Butter Cookies 鳩サブレー

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  • One of the simplest Japanese cookie recipes, and also one of the most recognizable, are these traditional dove shaped butter cookies called Hato Sabure.

    Butter Cookies, Hato Sable in a wooden bowl.

    Since moving from Yokohama to the Bay Area when I was 20 years old, I always get a craving for the snacks I grew up with in Japan.  Whenever my mom comes to visit me, I ask her to bring Butter Cookies called Hato Sabure (鳩サブレー) from one famous traditional confectionery store in Japan called Toshimaya.  More on that later.

    The other day I was especially craving Hato Sabure, so I decided to make my own version of this traditional Japanese cookie.  It’s a straightforward butter cookie recipe that consists of only five ingredients: flour, sugar, butter, egg, and baking powder.  I was inspired by this Japanese blog where the blogger dedicates his time to making the perfect Hato Sabure!  After reading his blog and comparing with sable cookie recipes online, I came up with this simplified recipe that works very well.  I made the dove pattern with parchment paper (you can download and print out here).  I was extremely happy that they tasted (and looked) just like the Hato Sabure I grew eating.

    Hato Sable in a package.

    History of Hato Sabure

    Hato Sabure (鳩サブレー) is a brand of butter cookies sold at Toshimaya in Kamakura (鎌倉) near Yokohama.  These type of sablé cookies go all the way back to 1887 (during the Meiji Era).  Around that time, Japan started to open itself up to the world, allowing many foreign goods to come into the country.  A foreign visitor to this shop  gave the founder of the store a biscuit.  That was the first time the founder tasted a western cookie, and he was immediately intrigued to make them.  However, butter wasn’t a common ingredient in Japanese food at that time.  He had to look for butter in neighborhoods where Westerners lived, so he could start testing and creating his version.

    Butter Cookies, Hato Sable in a wooden bowl.

    Why are Hato Sabure shaped as doves?

    You may wonder why these famous Japanese butter cookies are dove shape.  The name itself means dove butter cookies. Hato is dove/pigeon in Japanese, and sabure is the Japanese spelling of sable. This famous confectionery store is very close to Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu shrine (鶴岡八幡宮), where the founder often went to pray.  He was inspired to make dove shape cookies because children at the shrine adored doves.  In addition, the shrine’s name contains Japanese character number “eight ” which resembles the shape of two birds facing each other (to learn more about the story of Hato Sabure, continue reading in Japanese here). This is a fun Japanese cookie recipe to try, especially with your kids.  It’s easy because I’m sure you are familiar with baking butter cookies already, and your kids can help with shaping them as doves.  What better way for kids to learn a little about another culture and its history while munching on a delicious butter cookie!

    Butter Cookies and a cup of green tea on a wooden tray.

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    4.34 from 18 votes
    Butter Cookies (Hato Sable) | JustOneCookbook.com
    Butter Cookies
    Prep Time
    30 mins
    Cook Time
    15 mins
    Total Time
    1 hr 15 mins
    One of the simplest Japanese cookie recipes, and also one of the most recognizable, are these traditional dove shaped butter cookies called Hato Sabure.
    Course: Dessert
    Cuisine: Japanese
    Keyword: cookie, sable cookie
    Servings: 30 small cookies (30 cookies = Hato Sables + 6 small cookies)
    Author: Nami
    • cup all purpose flour (1½ cup = 200 g)
    • ½ cup sugar (½ cup = 110 g)
    • 6 Tbsp unsalted butter (6 Tbsp = 85 g or ¾ stick) (at room temperature)
    • 1 large egg (at room temperature)
    • 1 tsp baking powder
    1. Gather all the ingredients.

      If you want to make the dove shape cookies, save the image (see Notes) to your computer and print out. Then trace the pattern on parchment paper.

      Butter Cookies Ingredients
    2. Sift the flour.
      Butter Cookies 1
    3. Fit an electric mixer with the whisk attachment and combine sugar and butter in the bowl. Whisk on high speed until fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes.
      Butter Cookies 2
    4. Add the beaten egg and mix to combine.
      Butter Cookies 3
    5. Change the whisk to the beater attachment. Add the flour and baking powder and mix on low speed until flour is incorporated.
      Butter Cookies 4
    6. Roll the dough into a ball and wrap it in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
      Butter Cookies 5
    7. Preheat the oven to 350F (177C). Roll out the dough on lightly floured surface, to 1/4 inch thickness. I put the long cooking chopsticks (it’s about 1/4 inch thickness) on both side of the dough and roll the dough to keep the same thickness.
      Butter Cookies 6
    8. Cut out the dough around the dove shape, or cut with 2-inch cookie cutters.
      Butter Cookies 7
    9. Place the cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, about 1 inch apart.
      Butter Cookies 8
    10. Bake until golden brown, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely on wire rack. Store the cookies in an airtight container. Enjoy!
      Butter Cookies 9
    Recipe Notes

    Equipment you will need:  

    • Dove shape pattern, click here.



    Recipe by Namiko Chen of Just One Cookbook. All images and content on this site are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without my permission. If you’d like to share this recipe on your site, please re-write the recipe in your own words and link to this post as the original source. Thank you.

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