Some cookies should be illegal! Chocolate cookies so intense it's criminal. Creamy centers decadent enough to make you lose all control. Stolen moments of pure sugar bliss.
Recently, I made such a cookie. It was for my friend's birthday. When you are just an average person and have a good friend who has a degree as a pastry chef, making something sweet as a birthday present can be a tricky proposition. Luckily, our sugar sensibilities are pretty much aligned so most of what I make or experiment in making I can count on her liking.
I was meeting her out for dinner so I couldn't really make cupcakes or a proper birthday cake, so I went the route of cookies. She and I went to Paris on an eating extravaganza a few years ago and I knew that she loves Sable cookies. Sables are thin, buttery cookies that are very popular in Paris. You often see them with fresh herbs baked into them like Rosemary or Lavender. One of my favorite blogs, @smittenkitchen.com has a wonderful Intensely Chocolately Sable cookie recipe that is not only delicious but pretty easy to make. These cookies are thin and slightly crispy but soft in the middle. If you roll them thinner you could make them crisper but be very careful not to burn them because burnt chocolate is not your friend. It's just not.
Note: The Tovolo Pastry Mat in the picture. I have started using this for everything! Rolling out doughs, cookie dough, even just as a "ingredient" mat when baking. It keeps my counter clean and is super easy to keep things neat and organized.
I decided to step the cookie game up a notch by making them sandwich cookies. Adding a thin layer of buttercream between the two chocolate sable cookies.
I had a choice to make:
a. Vanilla buttercream - delicious, classic, expected
b. Tonka bean buttercream - exotic, rare, illicit
Long explanation short, Tonka beans are akin to vanilla beans. They are having a moment in Europe and the UK in both sweet and savory application but are not legal in the US. I just happened to have a few from a friend who was in Europe a few years ago and brought some back with him. They are somewhat floral in aroma. They are often used in perfume but they aren't soapy like lavender can be sometimes. Tonka beans are earthier like a spice opposed to an herb.
If you didn't guess already, I went with Tonka bean buttercream. You could use either and both would be awesome. I took 1/2 cup of butter and let it get to room temperature. I then whipped it in my stand mixer, adding a finely grated Tonka bean (although if using a vanilla bean, I would scrape the beans from the pod) and add it to the butter. This essentially makes a compound butter. I put it back in the fridge for a few hours so that the bean and butter had some time to really get to know each other. When the cookies were cooled completely, I made the buttercream with the pre-made Tonka Bean butter (I used 6T of the butter, leaving a few Tablespoons for other applications like French Toast - your welcome), 2 cups of powdered sugar, and about 3T of milk. I always taste buttercream until it is the sweetness and consistency that I want. I also think it is important to sprinkle a pinch of salt in the frosting - it helps to cut the sweetness and gives it a little lift.
Recipe by smittenkitchen.com
Intensely Chocolate Sables
Inspired by Balthazar, adapted quite a bit from Miette -
Makes 40 to 48 2-inch thin cookies, fewer if thicker, or 24 sandwich cookies!
1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (30 grams) Dutched cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup (1 stick, 4 ounces or 115 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 to 2/3 cup (100 to 135 grams) granulated sugar (less for a more bittersweet cookie)
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 large egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 ounces (100 grams) semi- or bittersweet chocolate, grated or finely chopped until almost powdery in a food processor - 70% Theo Chocolate is perfect!
Coarse sugar (turbinato/sugar in the raw or decorative) for sprinkling
Sift together the flour, cocoa and baking soda together onto a piece of waxed paper or into a bowl and set aside. (I almost always skimp on sifting wherever possible, but my cocoa is always lumpy, so this is unavoidable.)
Cream butter, sugar and salt together in a large bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add egg yolk and vanilla, beating until combined, then scraping down sides. Add dry ingredients and grated chocolate together and mix until just combined.
Scrape dough onto a piece of plastic wrap, wrap it up and chill it in the fridge until just firm, about 30 to 45 minutes. No need to get it fully hard, or it will be harder to roll out. Dough can be refrigerated until needed, up to a two days, or frozen longer, but let it warm up and soften a bit before rolling it out for decreased frustration.
Heat oven to 350 degrees. On a floured surface, roll dough gently — it will still be on the crumbly side, so only attempt to flatten it slightly with each roll — until it is 1/8-inch thick (for thin cookies, what I used), 1/4-inch thick (for thicker ones) or somewhere in-between (I suspect the Balthazar ones are rolled to 3/8-inch). Cut into desired shapes and space them an inch apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle decoratively with coarse sugar. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes (for thinner cookies) or 10 to 12 minutes (for thicker ones). Leave cookies on baking sheets out of the oven for a couple minutes before gently, carefully transferring them to cooling racks, as they’ll be fragile until they cool.
Cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to two weeks of 4 p.m. rations.
Assembly for sandwich cookies:
Spread a generous dollop of buttercream onto one cookie and spread it almost to the edge. I used a Tovolo Mini Scoop & Spread which was perfect for this task. They look better if you add just a thin layer of buttercream to the other half of the sandwich before putting the two halves together. Plus, can you REALLY have too much buttercream in the sandwich cookies? No, you can not. These were for a birthday so then I just sprinkled them with course, colorful sugar for festiveness. Voila!