Punition, in French, translates to punishment. The stort behind these sables are just too cute (and bewildering). Apparently, French baker Pierre Poliane's grandmother used to play a game with her grandchildren: they'd be out playing and she'd call them back, apparently to punish them for something or other and instead, she'd hand them a tray (or plate — the specifics are hazy) of these sables. Hence, they became known as punitions. Lucky fella, that Poliane! When we were kids, each time we'd get called in for a punishment, we'd get one. And without any cookies.
Believe me, there are nothing punishing about these buttery cookies. They're simple, humble cookies but therein lies the beauty: crisp, light, only mildly sweet and wonderfully buttery.
They're also really easy to put together. The cookies don't need any adornment (though they are sometimes used to sandwich a chocolate or cream filling) but I decided to play a little and try my hand at decorating them with some royal icing.
Royal icing is quite simple to make: you can either use meringue powder or egg whites which you whisk together with icing sugar and water/lemon juice/vanilla. Then you colour the icing as you wish and pipe/spread the icing on the cookies as you wish.
I'd decided to make the icing on a whim. So I started whipping the egg whites (I didn't have meringue powder) before realising that I had barely any icing sugar left. (You need about 2 cups sugar per egg white to ice about a dozen cookies). Arrrgh. I had to make do but the result was a slightly thin icing which made piping it a nightmare. The damn thing kept running everywhere.
Also, I am not comfortable with eating or serving raw egg whites and so I popped the iced cookies in the oven (low heat: about 150C) for about 10 mins for the icing to cook and become a kind of meringue. It was good, I must say!
145g butter, unsalted
1/2 cup (heaped) castor sugar
2 cups flour
1/4 cup (scant) corn flour
Beat the butter with the paddle attachment of your mixer until smooth. Add the sugar and beat till incorporated. Don't beat it too much that it gets fluffy as you would when baking cakes. Add the egg and mix until the mixture becomes smooth and satiny. Add the flour and corn starch mix just until the dough comes together.
Divide the dough into two, shape into discs, wrap in clingfilm and chill for an hour or so.
Preheat the oven to 180C.
Roll dough out to about 5mm thickness and cut it with your cookie cutter. Place on a line baking sheet (about 2cm apart) and bake for 8 mins or until the middle of the cookie is set but the punitions are still beautifully pale. The edges may turn golden a little if your cookies are a little on the thin side.
Cool and serve.