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Sablé biscuits with cocoa nibs

Updated: Tue, 4 July, 2023

Shortcrust or sablé biscuits with a twist: raw cocoa nibs are added instead of chocolate chips. Very refined, in spite of the unrefined chocolate content.

sable biscuits with cocoa nibs

French shortcrust pastry

Sablé means ‘sand’. Thus very aptly the French name their shortcrust pastry, pâte sablée, and the biscuits made from it: sablés.

Some sources maintain it is not a descriptively derived name but by provenance: made originally in the city of Sablé-sur-Sarthe.

But I’ll stick to the former, more appealing explanation: butter mixed into flour irrevocably resembles wet sand.

sable pastry

Shortcut to shortcrust

Having said that, this recipe doesn’t employ the standard shortcrust-making technique which is butter rubbed into flour and sugar, then egg or yolk or cold water.

This one starts with creaming butter and sugar, like for an ordinary sponge, but my trust in Melissa Clarke, whose recipe this is, 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.

cocoa nib sables

Chill, pastry

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 so it needs to come back closer to room temperature again before it’s rolled.

The point of chilling the pastry, then thawing it a little before you roll it out only to chill it again before baking is completely valid, though it might not appear so.

Pastry needs to initially rest in the fridge to allow a gluten network to develop so that the produced confections hold their shape. It can’t be easily rolled out straight from the fridge because it’s too firm.

And the final chilling is to lower the temperature of the butter in the pastry, so it doesn’t melt too soon and leach out of the biscuits or tarts.

raw chocolate cookies

Is raw cocoa faddish?

More than the pastry making method, I was more distrustful of the raw cocoa nibs which I’d thought belonged with weird diets and those disgusting ‘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.

cocoa nibs

Cutting it fine

So once the pastry has cooled in bulk, then thawed a little again, it needs to be rolled out to about half a finger’s thickness. It’s good to do it between sheets of cling film so the pastry doesn’t stick to the rolling pin and you don’t need to dust it with flour too much.

rolling out sable pastry

You can cut any shapes you like and arrange them on parchment-lined trays.

cutting sables

Admittedly 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.

Once baked, the biscuits will still be pale so it’s fitting to adorn them with some dark melted chocolate drizzled over with a fork.

And a sprinkling of flaky sea salt will be a superior finishing touch.

baked sables

More biscuit recipes

Breton butter biscuits (galettes bretonnes) are Breton shortbread so delicate it melts in the mouth. These Breton butter cookies are easy to make and very satisfying.

Thin and super-crunchy, spicy and melting, old fashioned ginger snaps are a snap to make! Grab that jar of stem ginger from the back of the cupboard and put the syrup to a good use.

Orange dacquoise biscuits, chewy almond cookies made with egg whites, are like a meringue that changed its mind at the last minute and turned into sponge batter.

More shortcrust recipes

Classic shortbread biscuits sprinkled with sugar. This shortbread is made the easiest way: with melted butter, mixed with a spoon. And it's the best shortbread recipe!

Date shortbread bars, shortcrust slices sandwiched with date, cinnamon and orange filling. Good shortcrust pastry with naturally sweet filling is great for a treat.

Butter tarts with maple syrup, traditional Canadian treats. Classic butter tarts with flaky pastry best filled about halfway up, to stop the filling from boiling over.

cocoa nib sables

Sablé biscuits with cocoa nibs

Servings: makes about 2 dozen biscuitsTime: 40 minutes plus chilling
Rating: (2 reviews)


  • 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.

2. Shape the dough into a ball or disc and chill, wrapped in cling film, for at least an hour and up to 3 days.

3. 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.

4. Place the biscuits on a baking tray lined with parchment; they don’t spread much 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.

5. 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.

6. 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.

Originally published: Thu, 7 May, 2020

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Your comments

Anna @ CuisineFiend
Hi Brooke - thank you!
3 years ago
3 years ago
Anna @ CuisineFiend
Thank you - a valuable comment and kind words from a professional!
3 years ago
Cocoa mantra
Nice recipe with cocoa nibs. Usually not many people like pure chocolate as it is and at the same time not many people knows the health benefits of pure cocoa products such as cocoa beans or cocoa nibs. Consuming pure cocoa products in some healthy way, just like the above recipe is too good. Easy to make and clear explanation of the cookies. Thank you for sharing. I am a chocolatier by profession, work at Cocoa mantra (
3 years ago

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