sablé biscuits with cocoa nibs
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Shortcrust or sablé biscuits with a twist: raw cocoa nibs added instead of chocolate chips. Very refined, in spite of the unrefined chocolate content.
Sable means ‘sand’. So very aptly the French name shortcrust pastry, pâte sablée, and biscuits made from thereof: sablés. Some sources maintain it is not a descriptively derived name but by provenance: made originally in Sablé-sur-Sarthe. But I’ll stick to the former, more appealing explanation: butter mixed into the flour resembles wet sand.
Having said it, this recipe doesn’t employ the standard shortcrust-making technique: butter rubbed into flour and sugar, then egg or yolk or cold water. It starts with creaming butter and sugar, like for an ordinary sponge, but my trust in Melissa Clarke is deep enough to try her method. And of course it works; the chilling element comes at the pastry stage and again just before baking.
I was more distrustful of the raw cocoa nibs which I’d thought belonged with weird diets and those ‘healthy’ confections made from hemp and coconut oil. But as I tried my test batch it turned out the nibs created an astonishing ‘wow’ factor for the old biscuits.
They are a little bitter being pure unprocessed cocoa, bitterer than a bar of dark chocolate, but in the sweet pastry the bitterness disappears. They are wonderfully crunchy, much more so than any chocolate chips. I probably wouldn’t nibble them on their own as a snack but the baked product is truly superior. Those are grown-up chocolate chip biscuits; refined and sophisticated.
The dough when chilled is very firm; I wouldn’t be able to roll it out straight from the fridge in spite of Melissa’s instructions. And the rolling and cutting is fiddly, albeit with pretty result so here’s a hack if you don’t care for pretty: shape the pastry into a log, chill, and then simply slice into round biscuits with a serrated knife.
sablé biscuits with cocoa nibsServings: makes about 2 dozen biscuitsTime: 40 minutes plus chilling
- 115g (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 45g (3 tbsp.) icing sugar
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ½ tsp fine sea salt
- 160g (1¼ cup) plain flour
- 37g (2 tbsp.) raw cocoa nibs
- 40g (1 oz) dark chocolate, chopped
- ½ tsp coconut or olive oil
- sea salt flakes
1. Beat the butter and icing sugar until smooth and fluffy. Add the egg yolk, vanilla, salt and beat in well. Add the flour and mix in until combined, stir in the cocoa nibs.
Shape the dough into a ball or disc and chill, wrapped in cling film, for at least an hour and up to 3 days.
2. When ready for baking, take the dough out of the fridge and leave for half an hour to soften a little. Roll it out between sheets of cling film or parchment to about ¾ cm (¼ in) thick. Cut shapes with a cookie cutter about 5cm (2 in), or several various sizes as I did.
3. Place the biscuits on a baking tray lined with parchment; they don’t spread so can be placed quite close together. Chill in the fridge for 15 minutes while you heat the oven to 170C (no fan)/325F/gas 3 with a rack positioned in the middle.
4. Bake the biscuits for 18-20 minutes until lightly coloured around the edges. Leave on the tray for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack on the parchment.
5. Melt the chocolate with the oil in a microwave, in 30 sec bursts; or over a pan with boiling water. Drizzle the chocolate over the biscuits with a fork and sprinkle sea salt before the chocolate sets.