I am so sorry I did not get this post to you in time for Christmas cookies. I made the plain hazelnut version with my mom, sent two thirds home with her (she and my dad love these cookies) and I kept one third, figuring I would photograph them in a day or two. The thing is, as far as I could remember from last year, when I made them with almonds, these cookies were not as crazy of a hit with my husband or kids. Apparently that was either changing tastes or the almonds, one or the other, because when I went looking for some cookies to photograph, all I found were crumbs.
Ooops. So a few days before Christmas I made 2 more batches, one plain hazelnut and one with espresso powder. My absolute favorite, hands down, was the espresso version. John still prefers them plain. My sister and my dad really liked the espresso (it cuts a lot of the sweetness from the caramelized sugar, lending a bittersweet complexity to the cookie).
But if you cannot decide which to make, just do what I did and make both. I have received enough compliments on both versions of this cookie that I think I can safely say both are guaranteed crowd-pleasers and worth the small effort. And they are also good keepers, like all of my favorite holiday cookie recipes. And despite my encouragement to bake these for the holidays, I would argue they also make excellent summer treats, as they are delicate and light (despite being rich) and go really well with ice cream. For an unusual-but incredibly tasty-Valentine’s dessert, try serving these cookies in a martini glass in white chocolate mousse.
The easiest way to deal with this recipe is to buy pre-ground nut meal, although you can certainly grind it yourself. Bob’s Red Mill sells both almond and hazelnut. As far as I know you can use any nut you want. This is a fun cookie to demonstrate to your kids because of the way the blobs of dough, shown above, spread into such delicate, lacy cookies. If you prefer the plain version, just leave out the espresso.
- 2 oz hazelnut meal (about 1/2 cup)
- 2 oz (4 T) unsalted butter
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 2 T light corn syrup
- 1 1/2 t instant espresso
- 1.5 oz (1/3 cup) AP flour
- Pinch salt
- 1 t vanilla
Position two racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Pre heat the oven to 350 F. Line two baking sheets with silicone liners or parchment paper.
If necessary, use a food processor to grind the hazelnuts finely and measure out 1/2 cup if you don't have a scale (I just weighed the hazelnut meal). Heat the butter, sugar, instant espresso and corn syrup in a medium saucepan over low heat, stirring often, until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to medium high and, stirring constantly, bring the mixture just to a boil. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the flour and salt until incorporated. Stir in the hazelnut meal and the vanilla. The mixture will thicken yet will still be quite loose while it is hot. As it cools, it will become firmer and firmer--and stickier, until finally it is easier to use your fingers to pinch the dough. Both consistencies are totally fine.
Drop the batter by the teaspoon 3 inches apart on the baking sheets, six cookies per baking sheet. Bake the cookies until evenly light brown, about 10 minutes. Oddly, despite starting out quite different colors, the espresso and plain versions look remarkably the same after being baked. About 5 minutes into baking, switch the sheets from top to bottom and back to front to promote even baking. The cookies won't begin to spread until about 6 minutes into baking.
Remove the cookies from the oven and let them set on the pan for 3-5 minutes. When they are firm enough to remove, use a wide spatula to transfer them to a cooling rack to cool completely. Wipe the pan with a paper towel before re-using.