I do believe we've had this discussion before: the French, AND the Brits, are quite misinformed about the word 'biscuit', which of course is THE classic bread of the South (see photo left). When I'm with any of these folks and we start talking biscuits, we get all tangled up. Un biscuit in French is a cracker (savory) OR a cookie. How can it possibly be both? But the Brits agree. And then there are scones, not quite biscuits, but neither the Brits nor the French would ever think of calling a scone a biscuit.
Nevermind. My British friend Linda served us some savory pistachio and parmesan concoctions the other day which were so delicious I don't care what she called them.
Les biscuits of the type Linda made, which she calls sables, are quite familiar to Southerners. We call them cheese straws (due to their long skinny shape, though you can make them round too and we still tend to call them cheese straws). We typically make them with sharp cheddar and pecans, but her combo was equally delicious.
The French use the word "sable" too, but with an accent mark. Sablé, by the way, means sandy in French. To confuse us all further, sablés in French are sweet. French sablés, pictured at right, resemble our sugar cookies, but they are heavier and denser, and much less sweet.
Whatever you call them, do try Linda's recipe, for any special occasion. They are perfect with a crisp Chardonnay.
RECIPE: Linda's Pistachio Sables
Linda got this recipe from Delia Smith’s Classic Christmas, who also provided the photo.
1/4 cup (25g) shelled, unsalted pistachio nuts
1/3 cup (40g) strong white flower, sifted (i.e. bread flour, but I used regular)
3 tablespoons (40g ) unsalted butter, diced
1/2 cup (40g) freshly grated parmesan
a pinch of cayenne pepper
Lightly grease a large baking sheet.
Start by chopping the pistachio nuts in a mini chopper, quite small.
Then mix them with all the remaining ingredients in a medium sized bowl.
Rub the ingredients together until the mixture starts to form fairly large clumps,
then press the mixture against the side of the bowl to bring it together.
Now transfer the dough to a board and knead lightly, then roll into a sausage shape about 7" (18 cm) long and wrap and chill in the freezer for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350F/180C/gas 4.
Slice the chilled log into discs about 1/4" (0.5cm) wide and spread them out on the baking sheet.
Put them in the oven on the centre shelf and bake for 13-15 minutes, until they start to go golden around the edges.
When they are cooked, transfer them to a wire rack and cool, and store in an airtight tin.