I came to the United States to study when I was twenty years old. Until then I grew up in Yokohama (横浜; about 20 miles/30km from Tokyo). Since moving to the US, I miss a lot of things in Japan especially my family.
I also miss the various snacks and Japanese produce that I cannot get in the Bay Area. Whenever my mom comes to visit me, I always ask her to bring Butter Cookies called Hato Sabure (鳩サブレー) from this traditional Japanese confectionery store.
Hato Sabure (鳩サブレー) is a brand of butter cookies sold at Toshimaya in Kamakura (鎌倉) near Yokohama. These cookies go all the way back to 1887 (during Meiji Era). Around that time, Japan started to open itself up to the world and many foreign goods started coming into Japan. A foreign visitor gave the founder of the store a biscuit, and that was when he first tasted western cookies and became interested in making them. However, butter wasn’t a common ingredient in Japanese food that time so he had to look for butter in neighborhoods where the westerners lived to start testing and creating his version.
You may wonder why these cookies are a dove shape. Hato Sabure’s hato means dove/pigeon in Japanese. This 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 adore doves and the shrine’s name contains Japanese character number “eight 八” which resembles the shape of two birds facing to each other (more story about Hato Sabure, continue reading in Japanese here).
The other day I was craving for these cookies so I decided to make my own version. I learned that there are only five ingredients in Hato Sabure: flour, sugar, butter, egg, and baking powder. I was especially inspired by this Japanese blog where the blogger dedicates his time to make perfect Hato Sabure! After reading his blog and comparing with sable cookie recipes online, I came up with this simplified recipe that works! I made the dove pattern with parchment paper (you can download and print out here). I was extremely happy that they taste just like Hato Sabure!! Hope you will give this recipe a try, especially if you like Hato Sabure.
- 1 1/2 cup (200g) all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup (110g) sugar
- 6 Tbsp. (85g, 3/4 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- Click here for dove shape pattern.
- If you want to make the dove shape cookies, save the image to your computer and print out. Then 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.
- 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 30 minutes.
- 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.
- Cut out the dough around the dove shape, or cut with 2-inch cookie cutters.
- Place the cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, about 1 inch apart.
- 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!
* Prep time doesn't include 30 minutes that dough needs to rest in refrigerator.