Saturday, 16 February 2013

'Paris Is Always a Good Idea' – Dark Chocolate Sables and Some News

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As usual, I've been wanting to spread the news about these amazing sables (or, as my French co-worker corrected me, sablés) since I first baked them, but as usual life has gotten in the way.  In face, I have an unusually good excuse: this post is especially apropos because the BF took me on a surprise trip to Paris the weekend after I made these French cookies – and he proposed!  Of course I said yes (if you've been following this blog for a while you know that he and I are already practically married), and have been consumed by wedding planning insanity (on top of work and book promotion) ever since.

Nonetheless, even with a head full of even more things than before (sigh), I still can't stop thinking about these little beauties – ooh, maybe I'll make a batch for the wedding!  Ahem, sorry.  I get distracted a lot these days.  Where were we?  Right!  I can't stop thinking about these sables, so it's high time I passed them on to you all so you can obsess over them too.  Trust me: they're worth the lost sleep.

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 As is so often the case, this recipe came from a beautiful and tempting post on Smitten Kitchen.  I was all set to make easy, thrown-together chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, and then I read this post and my whole weekend was derailed: we spent our Saturday looking for Dutched cocoa (turns out most cocoa in the UK is Dutched – doh), and then I spent all Sunday morning making sure I followed the recipe to the letter.  This may seem like a lot of effort for what is essentially a fancy chocolate shortbread, but Deb's post convinced me.  The kicker was the following description:
When they come out of the oven, your kitchen will smell like there’s a bubbling cauldron of melted chocolate on the stove and people who walk through your front door and inhale will have an absolutely startled reaction. “Mommy. WHAT YOU MAKE ME?” your kid will demand to know
I tried to keep my expectations low, but... did you read that description??  So I was relieved when, ten minutes in, the deep smell of rich, dark chocolate began to flood the flat.  By the time I pulled the cookies out of the oven, the BF (well, now the F – I'll have to think of a cuter shortened way to say 'the fiancé') was like a hungry cat winding around my ankles, begging me to let him eat one.  I made him wait until they were cool enough that he wouldn't burn his mouth, then I gave him the special heart-shaped one I'd made just for him with the scraps of my slices.

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People, he nearly melted.  After looking at his face – his widened eyes and flared nostrils – I had to try one myself.  I picked one up off the still-hot baking sheet and took a soft, dry-yet-buttery bite.  Oh...my...god...  These things are beyond delicious.  All the sifting and melted chocolate mess and cocoa powder all over my clothes – it was all worth it in that one bite.  And if it wasn't, then I got my siftings-worth in the 24 hours that followed, during which I must have eaten about 15 of the things.  In fact, if I hadn't sent my man back to Luton (where he's posted for school, meaning I only see him once a week at best) with half of them, and put the other half in a tupperware to bring to work the next day, I probably could have eaten the whole batch.

It wouldn't have felt very good, but oh boy, would it have tasted divine.  These cookies are reminiscent of the cups of hot chocolate my friends and I ordered in a café in Italy, sitting under an umbrella in the pouring rain and breathing in the sweet steam that rose off the molten liquid.  They remind me of the dark chocolate you get after a meal at a fancy restaurant, that goes all gooey in your pocket because you 'just can't eat one more thing', and then you lick it off the inside of the wrapper when you get home, somehow able to squeeze in one last indulgence.  They're dark, and dreamy, and just sweet enough to hold off the bitterness – perfect for dessert or teatime or even breakfast.

And now I'm desperate to have more at my disposal.  Damn.  I might have to go do some midnight baking...

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Dark Chocolate Sables
     from SK

Sift together and set aside:
     1 c (125g) flour
     1/3 c (30g) Dutched cocoa powder (I used Bourneville)
     1/4 tsp baking soda

In a large bowl, cream until light and fluffy:
     1/2 c (115g) unsalted butter, rm temp
     1/2 to 2/3 c (100-135g) sugar (use less for a bittersweet cookie)
     1/4 tsp fine sea salt

Beat in until combined, scraping down sides:
     1 large egg yolk
     1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Add sifted dry ingredients, along with:
     3.5 oz (100g) semi- or bittersweet chocolate, grated or finely chopped until almost powdery in a food processor (I don't have a food processor, so my wonderful sous chef abandoned his studies for ten minutes to grate this miserable stuff for me – if you have a processor, USE IT.)
     
Beat just until the dough comes together, then wrap it in cling film – it will be crumbly but should stick together in a ball or a log when coaxed – and chill in the fridge for 30-45 minutes, or overnight.  (Deb's instructions go on to suggest rolling out and cutting the dough – if you've chilled it longer than 45 minutes, make sure to let it warm up a bit before rolling it out.)

If you've rolled your dough into a log and chilled it that way, make sure it's nice and firm, then preheat your oven to 350F/175C and line baking sheets with parchment paper.  Slice the dough into 1/2" rounds and lay them flat on the sheets, about an inch apart.  Sprinkle with coarse turbinado sugar if desired, then bake 10-12 minutes.  

Let the cookies cool for a minute or two on the baking sheets before removing to a rack (be gentle – they're more delicate than they look before they've fully cooled).  Deb says the cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to two weeks, but they'll never in a million years last long enough for me to test that theory.

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