Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Hazelnut Shortbread Cookies

Today, being National Shortbread Day, ( who makes this stuff up? ), I thought I'd give you a recipe that I make quite often because it's so darn good! The combo of hazelnuts and chocolate is so great together and made into a buttery shortbread's the best.
As I've said before, I love shortbread because not only does it have an amazing rich and buttery taste but it's really easy to make and only uses a few ingredients. But remember that those few ingredients, especially the butter, needs to be a good quality and fresh. Don't be using up that butter that's been hanging out in the fridge since way before the holidays.
One of the ingredients that I like to add to these cookies is hazelnut extract. I don't see many, if any, recipes that use this extract but it gives the shortbread just a little extra hazelnut flavor. I've tried using Frangelico liqueur but it's not strong enough, ( the flavor, that is).
Also, many recipes call for using only confectioners sugar but I personally don't like the soft crumbly texture of the shortbread. But using just a small amount of confectioners sugar along with the granulated sugar, this makes it perfect.

So, let's make some shortbread!
The ingredients you'll need are flour, butter, both sugars I mentioned, hazelnut extract, salt and of course, hazelnuts. That's it!

Begin but pulsing the hazelnuts in your food processor. Don't even think about chopping them with your knife. They're round little nuts and you know what happens when you try to chop anything small and round?
So give them quick pulses til they resemble...

Til they resemble this. See how perfectly they come out! If there are a few larger pieces that remain, just pick them out. You want them to be fairly uniform in size. Just set them aside. Place the softened butter and both sugars into your mixer and beat on medium high til it's all combined.
Add the hazelnut extract and beat a few times to incorporate.
Throw in the flour and salt and beat these ingredients, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula occasionally.

Keep beating. The mixture will look dry and crumbly and like it will never come together but trust me, it will! Just keep beating on a medium speed. And remember to stop the mixer and get down into the bottom of the bowl with your spatula to mix all the dough. I mean way down at the bottom.

Once it starts to look like it's finally coming together, throw in the chopped hazelnuts, saving about 2 tablespoonfuls to sprinkle on top of the chocolate ( if you're going to coat them in chocolate).
The dough will be the correct consistency when you notice it scrapes clean the sides and is forming a nice clump. Don't overbeat it. You don't want to beat too much air into the dough to keep it from spreading while baking.
Dump the whole mess onto a large piece of plastic wrap. Cover with another large piece of wrap and form a disk, pushing down and molding with your hands.
Open out and straighten the plastic wrap to make it smooth and begin rolling out the dough, keeping the plastic on top and on the bottom of the dough. Work from the center out and turn the dough as you roll.
Be careful not to press too hard at the outer edges. Doing this will result in an uneven dough, the edges being too thin.
I never bought those rubber band guides you can attach to the ends of your rolling pin..they always seem the wrong sizes! I just eyeball it. But I'm sure many bakers have found them to be useful. I like to keep the thickness to between 1/4" and 3/8".
After all this rolling, you'll need to chill the dough about 1/2 hour at least. Just slide it onto something flat like a cookie sheet with no sides or even a cutting board and pop into the fridge.
Once you take it out of the fridge peel off the top layer of plastic wrap and cut out your shapes.
I decided to use the heart shape and I'll coat half of it in chocolate.
After you've gotten all the first batch cut out, just scoop up the dough and make it into a disk again and reroll and cut out again.
Place the shapes onto your ungreased, but sprinkled with sugar, cookie sheet. If they're nice and cold, they shouldn't spread so you can place them about 1 1/2" apart. ( If they've gotten warm again, pop them back into the fridge like this to chill a while longer).
Bake approx. 15 minutes or til the edges and bottom are slightly browned.
After they come out of the oven, let them stay on the cookie sheet to cool about 5 minutes but, using your metal spatula, loosen each one to prevent them from sticking to the sheet.

Once they're fully cooled, melt some chocolate with a little veggie shortening over a double boiler on very low heat.

Stir it up to make it nice and smooth.

I just coat the top and let it drip down the side. You can also dip each one if you'd like.
Then take the little bit of chopped hazelnuts you've reserved and sprinkle on the wet chocolate. Let them dry in a cool place.
See, aren't they pretty?
Hazelnut Shortbread Cookies

1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter
1/2 scant cup granulated sugar
3 tbsp. confectioners sugar
1/2 cup hazelnuts, finely chopped
1/2 tsp. hazelnut extract
1 3/4 cups AP flour
1/8 tsp. kosher salt
Chocolate coating:

1/2 cup semi sweet good quality chocolate
1 scant tsp. vegetable shortening
1. Cream butter and sugars in mixer til just combined.
2. Add the extract and beat a bit more.
3. Add flour and salt to mixture and beat on medium, scraping sides and bottom occasionally.
4. Add the chopped hazelnuts and beat til well combined and the dough comes together and clean the sides of the bowl.
5. Dump the dough onto plastic wrap and place another piece of plastic over the top and shape into a disk, using your hands to form.
6. Straighten out the plastic and roll out the dough to 1/4" to 3/8" thickness.
7. Place the dough into the fridge to chill about 1/2 hour.
Preheat oven to 350.
8. Cut out the dough with a cookie cutter and reroll scraps and cut the remaining.
9. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet, sprinkled with sugar to prevent sticking.
10. Bake about 15 minutes, til browned on edges and bottom.
11. Cool on sheet 5 minutes but loosen each cookie with a metal spatula.
12. Cool completely. Cookies will keep for several weeks in a tin. (Keeping them in a rubbermaid like container will make them soft.)
13. To coat in chocolate: Melt on low heat over a double boiler, the chocolate and the vegetable shortening. Stir til smooth.
14. Dip or coat each cookie and sprinkle with the remaining chopped hazelnut. Place on waxed paper in a cool place. Store as above.

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