Pierre Herme’s Chocolate Sables

Sables are French shortbread biscuits, and it’s distinguished by its sandy, gritty texture and rich mouthfeel as a result of its high butter content. What sets these Pierre Herme’s cookies apart from a traditional sable is that it’s double chocolate – cocoa powder in the batter, and good quality chocolate studded within the cookies.

I’m currently learning French right now, and naturally I’ve been gravitating to all things French, and by extension, all things European as well. After having had the original Sachertorte from the Sacher Hotel in Vienna, I realized something: Europeans, unlike Americans, like their pastries dry and crumbly! When you think of American pastries, you think of chewy chocolate chip cookies and moist red velvet cake and creamy cheesecake. European pastries tend to have more finesse, and are carefully constructed and quite delicate. Think of macarons and crepes. Such refined things!

This chocolate sable recipe actually helps to bridge the gap between refined European and homemade American desserts. The cookie itself has the gritty, sandy texture of a sable, but has melty hand-chopped chocolate chips within it. It’s also a slice-and-bake cookie, i.e. you roll up the dough into a log and slice as many cookies as you want, so you can have them fresh whenever it’s convenient.

This is a recipe where it’s crucial that you use good quality butter and chocolate, because their flavors are so pronounced. I use Trader Joe’s unsalted butter and Pound Plus Bittersweet Chocolate. Using chopped chocolate instead of chocolate chips is highly recommended. I personally never use commercial chocolate chips because they make a cookie look so… lacking in character. I love it when hand-chopped chocolate swirls and melts into a cookie. It just looks and tastes wonderful.

Pierre Herme’s Chocolate Sables
From NYTimes
Makes about 36 cookies

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 stick and 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel or 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
5 ounces best-quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chip-size bits.

1. Sift the flour, cocoa and baking soda together. Put the butter in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat at medium speed until the butter is soft and creamy. Add the sugars, salt and vanilla extract and beat for another 1 or 2 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and add the sifted dry ingredients. Mix only until the dry ingredients are incorporated (the dough may look crumbly). For the best texture, work the dough as little as possible. Toss in the chocolate; mix to incorporate.

2. Turn the dough out onto a smooth work surface, divide in half and, working with one half at a time, shape the dough into a log that is 1 1/2 inches in diameter. (As you’re shaping the log, flatten it once or twice and roll it up from one long side to the other, to make certain you haven’t got an air channel.) Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and chill them for at least 1 hour. (Wrapped airtight, the logs can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for 1 month.)

3. Center a rack in the oven; preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

4. Working with a sharp, thin-bladed knife, slice rounds 1/2-inch thick. (If the cookies break, squeeze the broken-off bit back onto the cookie.) Place the cookies on the parchment-lined sheets, leaving an inch of space between them. Bake only 1 sheet at a time and bake each sheet for 12 minutes. (The cookies will not look done nor will they be firm, but that is the way they should be.) Transfer the sheet to a cooling rack and let the cookies rest, on the sheet, until they are only just warm. Repeat with the second sheet of cookies.

Note: It is very important that you not overbake the cookies, and let them cool completely before you remove them from the baking sheet.

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