I made a bunch of cookies on Saturday afternoon, when it was cold outside and my oven and I were indulging in a little love affair. They were delicious, the cookies, all sandy and and buttery and wholesome and it was so calming, the process, making the simple dough and chilling it in a long, thin rope.
The small discs of dough turned golden brown in the heat of the oven, a frilly edge forming around the base of the cookies that crumbled deliciously under my fingers as I lifted the cookies off the sheet to cool. We ate them, dunked in tea, as we sat on the couch and at the desk in the waning daylight. Billie Holiday was on the radio and all I could think about was that the sound of her voice, on these cold, autumn days, just sounds so exactly right. You can't really listen to Billie in the summer, not with the same melancholy longing that you get when it's slowly growing dark outside and Manhattan glows coolly, gently on the horizon.
You might think that adding whole wheat flour to a regular little butter cookie might toughen it a bit, or make it too grainy, but I promise that it doesn't. In fact, you barely notice that these cookies are different - they're as delicious as their classic cousins. I chopped up a handful of lackluster dried dates to add to the dough, but I wouldn't do that again (they get too hard and chewy, lodging unpleasantly in your teeth) - do as Alice Medrich says and add cocoa nibs or toasted hazelnuts, chopped, of course. In fact, I imagine you could even add a little shower of chopped bittersweet chocolate and produce an elegant, Gallic version of the chocolate chip cookie.
With Thanksgiving around the corner, one could mistakenly think that cookies aren't exactly what the doctor ordered, but I've got to pipe up here and nudge you, delicately, because it's often exactly these kind of days that require a simple cookie and a hot cup of tea to bolster you. You could be stuck in traffic or stranded at an airport on the way to where you'll be celebrating: a couple of these cookies might make you feel a little less helpless. If you're hosting the feast this year, and you're suddenly overwhelmed by the kitchen prep that awaits you, a sable or two could make you stand up straight again, suddenly sure of your menu. And if you're just making a side dish or two and bringing them to a potluck, well, then you've already got the oven going - is it really that much more work to pop a few of these in the oven? Go on, go ahead. You'll be happy you did.
1 cup (4.5 ounces) flour
Scant 1 cup (4 ounces) whole wheat flour
1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup cacao nibs or chopped toasted hazelnuts
1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and whole wheat flour and set aside.
2. In another medium bowl, using the back of a large spoon or with an electric mixer, beat the butter with the sugar, salt and vanilla until smooth and creamy but not fluffy, about 1 minute. Add the cacao nibs and mix to incorporate. Add the flour and mix just until incorporated. Scrape the dough into a mass and, if necessary, knead with your hands a bit, just until smooth.
3. Form the dough into a 12-by-2-inch log. Wrap the log tightly in plastic wrap; refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or preferably overnight.
4. Position the oven racks in the upper and lower third of the oven and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
5. Using a sharp knife, cut the cold dough log into one-fourth-inch slices. Place the cookies at least 1 1/2 inches apart on the baking sheets. Bake until the cookies are light golden brown at the edges, 12 to 16 minutes, rotating the baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking. Allow the cookies to rest on the sheets about 1 minute to firm up, then transfer them to a rack using a metal spatula. Let them cool completely. Store the cookies in an airtight container.