Friday, February 14, 2014

Chocolate Sablés for Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day, more than any other holiday, is considered sacred in my house. Why? Because my house is the temple of chocolate, and its inhabitants are the most devout of followers. Chocolate is always, I mean always, the dessert of choice. Chocolate mousse, chocolate tarts, chocolate truffles, chocolate malts, chocolate fondue. Need I go on? Every so often, I throw up my hands and make a fruit-based dessert, but I usually get the business from my family when I do.

Sometimes I think there's no point in looking for a new chocolate cookie. I already have the best salted chocolate cookies, chocolate oat harvest bars, and brownies in my repetoire. But a recipe for chocolate sablés caught my eye as I was leafing through The Essential New York Times Cookbook.

A sablé is a butter cookie, and come in many flavors, sweet or savory. "Sablé" means sand in French, which alludes to the desired texture. In the great American cookie consistency debate--chewy vs. crunchy--this cookie is....neither. Instead a sablé is light but not brittle, soft but not squishy. The dough isn't too far off from a pastry crust, with a large amount of butter and little liquid.

I fiddled with the New York Times recipe (mostly because I just can't help myself). I cut the sugar and added an egg, which may be cheating, but found the dough came together so much more quickly with just one egg to bind it together. I also could not resist sprinkling a bit of sea salt on the cookie before baking. It may be a fad to sprinkle salt on desserts, but it's a fad I wholeheartedly support.

And while you can roll this dough into a log and slice it into rounds, I like rolling it out flat and using cookies cutters, because then you can pick your shape (even though the ones below are, in fact, round, they have fluted edging). This method does mean you must re-roll some of the dough, or waste some dough. And while many frown upon re-rolling such delicate dough, I'm going to admit I've never been able to tell the difference between cookies rolled once or twice.

This recipe makes a lot of cookies, and you can hold the dough in the fridge for several days, making it ideal party fare. Which is exactly how I used it recently to rave reviews.

Before I get to the recipe, you might wonder what are the typed words underneath the plate of cookies? Well, it may just be the best gift ever. A friend secretly worked with my mother to obtain some of my grandparents' original recipe cards, which she then photographed and transferred to tea towels. Isn't that cool?

Chocolate Sablés
adapted from The Essential New York Times Cookbook

1 1/4 c. flour
1/3 c. cocoa
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. kosher salt
11 T. unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into large chunks
2/3 c. packed dark brown sugar
1 egg
1 t. vanilla extract
5 oz. bittersweet chocolate, grated (or finely chopped)
sea salt for sprinkling

Sift flour, cocoa and baking soda together into a bowl. Add salt and stir.

Put butter in a stand mixer bowl. Using the paddle attachment, beat butter on medium speed until creamy, about 1 minute. Scrape down if needed. Add sugar and beat for another minute. Add egg and vanilla and beat until just incorporated. 

Turn off the mixer and add the dry ingredients. Beat on low speed until just incorporated. Turn off again, add the chocolate, and mix in. 

Divide the dough into four pieces. Roll each piece between two sheets of wax paper until 1/2 inch thick. Place sheets into the refrigerator for 1 hour, up to to 4 days.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Take the rolled dough out one sheet at a time. Peel away the top layer of wax paper and discard. Using cookie cutters, cut into desired shapes. Place on parchment paper on a baking tray, leaving 1 inch of space between each cookie. Sprinkle a few pieces of sea salt in the middle of each cookie.

If there is dough left over, you can gather together, re-roll and cut more cookies. 

Bake for 11-12 minutes. They may seem soft but they are done. Let them cool on the parchment on a rack. 

Store in a container at room temperature for up to 3 days.