I take inspiration where I can get it.
This recipe, for example, was inspired by the Salt & Pepper chocolate bar, one of my favorite flavors from Nashville’s own bean-to-bar chocolate company, Olive & Sinclair. The bar features 67% dark chocolate sprinkled with flake sea salt and black pepper. I’ve been wanting to turn that bar into a chocolate sable cookie for some time now (why sables? Because “salt & pepper sable cookie” just sounds cool, I guess?) and finally got my scattered thoughts together to actually make it a reality.
Now, I know the idea of black pepper with chocolate might sound strange to you, but trust me, it’s really something unique and rather delicious. Especially with the sea salt, it’s like a megaphone for flavor.
The cookies, rather than being sprinkled with S&P (because that would be boring and expected), are dipped in dark chocolate and then set on a cookie sheet that’s been sprinkled with flake sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper. The chocolate settles into the spices as it hardens, giving the cookies a hidden punch of flavor in each and every bite.
They’re not topped. They’re bottomed.
You could also dip one side of the cookie in chocolate instead of the bottom, and sprinkle that with salt and pepper, but you’d end up with a salty peppery side and a plain side. You could also sprinkle the unbaked cookies with a bit of sea salt and pepper and skip the dipping altogether, but where’s the fun in that?
The secret to super rich, ultra-chocolaty, and delightfully sandy sable cookies? Three kinds of chocolate for one thing, including dutch-process cocoa powder and grated chocolate in the dough, and a dip in dark chocolate after baking.
The other secret? European butter. The high fat/low water content in the butter keeps the cookies tender and not tough, and the dough workable and not crumbly. Trust me on this one. I personally used salted Kerrygold Irish butter, but any other European or French-style butter would work well too.
Dipping strategy is everything.
For these cookies I lined a baking sheet with parchment, and sprinkled 24 roundish areas of salt and pepper onto the parchment.
Then I dipped my cookies (btw this little chocolate melting pot is my favorite tool, I’ve never burnt a batch of chocolate since I’ve had this thing). Yes, your fingertips will get dipped too, but that’s ok (we’re not scared of a little mess, are we now?)
Place the just-dipped chocolate-bottomed cookies onto the S&P sprinkled baking sheet. The melted chocolate will settle and set with the seasoning firmly embedded (unlike if you sprinkled it on top, the salt might flake off if the cookies get jostled together).
If you have any leftover chocolate (you should), transfer it to a plastic squeeze bottle and drizzle it over the top of your cookies.
Now, if you know how to temper chocolate, good on you (teach me your ways). Your dipped-in-tempered-chocolate cookies will be stable at room temperature (just call them stable sables).
But if, like me, you tend to lose your temper (in more ways than one), don’t despair: just keep your cookies refrigerated so the chocolate stays solid (and again, some might melt onto your fingers as you eat it but I think we’ve determined that’s not an issue here).
- 1 1/2 cups (7 ounces) all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup (1.5 ounces) dutch-process cocoa powder, sifted
- 1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) salted European-style butter* such as Kerrygold, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 egg yolk
- 2 ounces dark chocolate (60-70%), grated or very finely chopped in a food processor
- 10 ounces dark chocolate, chopped, for dipping/drizzling
- large flake sea salt (such as Maldon) and fresh coarse ground black pepper
- In a bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, espresso, baking soda and salt until evenly incorporated. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter until fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Add sugar and brown sugar and beat on medium speed until just incorporated (you don’t want to overbeat this since the graininess of the sugar is what helps the cookie retain its sandy texture). Mix in egg yolk, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
- Add dry ingredients and mix on low speed or by hand until mostly incorporated, then mix in grated chocolate. The dough will be somewhat crumbly but should come together into a soft dough. Knead once or twice to pick up any remaining dry bits and form it into a rough ball.
- Split dough into two pieces and shape each into a log approximately 1 1/2-inches in diameter. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and chill until thoroughly set, at least 2 hours or overnight if possible. (Tip: place your roll in a paper towel tube to keep it round as it chills!)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
- Unwrap one roll of dough. Using a sharp knife, cut into rounds approximately 3/8-inch (1 cm) thick. Arrange on baking sheet, leaving 1-2 inches of space between cookies.
- Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until tops are set and bottom edges are just starting to darken. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Line a clean sheet pan with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Sprinkle with a layer of flake sea salt and black pepper. If you don’t want to cover the whole sheet, create circlular areas of salt and pepper where the dipped cookies will get placed.
- Gently melt chocolate in a double boiler or in a microwave (heat in 30 second intervals at 50% power, stirring in between). If you feel comfortable tempering chocolate, that’s ideal as the cookies will be more stable at room temperature, but if not it’s ok too.
- Dip bottoms of cooled cookies into melted chocolate, then place onto baking sheet on loose salt and pepper. Repeat with remaining cookies. If you have leftover chocolate, transfer to a plastic squeeze bottle or piping bag and drizzle over top of cookies. Let cool until chocolate hardens or refrigerate for 20 minutes until set. If your chocolate wasn’t tempered, store your cookies in the refrigerator in an airtight container (with parchment or waxed paper in between layers) for up to 5 days.
*This recipe uses European style butter, which has a higher fat content than American-style butter. The high fat/low water content makes the dough less crumbly and gives these cookies their distinctive texture. This is a splurge recipe, so go for the good butter and the good chocolate!