Sunday, February 11, 2018

Nusstaler Cookies

Sometimes we need a diversion or a way to unwind the day. For bloggers, I believe, that diversion is to head to the kitchen and bake. A project in the kitchen allows your mind to focus on creating and discard the other events of the day. The end result is a clear mind as well as a tasty treat.

Today, cookies have been chosen as the diversion. Not just any cookies, but a form of shortbread. Shortbread...the unmistakable, buttery and melt in your mouth texture is hard to resist. In addition to that, the dough is quite open to variations. Some of the variations include chocolate chips and/or nuts.

This particular version is a traditional German shortbread cookie. The recipe incorporates hazelnuts and dark chocolate. Quite a winning combination. The yield is about 2 dozen cookies and does not require much time.

Nusstaler Cookies
adapted from Brooklyn homemaker 

1 tsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups hazelnuts
6-8 oz dark chocolate
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup or 1 stick butter
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

The first step is to create the hazelnut flour. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the hazelnuts on a baking sheet in one layer. Place pan in preheated oven and let nuts toast for about 10 minutes. As they toast, dampen a clean kitchen towel. Remove nuts from oven and place a handful of nuts on towel and rub vigorously to remove hazelnut skins. Rinse skinned nuts and place in a separate bowl to dry. Repeat the process until all the nuts have been skinned. Turn oven off.

Once the nuts have dried, place 1 cup of the nuts in a food processor and pulse until a nuts are fine, reserving the remaining 1/2 cup of whole nuts for garnish. After grinding the nuts, sift the flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking powder together. Using a spatula, scrape the bottom and edges of the food processor bowl, so the nuts do not cling to the crevasses. Then add the sifted ingredients to the food processor and pulse until all is blended together.

Take out another bowl and fill with the butter and sugar. Beat together for 30 seconds and scrape down sides of bowl. Repeat process 3 more times until mixture is light and fluffy. Then mix in the egg and vanilla, distributing evenly. Take out a wooden spoon and blend in 1/2 of the dry ingredients. Repeat with the remaining half until no dry streaks remain. Once thoroughly blended, cover bowl and place in refrigerator to chill for 1 hour. After about 45 minutes, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

After the chill process is complete, prepare 2 baking sheets by lining with parchment paper. Take out cookie dough and scoop batter into mounds (about 1 inch in diameter with 1 1/2 tsp of dough ) and place one dozen evenly on baking sheet. Then carefully flatten the mounds slightly, either using your hands or the bottom flat side of a glass or bench scraper. Place one hazelnut in the center of each mound.

Place in oven and bake for 10-13 minutes, or until golden on bottom and edges. Remove and let cool on baking sheet for 2 minutes then transfer to cookie sheet to completely cool. Repeat the process of forming and baking the rest of the cookie dough.

After the cookies have cooled, prepare a double boiler and place over medium heat. Then line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Chop 6 ounces of the dark chocolate and place in top pot of the the double boiler. Once all is melted, use tongs to carefully lower the bottom of each cookie in the chocolate. Let chocolate drip off and then place cookies on baking sheet. Once the chocolate is set, the cookies are ready to serve.

Tips and notes:
1. Grinding the nuts at home does not pulverize them, so there is a different result when using hazelnut flour. The home grind leaves the nuts in bigger pieces which affects the texture. Which you use is a personal preference.

2. Skinning the nuts is not a perfect process, so there will be some skin that remains. You can purchase the hazelnuts either with or without skins.

3. Cookies do not expand much in baking.

4. Flatten cookies to about a 1 to 3/4 inch height, otherwise the dough will remain as the round scoop when baked.

4. Due to the chocolate on the cookies, I store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
                                  **LAST YEAR:Mulled Wine Jammers**