Brown Butter Hazelnut Shortbread Cookies

photo (12)Unintentionally ascribing to the “if it’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing” philosophy, I made enough food to feed a small country for a barbecue last weekend.  This wouldn’t have been a problem, except I seemingly forgot to invite more than 12.  Apparently, anticipating a 4 pieces of chicken + steak per barbecue attendee ratio was a bit much.  This is a lifelong challenge for me, this estimating the food volume necessary to satiate a crowd, which is probably why my comfort zone is in the land of baked goods, where quantity is rarely a problem.  When it comes to hostessing, I cook with the fervor of an Italian mother, convinced that everyone is going to leave absolutely famished if I don’t make “just one more” dish.  No one seems to mind, especially when they go home with Tupperware full of the fruits of my overdoing it labor instead of empty bellies.  Despite my ever-present worry, I am happy to report that, to my knowledge, no one has starved at my dinner table to date.  In addition to clarifying appropriate meat: human ratios, this barbecue in particular also confirmed that if you place homemade hummus and vegetables and chocolate chip cookies to be visible from the same vantage point, only the cookies will disappear, even before dinner.  Clearly we invited friends who prioritize food choices the same way I do.  So it’s been a week of BBQ chicken, mac & cheese, hummus and raw veggie leftovers in my house.  Life could be much worse, I’m sure.

But, no need to worry, this isn’t a post about black bean hummus.  In a twist of unexpected leftover karma, I stumbled upon a bag of ground hazelnuts I had leftover from making Nutella Cake a few weeks ago.  (Please see “inability to estimate volume” above for reference).  They seemed too full of potential to let them get buried by and forgotten in the stacks of chocolate bars and coconut in my baking cabinet, so I set out to do some experimenting.  Toasted the hazelnuts in a pan, browned some butter, added 2 types of sugar, melted some chocolate and, much to my surprise, arrived at a much more successful end point than I  was expecting for guesswork and imagination.

There’s something about cookies whose shapes are pre-defined by a cookie cutter and are daintily dipped in chocolate that feels very proper.  After the total free for all of the Salted Caramel Chocolate Bars, it seems well-timed that I make something that doesn’t require you to lick your fingers for the finale, though if you still feel the need, by all means.

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I’m sure there are shortbread purists out there who would scoff at the notion that I would dare call anything made with browned butter and brown sugar shortbread, but I’m taking a leap of faith here and going with it.  These cookies are crispy, crunchy, subtly flavored, not too sweet and dangerously, almost bite sized.  I feel confident that the chocolate dip does not require an explanation, but if you’re not convinced, trust me when I say that it’s an impeccable balance to the cookie itself.  Or don’t trust me, give them a whirl and let me know how it goes.  If you’re not sold, please send me your number –  you’re probably who I should be invite to the next dinner party on behalf of vegetable consumption.

Brown Butter Hazelnut Shortbread Cookies


DSC_0290Author: Brown Butter Blair

Ingredients

  • 8 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • Scant 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup ground hazelnuts, toasted
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3.5 ounces bittersweet or dark chocolate

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Brown butter in a small saucepan and allow to cool.
  3. Transfer to a large bowl and blend butter and sugars together with a hand or stand mixer.
  4. Add vanilla and egg.
  5. Add dry ingredients and mix to combine (you can switch to stirring by spoon here).
  6. Mold dough into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap and put in the fridge for 1 hour.
  7. Remove from the fridge and turn out onto a lightly floured surface.  Roll to ~1/4 inch thickness and with cut with a cookie cutter.
  8. Place cookies onto a baking sheet lined with baking mats or parchment paper.
  9. Bake for 9-11 minutes, until edges are browned and transfer to a cooling rack.
  10. Melt chocolate in a small saucepan over a double boiler and stir until smooth.
  11. Dip cooled cookies into the chocolate and let excess chocolate drip off before placing on a sheet of parchment paper.
  12. Allow to cool and enjoy.

Notes

  • Toasting hazelnuts: You can either toast whole hazelnuts, cool, then grind or grind then toast.  I’m partial to the second option, since you can toast ground hazelnuts in a pan and don’t have to keep checking the oven to make sure you haven’t burned the whole lot.
  • Cookie cutters: I used a 1.5 inch round cookie cutter, but the world is your oyster.  Next batch I’m going to use the 1/2 inch cookie cutter for truly bite sized cookies, but you could have a field day with rectangles, squares, unicorns, dolphins, you name it – go wild.
  • Chocolate dipping strategy: Let’s face it – there’s not a wrong way to dip a cookie in chocolate.  It may come out looking less symmetrical depending on your style, timing and eye-hand coordination, but ruining the cookie is just not going to happen.  You do have to wait until the cookies are completely cooled, otherwise the chocolate will just run right off.  My strategy is to tilt the saucepan with one hand and scrape all the chocolate to one side.  While keeping the pan tilted, I dip the cookie in the deepest area of chocolate, lean it forward, lean it backward and then shake off some of the extra.  You can also tilt to each side and make a V-shaped chocolate pattern.  Same advice applies – go wild.

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