punishment-sandwiches Recipes

punition sandwiches

My husband got down on one knee and asked me to marry him under the Eiffel Tower in December 2004. Or, rather, he proposed and I might have been too excited with plans for us to actually say yes, but he got the idea and we called our families with the good news. Engagement and the ensuing swoon is a great way to fall in love with Paris, and oh, that we did. In the year that followed, we spoke with near-obsession about French food, culture, wine, mood and approach to diet. For two Jewish kids from New Jersey suburbs, we are capable of a surprising amount of Francophilism.

punition cookies

Hitched and happily-evered, we finally had a chance to return to Paris in March of this year, for an all-the-vacation-we-could-squeeze-in four-day weekend. This time we came not armed with bling and life-altering inquiries, but a detailed list of unequivocal recommendations (“When you go to Berthillon, and you must go to the original on Ile Saint-Louis, you must order the marron glace ice cream because they only make it a few months a year and it is the best.”), some from friends and others culled from French food blogs. High on the list was the Poilane Bakery, an in particular, their sable cookies [Punitions®], an understandable addiction of Clotilde.

punition cookies

These sables are a simultaneously crisp but sandy, buttery, mildly sweet, golden-edged cookie and about as far as you can get from the “punishment” they translate to. Apparently, grandmothers used to give them to their grandchildren for their gouter (after-school snack), luring them in by teasing, “come and get your punishment!” They taste fantastic; four ingredients you’ve been combining in endless recipes, but obviously all wrong because they’ve never tasted this good together. Can a butter cookie alone make a trip worthwhile? Do I even have to tell you what I think?

ganache filled punition sandwiches

I tracked down a book with the “original” recipe a few months ago, but didn’t find the perfect excuse to bake them until a housewarming party a few weeks ago. I shouldn’t have waited so long: they were ridiculously easy to make and roll out; aside from some time chilling in the refrigerator, some of the easiest cookies I’ve made. Inspired by Jenjen’s killer photography, I filled them with some bittersweet ganache. They don’t need it, but as an American I feel it is my duty to never know when to leave a recipe well enough alone. I can assure you, nobody complained.

underneath the eiffel tower

Punishments (Punitions®)
Adapted from Boulangerie Poilâne, via Paris Sweets by Dorie Greenspan

1 1/4 sticks (5 oz; 140 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature [I used salted, just my preference, and fodder for a whole other post.]
Slightly rounded 1/2 cup (125 g) sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
2 cups (280 g) all-purpose flour

1. Put the butter in the work bowl of a food processor* fitted with the metal blade and process, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until the butter is smooth. Add the sugar and process and scrape until thoroughly blended into the butter. Add the egg and continue to process, scraping the bowl as needed, until the mixture is smooth and satiny. Add the flour all at once, then pulse 10 to 15 times, until the dough forms clumps and curds and looks like streusel.

2. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and gather it into a ball. Divide the ball in half, shape each half into a disk, and wrap the disks in plastic. If you have the time, chill the disks until they are firm, about 4 hours. If you’re in a hurry, you can roll the dough out immediately; it will be a little stickier, but fine. (The dough can be wrapped airtight and refrigerated for up to 4 days or frozen for up to 1 month.)

3. Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

4. Working with one disk at a time, roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface until it is between 1/8 and 1/4 inch (4 and 7 mm) thick. Using a 1 1/2-inch (4-cm) round cookie cutter, cut out as many cookies as you can and place them on the lined sheets, leaving about 1 inch (2.5 cm) space between them. (You can gather the scraps into a disk and chill them, then roll, cut, and bake them later.)

5. Bake the cookies for 8 to 10 minutes, or until they are set but pale. (If some of the cookies are thinner than the others, the thin ones may brown around the edges. M. Poilâne would approve. He’d tell you the spots of color here and there show they are made by hand.) Transfer the cookies to cooling racks to cool to room temperature.

Do ahead: The cookies can be kept in a tin at room temperature for about 5 days or wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 1 month.

* Though they were originally made by hand, Greenspan encourages the food processor, because it works so quickly, you can get that “quintessential sandy texture that is the hallmark of these plain cookies.” And yes, I just love the way she says that.

See more: Cookie, Photo

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68 comments on punition sandwiches

  1. Those are some beautiful photos! When I lived in Paris, I’d go to Poilane to buy bread and sneak a few nibbles from the basket of punitions set out by the cash register… delicious in so many ways.

  2. wow you have certainly outdone yourself with these cookies. They look marvellous. I will be trying this recipe out, as I have a thing for butter cookies. I have to give every recipe I come across a go. This no doubt will be great.

    BTW your photos of Paris are just spectacular, especially the ones of the Eiffel Tower lit up.

  3. Jennifer S

    These cookies look marvelous!! This is the next cookie recipe that I have to bake. I have eaten chocolate sables and want to know how to make the recipe. I love your photos of Paris.

