Are y'all as much of a fan of Food52.com as I am? It's such a great community of professional chefs and home cooks and my go-to source when I need a little inspiration. They also conduct a little cookbook tournament at the beginning of each year called The Piglet pitting all of the previous year's best against one another. Winner take all. Or maybe the winner takes nothing. I'm not sure.
This year's tourney was full of my top books from last year, including Baking Chez Moi, A Kitchen in France, My Paris Kitchen, Heritage, Huckleberry and Flavor Flours. The first round actually provided a little "controversy" so to speak between one book Fancy Desserts, that I own and will probably not bake from all that often simply because it's not, well, all that simple vs. one of my favorites from last year, A Kitchen in France. (I talked about it here). The first round reviewer, Adam Roberts, seemed offended by Ms. Thorisson's "lifestyle" and consequently penalized her. Actually he pretty much "shamed" her for being attractive in the form of a childish cartoon. Jealous much? Needless to say, Mimi took umbrage. I agreed. Look, I get that the stories and the writing in cookbooks is important but ultimately, I'm there for the food. And I think the average home cook will find the recipes in A Kitchen in France much more approachable than the ones in Fancy Desserts. Just saying.
Another of the first round match-up's pitted two baking legends against one another....Dorie Greenspan vs. Alice Medrich with Alice's Flavor Flours narrowly pulling out the win. Both of these books are fabulous but I'm going to agree with the reviewer on this one, if only for the fact that Flavor Flours (or is it Flour Flavors? I keep getting it confused!) offers up a totally gluten free baking book that doesn't keep screaming GLUTEN FREE every other word. Instead it introduces you to non-wheat flours such as Teff, Buckwheat, Sorghum, etc and their flavor profiles and what other ingredients work best with those profiles. The most humble and educational "gluten-free" book I've come across.
I've read several reviews of this book which have proclaimed the Carrot Spice Cake with Cream Cheese Icing and the Chestnut Jam Tart to be "unlike anything you've ever eaten. These Sables fall into the same category.
Alice says....."These are splendid plain cookies - even more buttery and flavorful than traditional butter cookies made with all-purpose wheat flour. They have a perfect melt-in-your-mouth sandy texture and a gentle nuance of oat flavor." I opted for her chai sable variation which added two teaspoons of pulverized chai from either loose chai or from the contents of tea bags. I used the tea from two of my favorite cinnamon chai tea bags and crushed it up into a finer powder using my mortar and pestle. I love, love, love the bold flavor of these cookies. Like a buttery cup of chai tea in cookie form.
There are so many suggested variations of these in the book and they all sound delicious.....from the addition of cacao nibs to lime and mint to grapefruit and basil. And because these are a slice and bake, they're perfect to make ahead and freeze so you can pull them out for a last minute treat.
I highly recommend this book, even if you're not gluten intolerant. You'll love the subtle difference non-wheat flours can make in your baking.
PS....as I was writing this I discovered that Flavor Flours was just defeated in The Piglet by Fancy Desserts, so that just goes to show what I know!! I'm going to have to dig that damn book out from the back of the shelves and take another look!
Here's the recipe:
Cinnamon Chai Sables
Flavor Flours by Alice Medrich
Makes about 36 2 1/2" cookies
1 1/4 plus 2 tablespoons oat flour
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons white rice flour
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 cup sugar (I used organic and non-GMO coconut sugar but regular is fine)
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup cream cheese, cut into chunks
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened and cut into chunks
2 tsp pulverized chai (from a package of loose chai or from the contents of 2 to 3 chai tea bags)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
To make the dough in a food processor, put the oat flour, rice flour, salt and baking soda in the food processor. Pulse to blend. Add the sugar, cream cheese, butter, chai, and vanilla. Pulse until the mixture forms a smooth, soft dough. Scrape the bowl and blend in any stray flour at the bottom with your fingers.
Divide the dough between two sheets of wax paper and form two 8-inch logs about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap them tightly in the wax paper and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, but preferably longer or overnight. The dough may be frozen for up to 3 months.
Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 325 deg. F.
Use a sharp knife to cut the cold dough long into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Place the cookies at least 1 1/2 inches apart on the lined baking sheets. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until the cookies are golden brown at the edges and well browned on the bottom. The tops will remain fairly pale. Rotate the pans from top to bottom and front to back halfway through the baking time to ensure even baking.
Set the pans or just the liners on racks to cool. Cool the cookies completely before stacking or storing, They may be kept in an airtight container for at least 2 weeks.