Thursday, January 31, 2019

Whole Wheat Sablé

Whole Wheat Sablés

When it comes to sweets, I like plain single layer cakes, spicy gingerbread, ice cream, creme brûlée, panna cotta, zabaglione hot or cold. But what I like most of all are cookies, and 2018 was the year I learned to bake them. It was in some ways a dangerous enterprise simply because when cookies are good, it is easy for me to eat too many of them - maybe not all at once, but, you know, a cookie here, a cookie there...

You can find lots of excellent recipes for cookies - a rather famous, if not infamous, one appeared in 2018, Alison Roman’s Salted Chocolate Chunk Shortbread cookies and was justifiably all the rage. And there are many bakers well-known for their accomplishments in the cookie-verse especially. But when everything was said and done, I had a particular baker as my muse.

Alice Medrich

This was not a surprise to me as I have been familiar with Alice Medrich for a long time. She had already given me a recipe for an almond cake on Page 73 of Pure Dessert, which I make often, and on FOOD52 she taught me the magic of using math to adjust pan sizes when baking.

Her Double Oatmeal Cookies in Flavor Flours is basically my house cookie, and I always have some on hand. But my own personal favorite cookie is the little black dress of cookies. The cookie I know, no matter how many other good cookies I bake, I will turn back to time and time again.

The unadorned Whole Wheat Sablé.

I found the recipe in Pure Dessert, one of the most physically beautiful books in my collection and then realized the always-reliable Luisa had written about it a long time ago. By the time I got around to trying this recipe, I was already familiar with making logs of dough and had figured out that the best way for me to bake these cookies is to make the dough one day, roll it into logs, refrigerate the logs overnight, and bake them as soon as I get up in the morning. I keep a stainless steel ruler handy as I slice the cold dough into cookies, and I move quickly so they stay cold while slicing with a Messermeister Cheese Knife, which glides right through the dough (even if there are chunks of chocolate hidden inside as in Alison Roman’s cookies, which are not called chocolate chunk for no reason).

I am lucky enough to have a dual-fuel Wolf Range that allows me to bake three half-sheet pans of cookies at a time on convection mode without having to rotate the pans. Because I am able to move quickly and don't want to put cookie dough on hot pans, I have nine half-sheet pans to use when I bake cookies. I have five cooling trays available and place the sheet pans on the trays to cool a little before moving the cookies off the parchment using an offset cookie spatula.

These cookies are to me THE BEST. Thanks to Alice Medrich with a hat tip to Luisa.

Full disclosure - Alice Medrich reduced the amount of butter by ¼ stick when she put this recipe again in her excellent book Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookiesand she must have had a reason, but I can’t bring myself to mess with what I think is the perfect cookie.

Note 1: When baking, it's a good idea to have an oven thermometer in your oven to make sure the correct temperature is reached before baking.

Note 2:  Once the oven reaches the correct temperature, to make sure it's really hot enough, don't put the first tray of cookies in until it has remained at this temperature for a little while - for me it's 15 minutes.

Note 3: When I take a just-baked tray of cookies out of the oven, the temperature drops so I close the oven door until the temperature goes back up. That takes 5 minutes in my oven. I open it only when I am ready to put the next trays in.

Note 4: Make sure your half-sheet pans are cool before you put cookie dough on them.

Whole Wheat Sablé
Adapted from Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich


4.5 ounces King Arthur All Purpose flour
4 ounces King Arthur Whole Wheat Flour
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened and cut into 1-inch pieces (I use Kerrygold unsalted butter.)
3.5 ounces granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Preheat a convection oven to 325°F or a regular oven to 350°F.

Stir the flours together in a bowl, and set aside. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the pieces of butter with the sugar, salt, and vanilla for about a minute, just until smooth. Turn off the mixer. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the flour all at once, turn on the mixer, and beat until the flour is just mixed in. Remove the dough and knead with your hands to make sure the flour is completely incorporated into the dough.

Form the dough into one 12 x 2-inch log or two 6 x 2-inch logs, wrap the log or logs in parchment paper or plastic food wrap, and refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours and, best, overnight. I like to make two logs because that way the dough doesn't get warm and soften too much while I am slicing cookies as I keep the second log in the refrigerator while I cut the first one. This helps keep the cookies round because they don't have time to get flatten too much while on the cutting board.

Cut the logs into ¼-inch thick slices, and put the cookies 1-½ inches apart on cool parchment-lined baking sheets.

Bake the cookies until they are light brown at the edges. In my convection oven this takes 14 minutes.

Take the tray with baked cookies from the oven, close the oven door to keep the heat in, set the tray on a cooling rack, wait about 5 minutes for the oven temp to rise then put the next tray of cookies in the oven, move the sheet of parchment with the cookies on it from the tray to another cooling rack, and when cool enough not to break apart, move the individual cookies with a small spatula to a rack to cool.

These cookies are better the next day, but don't let that stop you from tasting them! Alice Medrich says "They can be stored in an airtight container for at least a month." I doubt they'll be around to test that assertion.

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