Otherwise known as the vacation cookies we couldn’t get enough of this year. Maybe it was the salt. Perhaps it was the truly irresistible combination of chocolate and hazelnuts. Or maybe it’s that these cookies are large enough to be used as rafts or surfboards. One never knows why they love certain cookies as much as they do, but we were all drawn to these like addicts. When all was said and done, we had gobbled our way through two batches in one week. Do I feel bad about that? No. I was on vacation. I’d only feel bad about it if I did that in real life.
No; no, I wouldn’t. Not these cookies. Because there’s something about them which makes you feel like maybe these are worth it. Like maybe they’re more nutritious than your average chocolate chip cookie. It could be these:
Hazelnuts. Now, obviously there aren’t big globes of hazelnuts floating around in those flat, flat cookies; that’s because the hazelnuts are ground into hazelnut flour. Think about that a minute: instead of a bite of hazelnut here and there, you get them everywhere. Wrap your mind around that.
A reader (hi, Bonnie!) asked me if these were gluten-free, and unfortunately, they are not; there is some regular all-purpose flour in the mix as well. However, it did make me really think about how I need to learn how to come up with some gluten-free versions of things like these, where some of the work is already done for me. I haven’t had an opportunity to do this with these yet, but I’ve been researching a bit, and I’ll let you know when I make a successful gluten-free version.
Back to these, because I don’t want you to be put off by hazelnut flour; there is no fancy shopping involved here, hopefully. You can, of course, purchase hazelnut flour (Bob’s Red Mill makes a good one), or you could do what I did and just make it yourself. If you have a store which sells bulk foods, chances are they have hazelnuts. All you need to do is toast them, skin them, and throw them in a food processor with a few tablespoons of flour so they don’t accidentally turn into hazelnut butter. Poof! Hazelnut flour.
Because of the nut flour versus regular flour ingredients, these are spready, spready cookies. the original recipe called for cookie balls made with a 2-ounce ice cream scoop – roughly 2 tablespoons. They don’t seem big when you place them on a sheet pan, but they turn into this:
That’s a salad plate. So you can make these sized like salad plates (ideal for say, topping with ice cream and serving to eat with a fork), or you can make them slightly smaller, which I found to be a much more reasonable size. To get the smaller version, make your balls into cookie balls measuring about 1 inch in diameter. You should be able to get 8 cookies on a half sheet as opposed to 6 of the regular size. Seems like a waste of sheet pan? It isn’t…you won’t believe me until you see it for yourself, but these creep across the pan like crazy, so give them plenty of room.
As you can see above, there’s yes, lots of white space on the pan until you take it out of the oven. After bake time? This is what happens:
Nuts. Hazelnuts. And if the chocolate-hazelnut combination weren’t enough to get you going, you get to top these with sea salt. A nice sprinkle of it. And don’t be afraid of it; I was, because I didn’t want to chance ruining them. After tasting one I thought I had sprinkled too much on? Perfect; the salt was brilliant on these. Do yourself a favor and keep it on the coarse side, and do a test cookie for yourself before sprinkling all of them; everyone has a slightly different salt tolerance. To me (and to Mother Table, who is very sensitive to salt and will tell you about it with passive comments and phrases beginning with “well? hmmm…”) loved these as they are pictured. Personally, I think the salt is less about them being “salty” and much more about them enhancing the flavors of both the hazelnuts and the chocolate in an otherwise sweet cookie.
In reality, this was probably a stack of cookies I ate for breakfast. Because it’s sort of like toast. or chocolate chip pancakes. Only not at all, because they’re cookies. if you’re guessing about the texture of these, wonder no more. You can make these either chewy and flat or crispy and flat – the flat part isn’t up for negotiation. I enjoyed these a little on the crisp edge/chewy interior side, but you can customize these to fit your individual cookie tastes.
I miss vacation. It was fun. but it’s nice to look back at these cookies and remember how much fun we had.
Adapted from The Sugar Cube: 50 Deliciously Twisted Treats from the Sweetest Little Food Cart on the Planet by Kir Jensen. I rented this one from the library and liked it so much, I took it with me on vacation (no one tell the library, please; I don’t know if their books are allowed to travel outside the state.) I renewed online several times, which means a few more recipes like this and I’m going to put it on my “must purchase” list.
