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50/50 Sablé

The whole grain trend that is sweeping the nation is alright with me. The health benefits of whole grains are great, but the flavor is what keeps me coming back for more. They just taste good, and they make even the simplest thing more interesting. Kim Boyce schooled us [1] all a few years ago, and I am happy each time the lesson is reinforced.

The first Tartine [2] cookbook is one of my all-time favorite kitchen resources. It taught me a lot about the kind of rustic french-influenced American baking that I love so much. I refer to that book regularly and have been happily baking from it for years. The second book from America’s favorite bakery, Tartine Bread [3], was also beautiful, though I have to admit that I am not a baker who will ever keep a starter alive in my kitchen, or use a preferment. Maybe the world can be divided into two camps? I’ll throw together some no-knead bread, or bake a quick loaf of brioche- but more serious breads I will buy from people who can make them better and more easily than I can. It is a luxury of living in a city—access. So, while I appreciated Tartine Bread, I don’t think I’ve ever cooked from it.

We now have Tartine No. 3, a book focusing on whole grain baking. I was excited for the release of this book, and again it is well-executed. But again, it is for another sort of baker. In this third book even the tea cakes, scones and galette doughs require leaven and poolish. I have no doubt that the results of the effort would be delicious, but again— I’m not doin that.

Thankfully, there are a few recipes that don’t require advanced planning. My favorite is this recipe for 50/50 sablés, which are butter cookies made with various combinations of nuts and grains. It’s kind of like a choose-your-own-adventure cookie. They are simple to make and wonderful to eat. They can be made into small thumbprints, or eaten plain.

I made two versions, rye with pecan and barley with cashews. I loved them both. I liked the rye and pecan on its own, though it was also nice with raspberry jam. It had a kind of linzer cookies flavor, which you could enhance with some added spice. The barley and cashew was outrageously good with a spoonful of plum jam in the center (I think apricot would delicious too).

50/50 Sablés (from Tartine No. 3 [4] by Chad Robertson)

The complete recipe is available here [5], along with more notes. Their version looks less hydrated than mine, not sue why but it sounds like both were successful. I followed the recipe exactly, except that I chilled the formed cookies in the fridge for a bit so they better held their shape in the oven. I did that because I was making thumbprints, probably not necessary if you’re not planning on filling them.

Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C. Spread the nuts or pumpkin seeds on a baking sheet and toast until golden in color. (Cocoa nibs are already toasted, so if making the cocoa nib-buckwheat version, skip this step.) Remove from the oven and let cool completely.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the nuts, pumpkin seeds, or cocoa nibs, flour, sugar, and salt and pulse until very finely ground, about 1 minute. Transfer to a large bowl and add the butter by hand, a few pieces at a time, massaging the butter into the dry ingredients until it forms a dough. (If the dough seems dry and is not holding together, add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes together.)

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and bring it together with your hands into one cohesive mass.

Roll the dough into two logs, each about 15 by 1/2 in/38 cm by 12 mm, then cut each log into 1/2-in/12-mm slices and roll each slice into a ball. Transfer the balls, spacing them about 1/2 in/12 mm apart, to parchment-lined baking sheets.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through baking to ensure even browning, until the cookies are golden around the edges (depending on the nut-flour combination used, the golden hue will be more or less noticeable; with the cocoa nib and buckwheat combination it will be less noticeable, with the cashew-barley combination, more).

Remove the baking sheets from the oven and let the cookies cool completely. The cookies will keep up to 3 days in an airtight container.

*** It is also worth noting that there are some very serious errors in the Chamomile Shortbread recipe. Like, it is a disaster. The publisher has assured me that they will correct the errors in the next printing- but I guess tread lightly with this book. Where there is one error, there are usually more. Ugh.