There is a cookie that evokes nostalgia in the French both at home and abroad. It’s a buttery, crispy, delicious touchstone of French snack culture that encapsulates all that is wonderful about French food. Its name? The LU Véritable Petit Beurre.
I owe my knowledge of French snacks to a restaurant I frequent out here in Los Angeles called Loupiotte. It’s a bright and cozy Parisian-style bistro owned by an enthusiastic pair of French-born Angelenos, Sarah Bessade and Antoine Blandin, whose style and attitude I absolutely adore. They love wine and good food, and hate when customers demand syrup for their pain perdu (on this, we agree to disagree). In the dining room of Loupiotte is a big blue cupboard full of French snacks—chocolates, candies, savory crackers, and cookies. This cupboard has turned me on to the French snack world, a world which more Americans should explore.
One company featured prominently in this snack cupboard is called LU, and their roster of treats is absolutely wonderful. They make deliciously simple French rusks, tart raspberry ladyfingers, pillowy orange-filled moelleux, and crispy milk chocolate biscuits imprinted with a little French schoolboy. But the company’s most iconic snack is also their most simple, the Véritable Petit Beurre.
This treat is essentially a butter cookie. Petit beurre, after all, literally translates to “little butter.” Think of shortbread, croissants, and other high-fat pastries, and you’ll understand the Petit Beurre. The taste of this cookie is described by many Amazon reviewers as “just right” and “perfect,” and that’s because it knows the value in simple decadence. It’s not overloaded with sugar or chocolate. The taste is mostly fat—and you know how I feel about fat (I love it).
There’s something pleasantly simple and seemingly effortless about the Véritable Petit Beurre that reflects the classic French approach to cuisine. Chocolate mousse, onion soup, potatoes au gratin, a simple crepe—these are all straightforward, technique-driven, highly delicious meals. Onions and delicate veal broth, chocolate and whipped eggs, potatoes and cheese. We’re talking about using only a few ingredients, only a few flavors, to achieve greatness. The Véritable Petit Beurre is in the same vein as these French classics. It displays the French sensibility of less is more.
I love the story behind these cookies, too. They were apparently invented by Louis Lefévre-Utile back in 1886 in Nantes, France. And it’s rumored that Louis put “LU” on the front of each biscuit as a romantic gesture to his then wife, Mademoiselle Utile. There are also 52 teeth around the edges of each biscuit, and 24 indents, which are believed to signify 52 weeks in a year, and 24 hours in a day. Maybe this cookie was Louis’s way to express to his wife, “My love for you is constant. It does not stop.” Anyway, what did you get your wife for her birthday, again?
Each cookie is engraved with gothic-like lettering, too, making it look almost like a headstone, or some sort of memorial plaque. And in a way, it kind of is. “Here lies butter cookie,” it practically reads, “He lived a short, delicious life. Goodnight, sweet prince.”
There is something so quintessentially old school about these cookies, especially to us Americans. In the ol’ U.S. of A., we live in a double-chocolate, flavor-blasted, high fructose corn syrup culture. Whereas the French have a rather opposite approach to food: Simple is better. I can see evidence of this cultural contrast in Sarah’s face whenever a customer asks for ketchup with their eggs.
Buying these delicious butter cookies in bulk seems to be the way to go. I can’t imagine a better snack to enjoy with your coffee in the morning. A hot tip: The Véritable Petit Beurre is great on its own, but also serves as an ideal canvas for other snack spreads. Spread some Nutella on there for a little chocolate-y decadence. Add some strawberry preserves for a tart and sweet fruity snack. Me? I’m fittin’ to go full cookie butter on these bad boys and never look back.
LU’s véritable petit beurre is the perfect gateway to French snack culture, and LU’s general roster of confectionery snacks don’t disappoint. Although their products are different from what I’m used to, they are highly appealing to my American palate. LU, perhaps, is a more elegant and reserved Little Debbie. La Petite Debbie has a nice ring to it, oui?