flour in the bowl of the processor.
Step 3. The ingredients are processed until the butter is indistinguishable.
Step 4. The milk and vanilla are combined in a cup.
Step 5. The milk and vanilla are poured over the ingredients in the food processor.
Step 6. The dough will process in large clumps first. Scrape down and continue processing, rearranging if needed to form a ball. It may take a bit before it does.
Step 7. The dough processed into a ball (mostly). The dough should be quite cold and ready to roll. If not, chill until cold but not hard.
Step 8. The dough is out of the processor and placed on the work surface.
Step 9. The dough is brought together and flattened into a round. Although the dough can be rolled all at once it is easier if divided in two.
Step 10. The round is placed between two pieces of waxed paper to be rolled out. Look at this post of cut out cookies for technique photos and why I prefer waxed paper to parchment or anything else.
Step 11. Roll the dough between two pieces of waxed paper to about ⅛"thick. Place it on a tray and refrigerate or freeze before cutting.
Step 12. Cut into rectangles 1 ¼ x 2 ½ inches. Freeze again before transferring to baking pans. Bring dough scraps to room temperature and re-roll as necessary.
Step 13. Lift the frozen cookies off the waxed paper with an offset spatula. The cookies don't spread much so place them about 1" apart.
Step 14. Prick the cookies with a fork four or five times down the length of the cookie.
Step 15. Tray of baked cookies on a tray.
Pastry Wheel is used to make the traditional wavy edges as in the opening photo.
These cookies should be made ahead and stored in an airtight tin where they will last indefinitely.
Ammonium Carbonate or Baker's Ammonia is used as their leaving agent in Europe whenever a crisp cookie or cracker is desired. Be aware the smell is very strong - this is what is used to bring people who have fainted to so don't take a whiff. While some of the smell may permeate the kitchen while the cookies bake, no hint will be left in the cookies or the kitchen.
These are easiest rolled very, very thin between wax paper and frozen before easily cutting them with a pastry wheel or just a knife. The holes, made with a fork, are de rigueur.
If using salted butter, reduce the salt to ¼ teaspoon.
More Cookies I Think you Might Like:
French Butter Cookies - Petit Beurre
- 2 cups all-purpose flour (280 grams or 10 ounces)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ammonium carbonate or baking powder
- ½ cup unsalted butter cold (114 grams or 4 ounces)
- ½ cup sugar + 2 tablespoons (125 grams or 4 ⅓ ounces)
- ⅓ cup milk whole or 2% can be used
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Place the flour, salt and ammonium carbonate or baking powder in the processor bowl.
- Cut the butter into little cubes and add it to the processor. Process until the butter is indistinguishable.
- Add the sugar and process several seconds to mix.
- Combine the milk and vanilla; pour it over the ingredients in the processor and process. Scrape down, rearrange in the bowl and continue processing until a ball forms. It may take a bit before it does. It should be quite cold and easy to roll; if not refrigerate briefly to chill it.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F / 175°C. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Divide the dough in half (about 300 grams or 10 ½ ounces each). Place one piece between 2 pieces of wax paper and roll ⅛” thick. Place on a baking sheet and freeze for a few minutes so they firm up.
- Remove the top piece of paper and measure strips 1 ¼” wide. Cut with a pastry wheel or knife. If the dough becomes soft, return it to the freezer. Cut strips 2 ½” wide in the opposite direction. You will have cookies that are 1 ¼” x 2 ½”. Freeze until hard.
- Remove the cookies to baking sheets, placing them about 1” apart. Prick with a fork 4 or 5 times down the long side.
- Bake for 13 to 17 minutes until the edges are browned. Cool completely.
- Repeat with the second piece of dough, adding the scraps from the first.