Crisp, buttery, and melt-in-your-mouth, these Butter Cookies are made with just 5 ingredients and are great for any occasion! The dough can be rolled into a log shape and sliced, or cut out with cookie cutters. I recreated the popular dove-shaped butter cookies “Hato Sabure” from Kamakura, Japan.
Since moving from Yokohama to the Bay Area when I was 20 years old, I get a craving for the snacks I grew up with once in a while. Whenever my mom comes to visit me, I ask her to bring my favorite Butter Cookies called Hato Sabure (鳩サブレー) from the popular confectionery store Toshimaya.
What’s 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 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.
One day a foreigner visited this shop and gave the founder of the store a biscuit. That was the first time he 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 so he had to look for butter in neighborhoods where Westerners lived. Since then he tested and created this version – that’s Hato Sabure.
You may wonder why these famous Japanese butter cookies have a dove shape. The name “Hato Sabure” means dove sablé; Hato (鳩) is a dove in Japanese, and sabure (サブレー) is the Japanese spelling for sablé.
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. Also, the shrine’s name contains Japanese character number eight “八” which resembles the shape of two birds facing each other (more in Japanese here).
Making Copycat Hato Sabure
I was inspired by a Japanese blog (unfortunately, the website no longer exists) where the blogger dedicates his time to making the perfect Hato Sabure! After reading his blog and comparing it with sable cookie recipes online, I came up with this simplified recipe that works very well, which I will share today.
This butter cookie recipe is made with only 5 ingredients:
- All-purpose flour
- Unsalted butter
- Baking powder
You can add vanilla extract if you like, but the original recipe didn’t include it.
Downloadable Dove-Shaped Pattern
I also 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 love!
These Butter Cookies are:
- Super buttery, yet light
- Crisp on the edges
- Quick– only 30 minutes of chill time
- Can be rolled into a log shape and sliced, or cut out with cookie cutters
- Versatile – dip in melted chocolate or matcha chocolate and/or sprinkles
They are delicious, and it’s fun to make especially with your kids who can help cut out the dough with cookie cutters. Enjoy!
Butter Cookies (Homemade Hato Sabure)
- 1⅔ cup all-purpose flour (plain flour) (If you use a measuring cup, follow this method: fluff your flour with a spoon, sprinkle it into your measuring cup, and use a knife to level it off. Otherwise, 1 cup of flour ends up with more than 120 g.)
- ½ cup sugar
- 6-8 Tbsp unsalted butter (at room temperature; use more butter for extra buttery taste)
- 1 large egg (50 g each w/o shell) (at room temperature)
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp pure vanilla extract (optional; I did not add since original Hato Sabure does not include it)
- Gather all the ingredients. If you want to make the dove-shaped Hato Sabure cookies, print out the image (see Notes) and trace the pattern on parchment paper.
- Sift the flour.
- 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.
- Add the beaten egg and mix to combine. Add the vanilla extract if you're using.
- Change the whisk to the beater attachment. Add the flour and baking powder and mix on low speed until flour is incorporated.
- Roll the dough into a ball and wrap it in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour (or freezer for 15-20 minutes).
- Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). For a convection oven, reduce the cooking temperature by 25ºF (15ºC). Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface, to ¼ inch thickness. Tip: I put the long cooking chopsticks (it’s about ¼ inch thickness) on both sides of the dough and roll the dough to keep the same thickness.
- Cut out the dough around the dove shape, or cut the dough with a 2-inch round cookie cutter (or use a tall glass).
- Place the cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, about 1 inch (2.5 cm) apart.
- Bake until golden brown, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely on wire rack. Enjoy!
- These cookies stay fresh in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week. I usually reheat the cookies at 350ºF (180ºC) in the toaster oven (or oven) until toasty.