With Valentine’s Day rapidly approaching, my mind does what it does every year—it starts to fill up with thoughts and images of love, hearts, sugar cookies, and of course, chocolate. (Of course I don’t think about chocolate 24/7 every other time of the year . . . why would you think such a thing? Ha!) But I have to admit that by the time February 14th actually rolls around, sometimes the touch of cupid’s arrow has an undesired effect, sugar overload. So this year I decided to come up with a few treats that are still worthy of the season, but aren’t going to coat my taste buds in sugar and send my children climbing the walls. Living in Japan I came to appreciate desserts that weren’t as sweet. I learned that I loved them just as much, and often appreciated the flavors more because they weren’t being covered up by too much sugar. With this idea in mind, I dreamed up a sandwich cookie recipe with just enough sweetness to keep you coming back for more, but not enough to send you into a sugar coma. These cookies feature a bit of sweet white chocolate strawberry filling sandwiched between two rich dark chocolate sable cookies. Sable cookies are a classic French cookie that originated in Normandy on the west coast of France. “Sable” means “sandy” in French and refers to the slightly crisp, tender, sugary, salty, and delicate crumbly texture of the cookies. Sables are a great addition to any busy mom’s repertoire because the dough can be made and chilled for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months.
The key to making sables is to handle the dough, once the flour is added, as quickly and lightly as possible. Overworking the dough overworks the gluten, making the cookies tough and doughy. As a result, I like to make my sables without the use of a mixer, using only a whisk and a wooden spoon. When I do it this way, even my children can help. We start out by whipping the butter until it is creamy and smooth. Then we add the sugar, whisking until it is fluffy and light. “Squirrel” my 4 year old daughter, has become a master of the whisk, another reason to make these by hand. Who would deny an eager little girl the chance to whisk butter and sugar together to her heart’s delight?
Then we whisk together the dry ingredients in a separate bowl, add them to the butter and sugar mixture, and mix them together with a wooden spoon, just until the dry ingredients disappear into the dough. Even if a child is helping with this step, you won’t be in danger of overworking the dough if you are watching. As soon as those dry ingredients disappear, you’ll know it’s time to stop! Then you gather the dough together on a sheet of plastic wrap and shape it into a long thin log, wrap it up, and chill it! When the dough has chilled and you’re ready to go, simply slice the log into quarter-inch rounds, throw them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat, and throw them in the oven for 12 minutes. When they come out they’ll still be soft, but as they sit and cool, they will firm up. When they are completely cool, you can whip together the filling and assemble your sandwich cookies!
The lightly sweet rich chocolate cookies balance out the sweeter white chocolate strawberry filling, making a delightful treat, perfect for any Valentine.
Just be forewarned, your children may reward you with what my friend Brandi calls a “Chocolate Kiss.”
Dark Chocolate Cookie Sandwiches with Strawberry Ganache
Makes approximately 28 cookies
Recipe Notes: The dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months. If you’ve frozen the dough, you don’t need to defrost it before baking, just slice the log into cookies and bake the cookies 1 minute longer. For a fun variation, you can add a sugar edge to the dough. Whisk an egg yolk until smooth, brush it on the chilled cookie dough log, then sprinkle it with coarse sugar. Then slice and bake as directed in the recipe.
Dark Chocolate Cookies:
1 cup cake flour
1/2 cup ground almonds
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
8 1/2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 egg yolk
White Chocolate Strawberry Filling:
4 ounces white chocolate, chopped into small pieces
2 tablespoons strawberry jam
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1. Whisk the cake flour, ground almonds, cocoa powder, and salt together in a bowl.
2. In a separate large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until creamy and fluffy. Whisk in the egg yolk until incorporated.
3. Add the dry ingredients to the butter sugar mixture and mix until the dry ingredients disappear into the dough. For the best texture, work the dough as little as possible, and don’t be concerned if the dough looks a little crumbly.
4. Turn the dough out onto a large piece of plastic wrap. Shape the dough into a log that is approximately 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap the log in the plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
5. Getting ready to bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 335 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a large baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat.
6. Using a sharp thin knife, slice the log into rounds that are 1/4 inch thick. The rounds may crack as you are cutting them. Don’t be concerned, just squeeze the bits back onto each cookie. Arrange the rounds on the baking sheets, leaving about 1/2 inch between them.
7. Bake the cookies for 12 minutes—they won’t look done, nor will they be firm, but that’s the way they should be. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and let the cookies rest until they reach room temperature.
8. Make the filling: When the cookies have reached room temperature, make the filling. Place the white chocolate in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan, heat the strawberry jam and almond extract over medium heat. Pour the jam over the chocolate and stir until the mixture is completely smooth. Let the mixture cool slightly.
9. Assemble cookie sandwiches: Spread a spoonful of filling on the bottom side of a cookie. Gently place a similar shaped cookie, bottom side down, on top of the filling, pressing lightly on the middle of the cookie to sandwich the two cookies together. Be careful not to push too hard, and not to push on the edges of the cookie, as the cookies are delicate and will break. Repeat with remaining cookies and ganache.