Ever since developing a chocolate peppermint shortbread recipe, I’ve been dreaming of creating a chocolatey sable recipe. I love that French sable cookies often have a rim of crunchy sparkling sugar, an ideal textural contrast with the rest of the biscuit. The realm of shortbread/sables/biscuits are often less sweet in nature, so that extra ounce of sugar on the outside brings everything together.
The base of these cocoa sables are similarly less sweet, and so a drizzle of white chocolate balances the whole cookie. But you can even nix the white chocolate if you want to pair them with a sweet drink, like eggnog. And the combination of chocolate, hazelnut, and orange is honestly a dream come true to me. It’s nutty, fragrant, and rich. These crumbly sables are an ideal cookie for the holidays!
Sables are very close to shortbread cookies, but they do have a few small differences. For this recipe, I took some hints from Dorie Greenspan’s classic recipe. The dough is on the softer side, less crumbly than a shortbread, and wetter from the addition of egg yolk.
How do I make hazelnut-orange cocoa sables?
First, you’ll make a cocoa-based dough with orange zest and chopped hazelnuts mixed in. The dough, then shaped into a log (these are slice-and-bake style cookies!), needs to chill for a few hours to prevent spreading and develop a deeper flavor. Then, you’ll roll the log in sparkling sugar, cut it into 1/3-inch cookies, and bake until set. After cooling completely, you can drizzle with a little white chocolate if desired.
What substitutions can I make for these hazelnut-orange cocoa sables?
- I love the combination of hazelnut, orange, and cocoa, but pistachios or almonds would also work wonderfully!
- For a double-chocolate combo, sub the white chocolate or milk chocolate.
- Can I use natural cocoa? No, use dutch-processed cocoa for the richest flavor.
Recipe: Hazelnut-Orange Cocoa Sables
- 2 sticks (226g unsalted butter, at room temperature)
- 1/3 cup (40g) powdered sugar or confectioner's sugar
- 1/3 cup (67g) granulated white sugar
- 1 large egg (separated into yolk and white)
- Zest from 1 orange
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 cup (29g) Dutch-process cocoa powder, sifted if clumpy
- 2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour, sifted if clumpy
- 1/2 cup (67g) hazelnuts, chopped (remove any large pieces of the outer skin that separate from the nut while chopping)
- 1/3 cup (75g) sparkling or demerara sugar
- 1/2 cup white chocolate (finely chopped (optional))
Make the dough
- In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or an electric hand mixer), add butter, granulated sugar, and powdered sugar. Start mixer on low speed until butter and sugars combine, then increase to medium speed and beat for 1 minute until slightly fluffy.
- On medium speed, add the egg yolk, orange zest, and vanilla extract and beat until just combined.
- Gradually add the salt, cocoa powder, and flour on low speed and beat until the dough is homogeneous and no dry spots remain. You may need to scrape down the mixer with a spatula at times to ensure everything is fully incorporated. The dough will feel soft and slightly sticky.
- On low speed, add the chopped hazelnuts and beat until evenly distributed.
- Divide the dough in half and place one portion on top of a large piece of plastic wrap. Tightly fold the plastic wrap over cover the dough, then using your hands roll the dough into a tight log shape. You can roll the dough back and forth on your counter to get a smoother log shape. Repeat with the other portion of dough. Chill both halves in the fridge for at least 3 hours, up to 1 day.
Slice and bake the dough
- Once the dough has chilled, preheat the oven to 325F.
- Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.
- In a small bowl, whisk remaining egg white. Pour sparkling sugar onto a cutting board or plate in a roughly even layer.
- Unwrap one of the dough portions and use a pastry brush to brush the egg white mixture on all sides until coated. Then, roll the dough into the sparkling sugar until fully coated on the sides (no need to coat the two ends, as you only want the sugar to coat the edges of the cookies). You can also pick up some of the sugar to cover any bare spots. Slice into 1/3-inch thick circles. If any of the cookies break, gently press them back together.
- Arrange each cookie 2 inches apart on the baking sheet to allow room for spreading. Bake for 20 to 24 minutes. When done, the cookies will still appear soft, but they will look matte and barely make an indent if you gently tap the center of them with your fingers. Let cool for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire cooling rack to finish cooling completely.
Drizzle with white chocolate (optional)
- To melt the chocolate, add white chocolate to a small bowl, then microwave for 30 seconds. Stir with a spoon, then microwave in 15-second intervals until completely melted.
- While still warm, use a spoon or a squeeze bottle to drizzle white chocolate over the cooled cookies. Let cool at room temperature until white chocolate sets completely before eating.
- Store in an airtight container or ziploc bag for 3 to 4 days at room temperature.
Recipe reference: Dorie Greenspan’s Vanilla Bean Sables