Imagine my surprise (and delight) as I slipped into the kitchen a few mornings ago and found my youngest step-daughter curled up in a comfy chair with a fist full of post-it tags in her right hand, and an open cookbook on her lap. I asked her what she was up to, and she told me that she was “just looking for some fun stuff to cook.”
God be praised.
As I walked closer I could see that she hadn’t picked up one of the few “kid” oriented cookbooks that I had on the shelf, but rather the quite fabulous Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Herme .
She had a wide grin on her face and that all too familiar glazed look in her eyes, which I recognized immediately as a sign of someone who had just been exposed to a healthy dose of really good food porn. She quickly shoved the book in my face and rapidly started to flip the pages to show me all the recipes she wanted to try; the Triple Chocolate and Meringue Ice Cream Puffs, the Gâteau Saint-Honoré, and the Plaisir Sucré were her favorites….oh my. To be sure, these are some of the more elaborate and complicated confections in the whole book.
As challenging as her choices were (especially for a 10 year old), I gotta say that I like the way she thinks. She is definitely a ”go BIG, or go home” kinda girl. No fussing about with a beginner’s cookbook for her, no sir. If she was going to learn how to bake, then she wanted to have the world’s premiere pastry chef showing her the way…….ummm, that would be Pierre, not me.
Now, this is a book that I had bought while living in Paris, and in fact, it was written with Pierre by fellow food-blogger, part-time Parisian, and incomparable cookbook writer, Dorie Greenspan . It is a fabulous cookbook and one that I have enjoyed drooling over, and cooking from, over the past few years; but many of the recipes, such as the ones my young friend had discovered, are not exactly geared for first timers. Working gently, so as not to dampen her enthusiasm, I led her to a more appropriate “first” recipe to try from this book, the delicious Viennese Chocolate Sablés. They are a simple, delicate and highly addicting chocolate shortbread cookie, that as luck would have it, are traditionally piped with a star tip into the shape of a W, or if you flip it upside down, an M, which if your name is Muppet, makes you very happy indeed!
The recipe as written is very easy to follow and spot-on. Muppet measured all the ingredients, I mixed the butter, sugar and salt with a hand-held electric mixer, and then she mixed the balance of the ingredients in by hand.
In the process of making these cookies, she also learned the very important lesson of reading a recipe through to its conclusion before starting to cook. This insures that you not only make certain that you have all the ingredients on-hand, but also understand any special equipment requirements or special tips that the author may recommend, prior to actually starting to make your recipe. In this instance I am the one who missed the helpful tip that Dorie shares regarding piping the batter in three batches….this is IMPORTANT! In my haste to get the cookies in the oven, I placed all of the dough in the pastry bag at once and we found it too hard to pipe onto the sheet trays. Big mistake. Dividing the dough into three batches makes it much easier to work with, especially if you have young hands helping you that want to make the M’s just so.
These cookies are perfect nibbles to enjoy with a cold glass of milk, or a cup of coffee or tea, and are excellent homemade treats for a lunchbox or an after school treat.
Viennese Chocolate Sablés (or as we call them, M Cookies)
Adapted from "Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé"
by Dorie Greenspan
1 3/4 cups plus 1 1/2 tablespoons (260g) all purpose flour
5 tablespoons (30g) Dutch-processed cocoa powder, preferably Valrhona
2 sticks plus 1 1/2 tablespoons (8 3/4 ounces; 250g) unsalted butter, at room temp.
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (100g) confectioners' sugar, sifted
pinch of salt
3 tablespoons lightly beaten egg whites (lightly beat 2 large egg whites, then measure out 3 tablespoons)
confectioners' sugar for dusting (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350F (180C) and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Fit a pastry bag with a medium sized-open star tip . (The tip should be starred, but its piping hole should be open and straight, rather than curved and tightly rounded, as the dough is too stiff to be pushed through a rounded/closed-in tip.)
Whisk together the flour and cocoa in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, beat the butter with a whisk or a hand-held electric mixer until it is light and creamy. Beat in the sugar and salt, then stir in the egg whites. (The mixture may separate and look curdled at this point, but don’t despair, it will come together when you add the dry ingredients.) Gradually add the flour and cocoa and gently mix with a rubber spatula until it is just incorporated. Don't overwork the dough once flour is added, a light touch is what gives these cookies their delicate texture.
Because the dough is thick and heavy, it's best to work with it in batches (thank you for making this clear Dorie, and I’m sorry I missed this tip the first time thr
ough). Spoon about a third of the dough into the pastry bag, Pipe the dough into W (or even better, M) shaped cookies, each about 2 inches long and 1 1/4 inches wide, and 1 inch apart onto the baking sheets.
Bake the cookies for 10 to 12 minutes, or until they are set but neither browned at the edges nor hard. Using a spatula, transfer the cookies to a rack to cool to room temperature. Repeat with the remaining dough.
Dust the cookies with confectioners' sugar before serving if you wish.
The cookies will keep in a tightly covered tin at room temperature for a week, though once discovered, you’ll be lucky if they last a day. They can be wrapped and frozen for up to a month.
Makes about 65 of these lovelies.