Salted Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies
for the hazelnut flour:
- 1 1/4 cups hazelnuts
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
for the cookies:
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup hazelnut flour (you’ll be making this using my instructions, or you can buy it if you can find it)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 10 ounces chopped 70% bittersweet chocolate*
- coarse sea salt, for sprinkling
*i do not deem these as “fancy enough” to warrant buying the bars of chocolate I typically do. Also, I didn’t want to chop giant bars of chocolate. Rather, I experimented by using Ghirardelli 70% bittersweet chocolate chips; it worked brilliantly and I highly recommend it. Not only was it about 1/3 of the price of baking bars, it’s easier to chop and you have little buttons of chocolate for topping these cookies, if you want. They are sold in 12-ounce bags, which made it perfect for reserving about 30 or so of the chips for topping.
make your hazelnut flour:
Preheat your oven to 350˚F. Spread your hazelnuts ona baking sheet in a single layer and toast in the oven until fragrant and beginning to color, about 10 minutes. Once toasted, remove them from your oven, let cool slightly (so you don’t burn your hands handling them), maybe 5 minutes. Using a clean kitchen towel, rub the hazelnuts gently between two sides of the towel with your hands to remove the papery skins (if you can’t visualize the motion, pretend like a small child’s hands are cold and you’re trying to use your own hands to warm them up – a back and forth, brisk motion). I know that helped.
Once most of the skins have been removed, let them finish cooling. Place them in a food processor with 2 tablespoons of flour (have more on standby in case you need it; you want hazelnut flour, not hazelnut butter, and the flour wicks the moisture out. Pulse until your mixture resembles, well…flour. Set aside for use in your recipe. You may have some extra, which you can use for another batch.
make your flat cookies:
In a medium bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, hazelnut flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl using an electric mixer, but the stand mixer, for this recipe, is preferred), beat together your butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar on high speed until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of your bowl and add the eggs and vanilla, beating until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of your bowl again and, with your mixer on low speed, add your dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
Remove bowl from stand mixer and, using a spatula (or spoonula; who doesn’t love those things?) scrape down the sides and pull up once you hit bottom, checking to make sure there aren’t any flour patches in there. Chances are, there will be, which is why I do this step. Some cookies it may not matter as much, but the flat ones? Less forgiving. Once you’re sure all dryness is gone, add your chopped chocolate and, using the same motion, stir int until evenly distributed.
Transfer dough into a more reasonably-sized bowl, cover, and chill at least 5 hours, or (preferably) overnight to meld the flavors together. By the way, don’t try to cheat this: flavor-melding aside, chilling the dough sets it; a room-temp cookie will just melt all over your baking sheet.
When you’re ready to rumble, preheat your oven to 350˚F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Refer back up to the post where I discuss size of the cookies before you proceed (look for the salad-plate cookie photo). If you want gigantic, flat cookies, scoop your balls (or roll them in your hands) so they measure about 1 1/2 – 2 inches in diameter. DO NOT put more than 6 cookies on a half sheet pan, or you will have one super-giant rectangular cookie. If you’d like your cookies a little more manageable, roll them into balls around 1 inch in diameter. You can get 8 of the smaller ones on a sheet.
Bake until cookies are flattened, a little crispy around the edges and set in the middle, about 12-13 minutes, checking at the 11-minute mark for doneness: this will give you a slightly crisp perimeter with a chewy interior. If you’d like these a little crisper throughout, cook them for a minute or two more, maybe 14-15 minutes, depending on your oven. I liked them both ways, but you do want to be sure that your chewy version holds together, so be sure they are done and not underdone. Do a test run of 2-3 cookies if need be.
Remove them from the oven and top immediately with the one lone chocolate chip (optional) and sea salt sprinkle (not optional, in my opinion; it really brings out the flavor versus not using it). Allow to cool on the baking sheet for about 10 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.
Cookies will keep in an airtight container for 3 days at room temperature. Sadly, I didn’t have a chance to try freezing them (vacation = lots of cookie-eaters), but I would imagine if kept in an airtight container, they would keep for up to 2 weeks in the freezer.