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