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nosh friday: whole wheat sables with cacao nibs

February 11, 2011

My history with making shortbread has been a rather pathetic one. While I love the buttery, crumbly bites of those luscious cookies, the handful of times I’ve tried making shortbread, it has done one of two things: fallen apart into bits the second I touched it or spread so flat while it baked that I had to chisel it off the cookie sheet.

However, I am a firm believer in the old adage, “When you fail, try, try again.” Basically, the more trouble I have with something, the more determined I become to master it. An unrelated example would be last night’s pastry class. We had a marathon crepe making session, which involved eight of us spread across eight blazing hot burners, sliding pans, flipping crepes, burning fingers, cursing and sweating like the dickens. I kept screwing up crepe after crepe, but by the end, my determination (and some much-needed instruction from our master Chef Gilles) managed to produce some nearly beautiful crepes.

Determination, I tell you.

To return to our cookies at hand, these delicious shortbreads (or sables, which means “sandy” in French and refers to the texture) are elegant and nutty. The cacao nibs are a specialty ingredient but offer a deep, pleasantly bitter chocolate flavor. These aren’t too sweet and would be perfect with afternoon tea or a cup of coffee in the morning. (They’re whole wheat….which, in my book, means they’re health food. Health food that contains nearly two sticks of butter. Sure you can eat them for breakfast!)

I am glad to finally be over my fear of shortbread. And what a tasty victory it is!

Whole Wheat Sables with Cacao Nibs
From Orangette

2 c. whole wheat pastry flour, OR 1 c. all-purpose flour plus 1 scant cup whole wheat flour (I used 1 cup pastry flour and 1 cup white whole wheat flour)
14 T. (1 ¾ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
½ c.  sugar
¼ t. salt
1 t. vanilla extract
1/3 c. roasted cacao nibs

If using the two flours, combine them in a bowl, and mix with a whisk or fork.

In a medium bowl, with a large spoon or an electric mixer, beat the butter with the sugar, salt, and vanilla until smooth and creamy but not fluffy, about 1 minute (with the mixer). Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, and add the nibs. Beat briefly to incorporate. Add the flour, and mix until just incorporated. Scrap the dough into a mass and, if necessary, knead it a little with your hands to make sure that the flour is completely incorporated. Form the dough into a 12-by-2-inch log. Wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight.

Set racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven, and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Use a sharp knife to cut the cold dough log into ¼-inch-thick slices. Place the cookies at least 1 ½ inches apart on the prepared sheet pans.

Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, or until the cookies are light golden brown at the edges, rotating the pans from top to bottom and front to back halfway through the baking time. Cool the cookies for a minute on the pans, then transfer them (with or without their parchment) to a rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a month.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. February 11, 2011 2:10 pm

    Nice! I usually chuck my shortbread logs into the freezer for a couple of hours. Admittedly, I’ll add an egg to the dough if I can’t get it to shape up properly. It’s not traditional, but it works.

  2. Caroline permalink*
    February 11, 2011 11:01 pm

    @ Hilary!

    I let mine set in the fridge overnight and it helped a lot. I’ll have to try the freezer sometime. Sadly, my freezer is about the size of a matchbox. My tiny studio-sized fridge doesn’t allow me much freezer space, alas.

    I’ve added an egg before, too. The protein helps bind it, but I’ve found they do spread more. As I learn about all the scientific reasons behind this type of stuff, it’s mind-boggling. Yeesh!

  3. February 18, 2011 3:13 pm

    Yes, they do spread if you add egg. You can cut that down a bit if you just add the yolk. I add egg or yolk to the dough if I’m going to roll it out and use cutters. There is little way around it, and I’ve tried and tried.

    I hope you spread all your learning around (particularly on the blog so I can read about it). Though, I did buy a bunch of pastry class text books at our local community college. I’m conspiratorial that way.

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