  4. Liz

    I made this recipe the other day and loved it! So much simpler than a previous Cooks Illustrated recipe I had used (it called for pushing boiled eggs through a sieve, ’nuff said)

  5. Liz

    They had a good flavor and texture, but in my opinion, no, you’re just as well off with a simple recipe like this one.

  6. Ruby

    Good morning Deb,
    I was curious if there was a reason you don’t give the yield of each of your recipes? I usually like to know in advance if I will need to double the recipe or half it. With thanks.

  7. ‘Keet

    I don’t suppose these could be made substituting some cocoa powder for flour? I recently had some seriously delicious chocolate sables and would love to figure out how to make them myself; the texture of these cookies seems perfect.

  8. Caroline

    thank you for this recipe! so simple, and so delicious. so tempting to just eat them a few minutes after they came out of the oven, but pretty adorable as little orange marmalade sandwiches. ;)

  9. Kelly

    These look great. I need some new cookie sheets and wondering if you have recommendations? Do you have non-stick cookie sheets or just regular ones? I don’t know if you recommend specific products, but just asking for some suggestions. My cookies never seem to come out right and wondering if different pans may help a bit. Thanks, Kelly

  10. kok1922@yahoo.com

    oh, thanks for responding! You know, I did a “surprise me” and then forgot and thought this was just from a few days ago. So, I kept on reading it thinking you had taken your little one to Paris…ah, so now I see…but taking your little one to Paris does sound nice, too, no?

    Thanks again. Off to buy some cookie sheets and reserve them in my house for just cookies or baking and parchment paper.


  11. Shannon

    I love the simplicity of these, but I’ve been craving an orange-butter cookie, half dipped in chocolate. So, I wonder if the dough would hold up as well for rolling/cutting if a little orange zest were added. Hmmmmm.

  12. What a beautiful site. I landed here after watching a segment on Sunday Morning this morning. I made them like the French chef did – using one hand. I also used regular baking sheets, which worked fine. The cookies are, indeed, quite good. Not too sweet, but sweet enough to leave a smile on your face. Thanks for posting the recipe.

  13. Dear Deb,
    A friend of mine forwarded me the link to your website, to the Punishment Sandwiches.
    I was most impressed by your article, the pictures and the length you went to to recreate your Parisian experience.
    However, I wanted to point out that Punitions® is a registered trademark. Do you think you could add the ® where you use the term?
    Most sincerely,
    Apollonia Poilâne

  14. Chloe

    These were my “delicious disaster;” everything I did with them turned out terribly, but they tasted great. First of all, my processor didn’t churn up the batter the way I wanted and it ended up being totally smooth and liquidy instead of streusel-y; secondly, I was rushing them a bit but still wanted to chill them, so I threw the dough in the freezer for two hours, resulting in dough so hard I couldn’t roll it, and thus had to turn them into oddly-shaped slice-and-bake cookies; and finally, the second ball of dough that I left out on the counter for it to warm up a bit ended up being impossible to roll out without it tearing, so I just rolled the scraps into balls and flattened them out on my cookie sheet. They were still delicious, and I’d definitely make them again, only I’d try chilling the dough in the fridge instead of the freezer.

  15. Sandra B

    I imagine these would be the perfect tiny canvas to make decorated Christmas cookies not many months from now. Also, Shannon asked and I will too, how do you think these would hold up to the addition of some orange zest? I think I’ll have to try it and see. I’ve got orange zest on the brain lately.
    Love getting to hear a little of your back story, or rather, Jacob’s back story. :) I’m sure he will delight in hearing all about mom & dad’s first Paris vacation as he chomps into his French butter cookies!
    Best to you always from Orlando——*

  16. Maya Ghoudsifar

    This recipe also works perfectly in a kitchen aid stand mixer with metal paddle blade. To save some time I divided the dough into half and shaped each half into a roll using plastic gloves and glad wrap to shape the roll . Then, wrapped the roll inside same sheet of glad wrap. Chilled dough for one hour and was able to cut roll into circles using small serrated knife sprayed with pam for baking spray.
    each roll made 23-24 cookies.
    Thank you for the recipe

  17. Erin

    Thank you for your wonderful site. I realize this post is over 4 years old, but I have been all over your site and haven’t seen a post on why you prefer to use salted butter rather than unsalted, which you mention here. I’m not sure if that is just in this recipe or in general, but I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic!

    I have been learning how to cook slowly but surely (for the past, oh, 10 years or so – lots to learn!) from Martha magazines and now the web, and your posts have really been invaluable. Love your tips. Your post on kosher salt changed my life.

    Thanks so much – Erin

    1. deb

      Hi Erin — You’re so right. These days, I’m back to unsalted butter but it’s mostly for recipe-writing and recipe-testing purposes. Salted butter keeps a little longer but each brand has a slightly different salt level, so if you’re, say, writing a cake recipe for others to use it’s hard to say how much they’ll need unless you start with the blank canvas of unsalted butter. But for my own baking, I’ll use salted butter any old time.

