If it wasn't obvious from my cookie page, I've got something of a permanent craving for bite-sized crunchy/chewy treats. Hanukkah isn't really a cookie-focused holiday -- it's more a celebration of your deep fryer. But Christmas is just around the corner, and every year, I get swept up in the holiday spirit. This year is no exception, and I'm more than happy to bake off a few batches in honor of the holiday cookie season. Just doing my duty, people.
Tonight's first batch was my favorite chocolate chip cookies. Everyone's got a favorite recipe: mine are pretty close to the NYT recipe, only I don't mess around with the two different types of flour, I use natural sugar instead of bleached white stuff, and I use a mix of ghiradelli chocolate chips and chopped bittersweet chocolate for textural contrast.
After a few of those were in the oven -- for D, of course, just wanted to please my lady -- I moved onto batch number two: hazelnut shortbread. Less sweet but just as buttery and full of toasted nuts, these shortbread are chocolate chip cookies' sophisticated sibling. They come together in a flash, and can be baked in any number of ways. If you're in a rush, roll the whole pile of dough into a log and stick them in the freezer for slice-and-bake action later. If you have more time, form them into little individual log cookies. Either way, dunk the finished shortbread into shiny melted chocolate (or just drizzle the chocolate on top using a fork), and roll in toasted nuts on top for some truly elegant December desserts. Oh, and by the way: they make a lovely holiday present.
Speaking of holiday presents, if buying toys isn't your thing, why not make something homemade? Fudge, sea-salt caramels, cookies, truffles, and even home-assembled cake mixes (dry ingredients layered decoratively in a jar, with instructions included) all make great gifts.
Chocolate-Dipped Hazelnut Shortbread adapted from Bon Appetit
1 cup all purpose flour 1/2 teaspoon baking powder 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature 1/3 cup sugar 1/2 cup finely ground husked toasted hazelnuts (about 2 ounces) 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 ounces high-quality milk chocolate (such as Lindt or Perugina), chopped 1/3 cup coarsely chopped husked toasted hazelnuts or shelled, unsalted pistachios
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 325°F. Line large baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat butter and sugar in large bowl until smooth. Beat in 1/2 cup finely ground hazelnuts and vanilla. Beat in flour mixture until just combined.
Shape dough by tablespoonfuls into 3-inch-long logs. Place on prepared baking sheet, spacing 1 inch apart. Bake cookies until light golden brown around edges, about 20 minutes. Cool on baking sheet 5 minutes. Transfer to rack; cool cookies completely.
Stir milk chocolate in top of double boiler over barely simmering water until melted and smooth. Remove from over water. Place 1/3 cup coarsely chopped hazelnuts in small bowl. Dip 1 end of cookie into melted chocolate, then into coarsely chopped hazelnuts (or pistachios, which I love for their green color). Return to rack. Repeat with remaining cookies. Let stand until chocolate is set, about 1 hour. (Cookies can be made 2 days ahead. Store in airtight container at room temperature.)