the third day of Christmas

For starters, I am nearly done with finals. One more for the day & I am on vacation like I’ve never been before. Seriously. It has never felt like this big of a relief. And some final grades are already posted. Managed to pull through my calculus final unscarred.

On the third day of Christmas, Francofile is celebrating the simplest, most traditional French cookie I know, the first cookie I made for our first Christmas as the Betz family. Last year, instead of whipping the butter the creaming the butter & sugar, I smashed it all together with a fork in the largest “mixing bowl” (our soup pot) that we had in the tiny corner-kitchen of our studio apartment. This year, instead of “rolling” cookies, I smashed them with an empty bottle of wine (which means first I had to finish the bottle, so it’s not all bad).

Punitions, or “punishments,” are a sable cookie–a crumbly texture that lets the cookie melt on your tongue a bit like shortbread. Their name reflects their standing as a traditional after-school snack, when grandmothers would jokingly tell their grandchildren to come inside & get their punishments…

Butter cookies (well, butter in general) were one of the things I appreciated most about French baking. They’re simple with a straight-forward taste, humble with only natural ingredients. No preservatives. No additives. No extras.

I will caution you. I have a habit of baking with raw sugar (using it as brown & white together, but cutting back a bit on the total quantity since it is heavy & packs a sugary punch). Don’t do that here. Get some granulated sugar. In fact, get the finest granules you can find to save the texture of these cookies. The first batch (my snowman shapes) came out of the over splotchy due to the large granules still speckling the dough.


  • 1o tablespoons of real, honest-to-goodness butter
  • 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 egg at room temperature
  • 2 cups flour
  • parchment paper for your baking sheets

No, really. That’s it. I promise.


  1. Read the label. Make sure you’re using butter. It matters. If you beat margarine, you’re not creaming it. You’re just beating margarine. Beating butter changes the way your butter will hold the sugar. It changes the final texture of the cookie.
  2. Bring your butter to room temperature, but don’t let it get too soft. I chunk the butter up & wait 40 minutes. Beat the sugar on medium until it becomes a lighter color & fluffier texture. Again: don’t let the butter get too hot. There should be no gooey butter, or your texture will be off.
  3. Add the sugar in one go. Beat on medium, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl until all sugar is well incorporated into the butter.
  4. Add the egg & beat until satiny. I realize this sounds weird, but you’ll know. It will be shiny & sleek.
  5. Add all the flour in one go. Stir & fold a bit, so you don’t disappear in a cloud of flour (though it would make you look like you put a lot more effort into your baking). Mix & scrape down the sides of the bowl until all the flour is incorporated. Remember: it’s a sable. Texture should feel sandy & look like a crumbly streusel.
  6. Divide the dough in two; squeeze the halves a bit so they form a more solid shape. Chill for 30 minutes.
  7. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  8. Flour a surface, but after that use flour sparingly. (If the dough stays chilled, you shouldn’t need much anyway.) Get out half of your dough, roll out & cut into whatever shape you like. Traditionally, the cookies are round or have scalloped edges. I’m using my Christmas shapes, thanks to my sister giving me an early Christmas present 🙂
  9. Place on lined cookie sheet & bake seven minutes. Make sure the cookies are still soft, as they bake a good bit while cooling. You want lightly golden edges & a bit of flex in the cookie when you take them off of the cookie sheet.
  10. Repeat with your second half of dough.
  11. Make hot cocoa. Allow cookies to cool. Dip cookies in cocoa & listen to some Perry Como Christmas.

This recipe gives you about 3 dozen cookies, which would make 15 delicious cookie sandwiches. Try seasonal frostings (mint or dark ganache with cinnamon), a nice jam or, if you’re like me, that fudge you ruined the other day.

P.S. I apologize for the grainy pictures lately. I’ll be charging my camera tonight.


About meganbetz

human geography PhD Student at Indiana University; wife, reader, writer, baker, gardener
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One Response to the third day of Christmas

  1. Pingback: 12 days of Christmas are coming! | francofile

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