  18. Joana

    So I’ve been trying out the AP gluten-free mix from glutenfreegirl on some of your recipes, and I am sorry to report that it didn’t deliver on this cookie. The “quintessential sandy texture” was sadly missing. However, it was still very yummy in a different way, and we had good fun cutting them out.

  19. Julie

    Hi Deb,
    Thank you for all you do. I just put together the dough for this. I rolled the divided dough into balls and placed them on plastic wrap for refrigeration, when it occurred to me: I can hand press these out on and between the wrap. So I pressed them into a disk about 1/3-1/2 inch thick. Then I put the wrap over the top and smoothed, smoothed, smoothed from center outward until they were pressed to about 1/4″ thick. I put the flat dough on a plate then into the fridge. I plan to use a cookie cutter when I get them out and skip the rolling process. This should keep them nice and cold when they go into the oven. Do you see any problems with this?

    1. deb

      Hi Julie — No reason not to. Generally, the dough is easier to flatten after it has rested a little, and of course is cold, but any way you get there should work. Just make sure it chills before you cut the circles or it will drive you batty.


    Love what I have seen and read. New to this site. My daughter told me about. She know’es how I love reading cooking books. i find the story beautiful.

  21. Patryce

    We made heart shaped cookies to share at school, with a little powdered sugar icing for decorating. They are delicious, easy and lovely! We had extra-large eggs so I added an extra T of butter and a couple extra T of flour, used about 2/3 cup of sugar. We didn’t fill them but we have part of the dough still in the fridge, we’ll make some ganache this weekend and bake more to fill.

  22. LCH

    Made these by hand last night. Because I was in a rush, I didn’t roll out the dough, but instead shaped it into logs and cut slices with a chilled knife. Not quite as pretty as the scalloped edges on yours, but still delicious!

    I’ve been eating the ganache-filled ones all afternoon, but there are quite a few left that I didn’t have filling for. I’m thinking of trying them with jam or nutella (or…maybe more ganache…)

  23. varya

    vbr, sugar is heavier per cup than flour is. (It’s helpful to have the weight measurement, since some ingredients are harder to measure accurately by volume–you know how flour can be more fluffed up or more packed down, so that there might be less flour, or more, in one level cupful than in another.)

  24. thanks for the recipe!i live in pari. i made them for my husband’s family(who are french) and they had difficulties to believe that i didn’t buy them from Poilane :)

  25. Ana Luisa

    Planning on baking these tomorrow. I’m just a bit apprehensive because my kitchen is ridiculously hot (I live in a tropical country) and working with cookies has been more than I could ask for. The dough gets soft 5 minutes after I take it out of the fridge. I hope these hold the shape in time for the oven. Will keep you posted. Congratulations on your LOVELY site and thank you so much for sharing those treasures with us :)

  26. Ally

    Hi Deb!
    Would the cookies still bake ok if I punch out a star-shaped ‘window’ in half of them to let the chocolate show through? Trying to Christmassy this up.
    Thanks so much! Looking forward to trying this recipe 8)

  27. Sara

    Hi Deb, after the raving success of your pecan sandies, I thought I’d try these as well. I was wondering: why not add vanilla? I love vanilla. What kind of flavor do the cookies have plain? And what chocolate/cream proportions do you use for your ganache?

    1. deb

      Sara — There’s no reason not to use vanilla if you like the flavor here, but it wasn’t in the original recipe, and that’s what I wanted to recreate. Vanilla extract is used in French baking, but not nearly as much as it is here (where it’s the blanket flavor in almost every baked good). Regardless, I’m sure it would be delicious here.

  28. Sasha

    Hello. Are these cookies sturdy enough to ship? Or do they crumble too easily? I am looking for jam sandwich cookies for Valentines Day care packages and these sound great. Thank you

  29. Jen

    Deb, instead of using a sugar cookie recipe, can I use this recipe and decorate with royal icing or modeling chocolate? Would it work?

    1. deb

      Jen — I don’t see why not. Sables like this are a little more toasted and snappier than decorator sugar cookies, but maybe this is a good thing?

  30. Reenie

    These are perfect as is, absolutely delicious. They are a wonderful reminder of the day we got “lost” in Paris and wandered across a bridge to Isle St. Louise. But…I can’t help to wonder if you have a suggestion to turn these into a chocolate version? They are very similar in texture and delicate sweetness to an AMAZING cookie I had at a gelato place in Philadelphia last week. Theirs was a thin double chocolate shortbread with sea salt on top.

  31. Fiona

    Thanks for sharing this wonderful recipe. They taste heavenly good, buttery and not too sweet. I would use this recipe over and over again!