Cookies Day 4: Chocolate Hazelnut Crinkle Cookies

It’s hard to follow up such an exciting day as yesterday. Today I woke up with an unhappy stomach, likely from too much sugar, and didn’t even want a cookie until after I spent around 3 hours in the gym. Then I had 2 Mexican cookies, eventually had a peppermint patty, and some beers. Someday I’ll find a middle ground.

Anyway, there’s not much of an intro to these cookies, other than I saw them and wanted to make them. I did learn the lesson of overcooking from these cookies, however. I probably should have learned it after day 1 when my molasses cookies came out a little hard, but the differences between 12 minutes and 15-18 minutes of cooking became apparant with these cookies. There’s no way to sugar coat it, my oven is shit. It’s never on the temperature I set it to, which means I have to turn the temp up about 50 degrees over the intended temp and stare at a foggy oven thermometer with my fingers crossed, hoping that the resulting temp will be somewhat close to what I want. With this in mind, and remembering how flat the molasses crinkles cooked, I was expecting these cookies to flatten out as well, so I kept them in the oven for a little longer to see if they would change. Regardless of the extra time, the cookies retained the shape of little round pillows. The result: the first batch was a little harder than I would like. The center is chewy like it is supposed to be, but less chewy than I would like, with a little too much crunch around the edges. The second batch, which I cooked for 12 minutes, came out much better, with a larger chewy center. I’m learning that I think I would rather have an undercooked cookie than an overcooked cookie. Even though hard cookies are fun to dunk in milk, there’s just something about a chewy cookie that hits me where I like.

These cookies requires a little more steps than your very basic recipe but were still easy to make. As happens with every recipe I’ve made recently, I misread something and did something wrong, freezing the dough instead of chilling it for a few hours, but this mistake was negligible in the end, I think. The hazelnut flavor of the cookies is subtle, with most of the flavor coming from the chocolate, but it’s not completely overpowered. The contrast between the dark chocolate and the powdered sugar is nice, and the small size of the cookies makes them easy to eat, which could be a bad thing. I highly recommend these, and hopefully you have a digital temperature guage on your oven, unlike mine.

Chocolate Hazelnut Crinkle Cookies
(original recipe Gourmet December 2006)

Ingredients
2/3 cup hazelnuts
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
6 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (no more than 60% cacao if marked), finely chopped
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup confectioners sugar

Special equipment: parchment paper

Preparation
Make dough:
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.

Toast hazelnuts in a shallow baking pan in oven until skins split and nuts are pale golden, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven (turn oven off), then wrap hazelnuts in a kitchen towel and rub to remove any loose skins. Cool nuts completely. Pulse nuts with granulated sugar in a food processor until finely chopped.

Melt chocolate in a metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water or in top of a double boiler, stirring until smooth. Remove bowl from heat and set aside.

Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.

Beat together butter and brown sugar in another bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until creamy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in melted chocolate until combined. Add milk and vanilla, beating to incorporate. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture, mixing until just combined. Stir in nut mixture. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill dough until firm, 2 to 3 hours.

Form and bake cookies:
Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Sift confectioners sugar into a bowl. Halve dough and chill 1 half, wrapped in plastic wrap. Roll remaining half into 1-inch balls, placing them on a sheet of wax paper as rolled. Roll balls, 3 or 4 at a time, in confectioners sugar to coat generously and arrange 2 inches apart on lined baking sheets.

Bake, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until cookies are puffed and cracked and edges feel dry (but centers are still slightly soft), 12 to 18 minutes total. Transfer cookies (still on parchment) to racks to cool completely.

While first batch is baking, roll remaining dough into balls. Line cooled cookie sheets with fresh parchment, then coat balls with confectioners sugar and bake in same manner.

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