Friday, March 18, 2011

French Fridays with Dorie: Salted Butter Break-Ups, or Broyé de Poitou

If you need some fun in your life, this week's French Fridays with Dorie recipe, a salty, buttery cookie, promises just that. Called broyé in French, meaning "crushed," the Broyé de Poitou is a tradition in the Poitou region, a part of western France where butter is prized.

Dorie suggests bringing your freshly baked broyé to the table whole, and letting everyone break off pieces big and small. I read elsewhere that a broyé is broken with a swift punch. The swift punch method sounds more fun to me. Seriously, I needed to make this gigantic cookie, with an entire cube of butter incorporated therein, like I needed a swift punch in the head.

With my interest piqued, as it usually is by the introductory paragraph before each of Dorie's recipes, I started Googling.

Poitou-Charentes, known as one of the most tranquil regions in France, is comprised of four departments along the western coast - Vienne, Deux-Sévres, Charente-Maritime and Charente. Islands off the coast include Ile d'Oléron, known for oyster catching as its main industry, and Ile-de-Ré, popular for its many salt marshes, as well as a reputation for receiving the most hours of sunshine in all of France, not counting areas along the Mediterranean. Apart from tourism, the economy relies heavily on the farming of corn, melons, sunflower, wheat and other important crops. Also notable are the many vineyards, cattle farms and dairy industry.

Photo from About French Property

Butter produced in the town of Echiré, Beurre d'Echiré, located in the Deux-Sèvres department, is served at the best tables throughout the world (Read Dorie Greenspan's New York Times article, Butter with a Pedigree. Ah, the French).

Photo from About French Property

And while we're at it, the world's best-known brandy also comes from the Poitou-Charentes region, in the peaceful countryside surrounding the Charente River. A twenty-mile area called the "golden circle" of cognac production encompasses Cognac and the second distilling town of Jarnac.

Cognac, France

I think we need to reevaluate "fun." Fun is not breaking one of these cookies with a swift punch. Fun is hopping a plane to the Poitou-Charentes region of France, for a tranquil vacation of lounging in the sun, slurping oysters, sipping Cognac, and eating buttery, butter with a pedigree, croissants. Not necessarily in that order or during the same lounging session.

Getting back to our Salted Butter Break Up, the dough is easily prepared in the food processor with flour, sugar, French or premium American butter (82-84% milk fat), sel gris salt, and a few tablespoons of ice water. It's then wrapped in plastic, refrigerated for an hour, rolled out to a rustically shaped rectangle about 1/4-inch thick, brushed with egg yolk, and adorned with a crosshatch pattern with the back of a fork. It bakes for 30-35 minutes, until golden, emerging crisp on the outside and still tender within.

Although Dorie neglects to specify the use of butter with a pedigree, she does recommend sel gris. Sel gris or grey salt is a cooking salt from the coast of Brittany in France where it is still made using a time-honored way that was carried through the centuries. In February of each year, artisan salt farmers sculpt eight-chambered clay beds and flood the first chamber with water from nature preserves. During the next three months, the salt moves from chamber to chamber. In July after it has reached the eighth chamber and crystallized in its purest form, the farmers rake the salt to the edge of each bed. The salt picks up its gray color and distinctive flavor from the healthy blue-green-hued minerals in the bed's clay bottom.

In addition to the butteriness, "the cookie is undeniably salty, and now and again, you can even feel the salt on your tongue." It's true, the cookie is crisp on the outside, slightly tender within, deliciously buttery, and noticeably salty, in an addicting way. Okay, it's also fun.

Newf Notes:  In Dorie's NY Times' article, if you can't find French butter, she recommends using some American producers like Keller's, which makes Plugra (also sold as European Style Butter), which has 82 percent butterfat butter, and Land O'Lakes' Ultra Creamy Butter, with 83 percent butterfat. Egg Farm Dairy in Peekskill, N.Y., and the Vermont Butter and Cheese Company in Websterville, Vt., make butter with 86 percent butterfat using methods that mirror Echire's.

Regarding the recipe, I recommend using 1 generous teaspoon of sel gris. Also, watch your baking time as the recipe calls for 30-35 minutes. Mine was done in just under 30 minutes.

French Fridays with Dorie is an online cooking group dedicated to Dorie Greenspan‘s newest book, Around My French Table. As members of the group, we have purchased the cookbook and cook along as much as we can. There is a new recipe each week, and we post about that recipe on Friday. We are asked to refrain from posting the actual recipes on our blog. Dorie always tells a personal story behind each recipe, which makes it that much more intriguing.


Sis. Boom. said...

Thank you for the extra research!!! for some reason I think I will like it even more now. I found that the more I let the dough chill (3 days!) the better it was. Mmm...

Steph said...

Great post! Took me right back to my summer in France last year. Love the info on how sel gris is processed also. Your cookie photos are superb. Really nice work!!

Ms. Hobby said...

What a great background story! I didn't have sel gris, but it is really interesting to know what makes it unique.

Cher said...

Yes - I would much rather have the fun of hopping a plane to France, but for now the cookie will have to do! Cute post.

Jessica of My Baking Heart said...

Beautiful post! And gorgeous photos, too... as always! :)

Anonymous said...

What great information! Loved the post, and your cookies look fantastic!

Tia said...

the pic of the sliced butter.... mmmm .... your hash marks are so nice n deep!

Anonymous said...

Good reading on the region where this cookie comes from. Thanks for the info!

lola said...

Really nice pictures!

Betsy said...

I used the sel gris, but wish I'd thought to splurge on premium butter.
I loved your informative post! Time to go to France!

Lana said...

I have to agree with your new definition of fun:) I'll let the Beasties punch the cookie next time I make it, while I sip cognac, pretending I am in France:)
We enjoyed the Break Ups, especially the edges (OK, edges were all mine:)
Thanks for sharing all the info:)

kitchenarian said...

This was such a wonderful recipe; I loved it. Great pictures.

Adriana said...

I've learned so much with your post! I went to France for the first time this year in September, and there's still so much more for me to see. Thanks for taking me there for a little while with all your research.

tricia s. said...

This was an amazing post. Informative, hilarious, great recipe photos and wonderful background details. I actually feel that I need to "thank you" for all the extras :) I know Nana has been to Cognac and will make sure she sees your post as well. On my end, I was lucky enough to post last week and then hit a 3 day weekend in Vt with hubby. I know the butter you recommended and love that state for all it's wonderful food sources. Now, to book a plane ticket to France.....

Nana said...

As Tricia has stated in her comment, Hubby and I did indeed spend time in the Poitou
Charentes region. We stayed in Angouleme and
spent a few wonderful days visiting Cognac and Jarnac.
Very peaceful area. Your info brought back nice