Hazelnuts and chocolate. It’s a lovely combination, isn’t it? For the eighth day of this cookie extravaganza, I wanted to do a nut/chocolate combo but peanut/chocolate didn’t seem special enough and I’d already used pistachios. Pecans were in the last cookie and while I like them very much, they’re not my first choice to pair with chocolate and chocolate is what I was after. Honestly, a chocolate-hazelnut pairing is hard to top. Just ask the Italians. None have embraced this combination quite like the Italians. Where would they be without their Nutella, Ferrero Rocher and Baci candies and can we talk about gianduja? Oh my lord. So the cookie of the day today, obviously, is a Chocolate Hazelnut Button.
As with all the cookies in this series, it’s simple enough to make. Add some cocoa, a little brown sugar and chopped hazelnuts to the basic butter cookie dough, along with a bit of baking soda for a crispy texture. Then, like the Thumbprints back on Day 1, the dough is rolled into balls and then coated in chopped nuts. This dough is a bit on the dry side so I give the cookies a little adhesion boost with some egg whites so the nuts stick better. But before you really get started, you have to deal with those hazelnuts.
If there’s one thing I especially despise about hazelnuts its the damn peeling. What a colossal pain in the ass. Seriously. In theory, you want to remove the skins because they are bitter. Depending on the quantity of nuts in a recipe, I may or may not spend a lot of time on this and there are two ways to go about it. Method one: roast the nuts, which loosen the skins, and then rub them vigorously between a dishtowel. This is always a big mess, never really removes the skins completely and is just a pain as previously mentioned. As careful as I try to be, those damn skins fly everywhere and stain my dishtowel. I’ve found a waffle-type woven dishtowel works best for its abrasive qualities with the additional benefit of nicely muffling my frustrated screams and curses.
Method two involves blanching the nuts in a water/baking soda solution which *supposedly* loosens the skins which are then hand peeled, one by one, under cold water then roasted. I have attempted this method exactly once. I made a big pot of purple hued water, had a sinkful of skin-on hazelnuts with the skins stubbornly refusing to peel off and ended up with a garbage can full of wet hazelnuts, an emergency late night trip to the store and a thick black cloud of curses hovering in my kitchen. If anyone has successfully executed this method, by all means, speak up.
So, needless to say, I go for the roasting method and have learned not to be such a stickler for stubbornly clingy skins. Not long ago while gazing at the big tubs of perfectly skinned hazelnuts in my pastry chef friend’s restaurant kitchen, I wondered outloud why skinless are not available at retail. She said two magic words to me: nuts.com. Lo and behold! Nuts.com has blanched hazelnuts! No more skins flying about, no more stained towels or curse clouds polluting the kitchen. Halleluiah! But there’s a catch. They’re pricey so this is a classic time/effort vs. cost dilemma. $17.99/lb + another $6 in shipping. Given that Trader Joe’s sells unroasted skin-on for around $7.99/lb that’s something to consider. But damn, it makes you think doesn’t it? Trader Joe’s get on this, will you?
STRESS THERAPY BAKING FACTOR: PERFECT COMBINATION. A good friend once told me that Nutella has magical mystical powers. She had a t-shirt that said, “There is nothing nutella and a spoon can’t fix” which was essentially her life motto. I can see that; it’s a wonderful flavor combination, delicious and comforting. These cookies fall right into that line. Nutty, chocolaty, crispy … they’re a great addition to your holiday mix. And they kind of look like a Ferrer Rocher too, which is always a good thing.
12 Days of Cookies: One Dough, Many Cookies
Cookie Prep – Basic Butter Cookie Dough
Day 1 – Jam Thumbprints
Day 2 – Mexican Chocolate Crinkles
Day 3 – Butter Rum Bars
Day 4 – Cranberry Pistachio Coins
Day 5 – Candied Ginger Spice Buttons
Day 6 – Russian Teacakes
Day 7 – Apricot Rosemary Shortbread
2015 12 Days of Cookies: Pretzel Caramel Shortbread, Fig Mezzaluna, Dutch Windmills, Bourbon Peach Rugelah, Chai Spiced Meringue Kisses, Almond Joy Bars, Swedish Kringla, Chile Lime Macaroons, Orange Cranberry Cornmeal Shortbread, Eggnog Buttons, Ginger Palmiers, Rainbow Cookies,
seven years ago: Pumpkin Bundt Cake, Adventures in India
six years ago: Bacon Cheddar Gougeres
five years ago: Southern Cheese Straws, Cookbook Gift List, Homemade for the Holidays
four years ago: Lemon Slice Cookies
three years ago: Pumpkin Spice Granola
two years ago: Cider Apple Pie
last year: Caldo Verde (Portugese Kale & Potato Soup)
CHOCOLATE HAZELNUT BUTTONS
Makes 6 ½ dozen cookies
½ batch basic butter cookie dough, room temperature
¾ cup hazelnuts, finely chopped
1/3 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
1/3 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
¾ teaspoon baking soda
3 egg whites, lightly beaten
½ cup hazelnuts, finely chopped
- In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the room temperature cookie dough, hazelnuts, cocoa, brown sugar and baking soda until well combined.
- Divide the dough in half and wrap each piece in plastic wrap.
- Chill at least 2 hours or up to 3 days (or freeze up to 3 months).
- When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F and line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper or silicone baking liners.
- Remove one piece of dough from the refrigerator.
- Roll walnut size pieces of dough into round balls.
- Brush the dough balls with the egg whites and roll in the finely chopped hazelnuts to coat.
- Space 1” apart on the prepared baking sheets.
- Bake 8-10 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through until lightly just firm to the touch.
- Do ahead: it’s best to make and freeze the dough and bake as needed rather than freeze baked cookies. Roll the dough into balls and freeze on a sheet pan. Once solid, transfer to a ziplock bag labeled with the cookie name, baking time/temperature and pop back in the freezer. Frozen dough will keep up to 3 months. Roll in egg whites/hazelnuts just before baking.