I wanted to try this recipe, another Ina Garten one, a couple of weeks ago, but it seems my local Publix believes hazelnuts are hard to come by this time of year. I was told they were a “Holiday only” item, which led me to believe they were strictly for Christmas time. But then I got my Easter edition of Martha Stewart Living a week or so later and in it was one or two recipes using hazelnuts. What was this odd embargo on these little nuts in my area?
So who do you call when your store won’t cough up the nuts? (Yeah, I said it.) That’s right, you call Mom. And our mom happened to have some in her freezer. This is reason number something million into infinity why moms rule. Frozen nuts. You here me, local Publix? These nuts aren’t just for “the” Holidays. They’re for others as well, and heck, you can find them online now as well. End ‘o rant.
If I admit I used to not be a fan of Nutella, will you shun me? I swear I don’t know what was wrong with me! I think it’s that I used to also not be that big of a hazelnut fan. That’s fixed, promise. We can keep being friends…right?
Even though the recipe calls for roasting whole hazelnuts, these chopped ones are what mom had and we took them and ran. Just watch them closely as they’ll not need nearly the time to toast in the oven as was directed on our bag. Toast for about five to six minutes at 350 degrees.
I knew shortbread was a buttery vessel, but three sticks, people. THREE. STICKS.
Anyway, use a small food prep machine or a food processor to grind the toasted nuts very fine and toss them in with the butter, I mean the shortbread dough.
Since there is so much butter in this, and we’ll be rolling the dough out, it’ll need to chillax in the fridge for a bit first. Just pat it reassuringly that it has a place in your tummy, while at the same time shaping it into a disk, wrap in plastic and set in the fridge. Even though the recipe just specifies one disk, I would suggest splitting it evenly into two. That way all of the dough chills more evenly. Ours was still a little less firm in the middle. Hmm, like my tummy now that I think of it. *pokes own tummy*
Going back to the butter, because there’s so much of it, you’ll need to work fairly quickly at rolling it out and making your cuts so that the dough doesn’t come too close to room temperature. If it does, it’ll be near impossible to handle the unbaked cookies without damaging their shape.
We want these cookies to be PURTY. Hurry up and get yur mitts off ’em!
We also rather naively placed our cookies relatively close to one another on the baking sheets, like so. Don’t do this. The recipe said nothing about the cookies needing to be spaced so far apart, and we were so caught up in working quickly to cut them out, and for some reason assumed they wouldn’t spread much, and well, we goofed up the first couple of batches a little. OK, a lot. Samples! They became samples.
Space your cookies, people, at least an inch to inch and a half apart. You won’t be able to pick them back up if you place them too close. They’ve already become quite happy with their places on the pan.
Fortunately, like with most cookie dough you have to roll out, there’s plenty of leftover dough you can mix back together by squishing it together with your hands. That’s our official term – squishing. If you continue to work quickly you can even roll it out and cut again without having to chill it. Just be the judge on whether or not the dough is too soft; if it is, it’s worth it to chill some more first.
I also wondered then why so many recipes using rolled out cookie dough don’t encourage the home cook to keep squishing the dough back together and re-rolling and cutting until there’s no more dough to do so with. I think the original recipe says it yields 36 cookies? Which get sandwiched together…but people, WHY waste all that cookie dough? Use it all up. Get your money’s worth. Squish squish SQUISH.
Hello creamy, chocolatey Nutella, of which I’m now a humble fan. *lick*
These are deceptively simple tasting at first, but then the old taste buds kick into gear and you’ll notice the very fine bits of hazelnut in the shortbread as well as the subtle flavor they add. The cookie itself, overall, is just how a shortbread cookie should be, buttery yet “light” tasting at the same time, with the perfect amount of crunch. Filled with Nutella spread, this makes an out-of-this-world cookie. The bonus is that a few days later these still tasted great if not even better.
Chocolate Hazelnut Shortbread Cookies
Adapted slightly from Barefoot Contessa How Easy Is That?: Fabulous Recipes & Easy Tips
- 1/2 cup whole hazelnuts (or chopped if that’s all you can get)
- 1/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon pure almond extract
- 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3/4 cup chocolate hazelnut spread, such as Nutella
- Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Place the hazelnuts on a sheet pan, roast for 10 minutes (if whole; five to six minutes if chopped), and allow to cool. Place the nuts in a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until finely ground.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix the butter and granulated sugar together on low speed until they are just combined. Stir in the almond and vanilla extracts plus two tablespoons of water. In a medium bowl sift or whisk together the flour and salt and then, with the mixer on low, add it slowly to the butter mixture. Add the hazelnuts and mix on low until the dough comes together. Dump onto a floured board and shape into a disk. Cut in half and shape those into disks, wrapping each in plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
On a floured board, roll each disk of dough 1/4 inch thick. (Be sure it’s not thicker.) Cut 36 (2 3/4-inch) rounds with a plain or fluted cutter. Use a 3/4-inch cutter to cut a smaller circle out of the middle of half the cookies. Place all the cookies on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, about an inch to inch and a half apart, and chill for 15 minutes.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, rotating once, until the edges of the cookies begin to brown (this time may vary for you so watch them closely). All to cool to room temperature.
Spread the Nutella thickly on the flat side of each solid cookie. Dust the tops of the cutout cookies lightly with confectioners’ sugar and place them on top of the Nutella, dusted side up.
Due to all the butter (and therefore fat) in these, they can suddenly turn to a burnt state quickly if you’re not careful. Keep a close eye on them while baking and always keep in mind that ovens vary on baking times, sometimes even your own from one batch to the next. Ours sure did. I’m going to start counting Peeking in the Oven as exercise.
We didn’t have the right size cookie cutter to cut out the little openings in the top cookies. We ended up using the tiny lid of one of kidlet’s sample medicine bottles, thoroughly washed, of course. I promise that no allergy medications were inadvertently transferred to these cookies…although who’d complain this time of year if they HAD been?
These really did still taste good a few days later, so congrats, you’ve discovered a good make ahead recipe! Forgo the Nutella till you’re ready to serve, or serve it alongside the cookies, too, if you prefer. I didn’t bother sandwiching them at all for coworkers, and let them decide if they wanted Nutella or not.
Despite this being in a cookbook with the word “easy” in the title, I thought this was one of the more complicated recipes of Ina’s that we’ve done. Then again, level of difficulty depends on how much you have and/or like to cook. People who frequently bake might not feel these are all that difficult. They are definitely do-able for a beginner, we feel, just that they may take longer than other recipes labeled as easy.