Sables. Warm, furry. A comfy coat, or at least a collar. Just the thing as winter …
Oh, dear, no. Butter cookies. Sables are a butter cookie, a specialty in Breton, France, for example. Butter, sugar, and flour. No eggs. And flavorings that must be matched to the butter quality. Vanilla, chocolate and citrus are the obvious choices. The French part is important. Butter cookies come from all over Europe — think Germany and Denmark.
But then think about French style and, above all, French butter.
And, now, one of my asides. Don’t worry. This story all comes together. I grew up in Portland, Oregon. Now, it could have been named Boston, Oregon. The original settlers included big contingents from Portland, Maine and Boston, Massachusetts. Each favored the name of their hometown. How was it decided? By a coin flip.
In Portland, Maine, not Oregon but Maine, the waterfront is a cornucopia of restaurants, shops, lobster places, and the Standard Baking Company. Two very smart women, Alison Pray and Tara Smith, love French baking and baking science. Their company, Standard Baking Company, is set back sixty feet from the street, but it’s easy to find. You may see a line extending all the way back to the street. You’ll always smell of bread. Sort of Paris in Maine. And, as a bonus, you can have snow. Lots and lots of snow.
Alison and Tara have just published Standard Baking Company Pastries and it is a book Suzen and I happily recommend. There are both American and French recipes here. You’ll find a fruit buckle and cheddar chive scones. There’s a triple chocolate cake that would probably kill a diabetic. Well, no, not a small slice. Trust me, I know from tasting there in Portland.
Here’s our first test from the book: Chocolate Sables. Easy to make, you can enjoy them on Day 1. Or refrigerate and enjoy a few days later. Or freeze the dough and on a lonely night when you need comfort, defrost, slice, and praise the glories of butter and bakers.
This recipe is credited to the incomparable Pierre Herme. It’s been gloriously Americanized by adding in chocolate chunks. The recipe calls for bittersweet. I went for oversized chunks of milk chocolate. Both work and white chocolate chunks would give you a very polka dot effect.
And that is the only change I would make in the recipe. If you look at the ingredients, you’ll see this recipe has been honed. It’s not ¾ cup of cocoa, but ¾ cup plus a tablespoon. There are white and brown sugars in distinct proportions. Don’t play around here. March to these orders and you’ll be merrily satisfied.
Yield: 72 cookies
- 2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon Dutch-processed cocoa powder
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 ⅓ cup [2 ⅔ sticks] unsalted butter at room temperature
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1 ⅔ cups packed brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 ¾ cups bittersweet chocolate chunks
Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium speed until soft and smooth. Be patient.
Add the granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla to the butter. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy.
Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture on low speed and beat until just blended thoroughly.
Add the chocolate chunks and mix until they are evenly distributed.
Transfer the dough to a work surface. Divide it into six equal pieces and roll each into a 6-inch log. Warp each log tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate the logs until they are firm and chilled at least 45 minutes. The logs can be refrigerated at the this point up to 3 days or frozen for up to a month. Frozen logs should be defrosted before cutting.
Position two oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 375°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment.
Remove two logs from the refrigerator and place them on the work surface. With a sharp knife cut ½-inch thick slices and place them on the prepared baking sheets spaced 2 inches apart, 12 cookies per baking sheet.
Bake for 8 minutes, rotate the baking sheets from front to back and top to bottom. Bake for another 4 minutes or until the centers are just firm to the touch. Remove from the oven, transfer to a wire rack, and cool completely.
Repeat for the other logs if backing off more of the dough.
Source: Standard Baking Company Pastries by Alison Pray and Tara Smith