Vail Baking: Cookies combine two great flavors
High Country Baking
VAIL, Colorado –What do Rocher, Baci and Giandujotto have in common? They’re all candies that combine hazelnuts and chocolate and, if you’ve nibbled one of them, you know how wonderfully well they work together.
Slightly bitter, complex, and very flavorful, hazelnuts and sweet, silky chocolate are a classic match. This little cookie capitalizes on that pairing by sandwiching Nutella – a commercial spread that combines the two in a rich, smooth, nut-butter – between two delicate, hazelnut-flavored shortbread cookies. Oh, so simple, and oh, so tasty.
If you have access to a food processor, the cookies are very easy to make. Grind the nuts and sugar, mix in the flour, salt and butter and the dough is done. Just roll, cut and bake. Then, smear some of that delicious chocolate-hazelnut spread on a cooled cookie and top it with another. It couldn’t be more straightforward.
The cookies spread a little as they bake, so choose a cookie cutter that’s a simple shape. You’ll lose some of the design if the cutter is too intricate.
The finished cookies keep for several days. The shortbreads, without the Nutella, freeze well for about a month. Just defrost and let them come to room temperature before filling them with the Nutella and serving.
Adjusted for altitudes between 8,000 and 10,000 feet
Yield depends on the size of your cookie cutter
1/2 cup of hazelnuts
1/2 cup of granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon of bleached all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon of salt
12 tablespoons (one and a half sticks) of unsalted butter
Approximately 7 ounces of Nutella spread (half a jar)
Step One: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees, with a rack in the center position. Toast the hazelnuts in the oven while it heats. As soon as they come out the oven, put them in a clean kitchen towel and rub vigorously to remove as much of the skin as possible. Set the nuts aside to cool. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or Reynold’s Release non-stick foil. (Doing this, rather than greasing the pan, inhibits the cookies from spreading when they bake.)
Step Two: Place the hazelnuts and the half-cup of sugar in the bowl of a food processor and process until the nuts are finely ground. Add the flour and the salt and pulse to combine. Cut the butter into about 24 pieces, add them to the bowl and pulse until the mixture forms a shaggy dough. Stop just before it forms a ball.
Step Three: Dump the dough onto a piece of waxed paper or plastic wrap and shape it into a disc. If it is too soft to roll easily, refrigerate the disc until the dough is firmer. When ready to roll, top the dough with another piece of waxed paper or plastic wrap and roll it to a thickness of one-eighth of an inch. Don’t roll it any thinner or the cookies may burn. If necessary, freeze the rolled dough briefly, until firm (about three to five minutes), to allow easy cutting. (I place it, still between the sheets of waxed paper, on a cookie sheet and put the sheet in the freezer.) Remove the top piece of plastic wrap or waxed paper, cut out the cookies and transfer them to the prepared cookie sheet. Bake just until the cookies start to color and are set. The amount of time this takes will depend on the size of your cookie cutter and the thickness of your cookies. It takes about 19-21 minutes in my oven when I use a two inch long/one inch wide cutter.
Step Four: Place the baked cookies on a rack. Leave them on the pan for about five minutes so they firm up before removing them to cool completely on the rack. When the cookies are cool, warm the Nutella just slightly to assure easy spreading. Pair up the cookies and spread Nutella over one and top it with the other, bottoms facing each other. Give the cookies a few minutes for the Nutella to set up, then serve or store them for several days in an airtight container at cool room temperature.
This recipe is inspired by one in Tate’s Bake Shop Cookbook.
Vera Dawson, a chef instructor at the Culinary Institute of Colorado Mountain College, lives in Summit County, where she bakes almost every day. Her recipes have been tested in her home kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact her with your comments about this column and/or your baking questions at email@example.com.
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