Tartine No. 3 was released just before Christmas and I personally know of several people who spent at least part of their holiday break testing Chad Robertson's innovative bread recipes (Hello, Emma Christensen!) While I love baking bread, I haven't gone there yet because I've been having too much fun playing in the pastry section, which is where I found this recipe for 50/50 Sablé Cookies.
Are you familiar with the sablé cookie? If not, you should be because this lovely, simple French cookie is an excellent one to have in your repertoire. A sandy mixture of flour, butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla, the classic sablé is a delicious, melt-in-your-mouth butter cookie. This Tartine version, however, takes it to a whole other level.
Tartine No. 3 is all about experimenting with non-wheat flours, not as gluten-free substitutes but as a way to discover new flavors and textures. (See our first look at the cookbook here.) While some of these alternative flours are somewhat expected with bread, it was quite exiting to see rye, kamut, barley, and buckwheat flours used in pastry, which is much more delicate and fussy than bread. Do these experiments work? I chose the 50/50 Sablé Cookie recipe to find out.
The Tartine sablés cookies begin with simple ratios — equal parts ground nuts and flour combined with equal parts sugar and butter, and a touch of salt — with a choice of nut and flour combinations listed in the end. I chose rye and pecan simply because I thought it would be easier for most people to source those ingredients.
The classic sablé cookie usually has an egg yolk or two, which was missing here. Would the dough hold up? I found that the dough was indeed a little hard to roll into logs as instructed. It was too crumbly and didn't want to stick together, yet it seemed moist enough, so I didn't want to add water. I tried letting it sit for 15 minutes or so and that did the trick.
The first time I tried this recipe, I did the whole thing in the food processor, thinking I would save time. The second time I made it, I rubbed the flour with my hand as instructed and found that I liked the results better. The dough was more cohesive and the cookie had a more tender texture.
You will need a kitchen scale for this recipe, which is far from a bad thing to have in your kitchen. Alternatively, you could purchase your ingredients at a bulk counter at your grocer, weighing them out to the amount called for here.
What about whole grain rye flour? To be honest, I didn't know if the rye flour in the bulk bins was whole grain or not. I bought it anyway, figuring that this was going to be the average experience for most of our readers. You can purchase whole grain flour through companies like Bob's Red Mill or Arrowhead Mill. Here is an explanation about the different kinds of rye flour from The Whole Grains Council.
My conclusion? These cookies are simply amazing. The rye emphasizes the rich flavors of butter and pecans with the salt adding the right amount of brightness. They are sweet cookies, but not too sweet, with a delicate and slightly crumbly texture. I liked making smaller, one-or-two bite versions of them and simply dusting them with powdered sugar. They would be fantastic with a dot of apricot jam, too.
I really enjoyed the complex flavors of the rye and pecans over the one-dimensional note of the more conventional wheat flour. While this cookie is a winner, I am also looking forward to trying the other versions, especially the cocoa nib and buckwheat version, with maybe a touch of sour cherry jam on top. Yum!
Tartine Bakery's 50/50 Sablé Cookies
Makes about five dozen cookies
nuts, pumpkin seeds, or cocoa nibs
(2/3 cup) sugar
fine sea salt
(1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter, cut into pieces at room temperature
Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C. Spread the nuts or pumpkin seeds on a baking sheet and toast until golden in color. (Cocoa nibs are already toasted, so if making the cocoa nib-buckwheat version, skip this step.) Remove from the oven and let cool completely.
In the bowl of a food processor, combine the nuts, pumpkin seeds, or cocoa nibs, flour, sugar, and salt and pulse until very finely ground, about 1 minute. Transfer to a large bowl and add the butter by hand, a few pieces at a time, massaging the butter into the dry ingredients until it forms a dough. (If the dough seems dry and is not holding together, add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes together.)
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and bring it together with your hands into one cohesive mass.
Roll the dough into two logs, each about 15 by 1/2 in/38 cm by 12 mm, then cut each log into 1/2-in/12-mm slices and roll each slice into a ball. Transfer the balls, spacing them about 1/2 in/12 mm apart, to parchment-lined baking sheets.
Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through baking to ensure even browning, until the cookies are golden around the edges (depending on the nut-flour combination used, the golden hue will be more or less noticeable; with the cocoa nib and buckwheat combination it will be less noticeable, with the cashew-barley combination, more).
Remove the baking sheets from the oven and let the cookies cool completely. The cookies will keep up to 3 days in an airtight container.
The idea of the 50/50 sablé came in the midst of a blizzard of cookie testing, and the recipe is loosely based on a traditional sablé ratio, representing roughly equal amounts of whole-grain flour and nut flour. One afternoon I walked into the bakery to find an array of sablés, all made using different types of whole-grain flour paired with a different nut or seed. I think of these base ratio recipes as building blocks; the finished cookies are good as is, but very simple.
We start with the base sablés, and fill or sandwich them with jam, citrus cream, chocolate, or sweetened nut butter. Almost all the combinations of flour and nuts we tried yielded fine sablés, so at a certain point it was necessary to simply choose a few favorites to present here. The flavor combinations that follow are examples that worked well together and suited my taste: cashew with barley flour, pecan with rye flour, pistachio with brown rice flour, pumpkin seed with Kamut flour, and cocoa nib with buckwheat flour.
Try using different types of sugars, and add spices or aromatics to suit your own taste. Here, the amounts for the nuts and flours are given in grams only, rather than grams and U.S. measurements, since the U.S. measurements vary depending on the specific nut and flour that you choose.
Favorite Sablé Variations
Pumpkin Seed-Kamut: Replace nuts with 186 g/1 1/3 cups pumpkin seeds and use 186 g/1 1/3 cups whole-grain Kamut flour.
Cocoa Nib-Buckwheat: Replace nuts with 186 g/1 1/2 cups cocoa nibs and use 186 g/1 1/3 cups whole-grain buckwheat flour.
Cashew-Barley: Replace nuts with 186 g/1 2/3 cups cashews and use 186 g/1 2/3 cups whole-grain barley flour.
Pecan-Rye: Replace nuts with 186 g/1 2/3 cups pecans and use 186 g/1 ½ cups whole-grain dark rye flour.
Pistachio-Brown Rice: Replace nuts with 186 g/1 ½ cups pistachios and use 186 g/1 cup brown rice flour.
If the dough is too crumbly, let it sit, covered, for about 15 minutes.
Be sure to let the nuts cool completely before processing them.
For my test of this recipe, I made the pecan-rye variation.
Reprinted with permission from Tartine No. 3 by Chard Robertson (Chronicle Books, 2013).