dark chocolate chip hazelnut cookies

hazelnut dark chocolate chip cookies

I have a not-so-secret love for the delicious fragrance of hazelnuts. My obsession with hazelnuts starts early in the morning when I need to have a cup of freshly ground hazelnut scented coffee beans brewing away, otherwise my coffee just doesn't taste or smell as good. I once tried searching for hazelnut wood furniture in the hope that purchasing such furniture would make my house smell perfect, needless to say that didn't work out. So clearly, why wouldn't I make a hazelnut cookie to go with my hazelnut flavored coffee, it just made perfect sense (in my world).

dry ingredients

Everything about these cookies says dark, dark, dark! I used a very dark cocoa (if you want to go lighter in color then use the same amount of a regular unsweetened cocoa) with dark chocolate chips and a hint of browned butter all come together with the hazelnut flour to form a delicious crispy cookie. These cookies are also gluten-free so those of you with related allergies will enjoy them. I added a little hint of browned butter to bring out the nutty flavors of the hazelnuts, it gives them that extra little edge of flavor. 

cookie prep

Baking with nut flours is very different from using recipes that use grain flours as nuts are rich in fats, so you need to adjust the amounts of fats depending on the type of cookie you want. Since, I wanted a crispy cookie, I refrigerated the dough overnight. Here's another tip, when it comes to storing nut flours and keep it fresh, keep them in an airtight bag refrigerated or frozen, bring it to room temperature before use so it won't be clumpy. 

The wonderful folks at

Bob's Red Mill

were extremely kind to send me some of their hazelnut meal to use in this recipe and they are also sponsoring a giveaway. I'm a huge fan of their products and use a lot of their grain and nut flours in my baking, their quality is fantastic and this hazelnut flour is no exception to their product line. You can smell the delicious fragrance of hazelnuts as soon as you open the bag, needless to say,  I fell in love with it immediately! Now you can try it out too, 

Bob's Red Mill

is giving away a bag of their delicious Hazelnut Meal and a $20 gift card to their store. To enter the contest, all you need to do is follow the instructions on the widget at the end of this post. This contest will run from March 5th through March 12, 2014. Good luck! 

Disclaimer:

I did not receive any financial compensation from Bob's Red Mill for this post and all opinions are my own unless stated otherwise.

dark chocolate chip hazelnut cookies

dark chocolate chip hazelnut cookies

yields:

12 cookies

ingredients

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 1/2 cups (4 3/4 ounces) hazelnut meal(Bob's Red Mill), at room temperature

1 cup (7 5/8 ounces) brown sugar 

1/4 cup (3 ounces) unsweetened dark cocoa (I used the extra dark cocoa from Hershey's)

1/2 teaspoon dark roast instant coffee (optional)

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon kosher sea salt

1 large egg, at room temperature

1 teaspoon madagascar vanilla bourbon extract

1/2 cup (3 ounces) semisweet dark chocolate chips

1. Place the unsalted butter in a small saucepan and heat on a medium-high flame for about 2-3 minutes or until the milk solids begin to turn reddish brown. Remove from stove and keep aside.

2. Whisk the hazelnut flour, sugar, cocoa, coffee, baking soda, baking powder and sea salt together in a large mixing bowl and keep aside.

3. In a small bowl, whisk the egg, vanilla extract and browned butter. Make a well in the center of the  dry ingredients in the large mixing bowl and stir the whisked liquid into the whisked dry ingredients with a silicone spatula. Bring the ingredients together to form a ball of dough, wrap with cling film and refrigerate overnight. 

4. Preheat the oven to 350F and place a wire rack in the center of the oven.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Divide the dough into 12 equal parts and roll each of them into balls. Flatten each ball with the palms of your hands into approximately 2 inch discs. Space 6 cookies on each sheet about 1-2 inches apart from each other. Place the baking sheets in the refrigerator for 10 minutes. Bake one sheet at a time in the oven for about 8-10 minutes until the edges of the cookies start to get crisp, the center will be slightly soft to touch. Rotate the cookie sheet halfway through baking. Do not over bake the cookies as the chocolate will burn. Repeat with second sheet of cookies. Allow the baked cookies to cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet and then transfer to a wire rack to cool. Serve the cookies warm. 

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checkerboard cookies

checkerboard cookies with cocoa

I received some good news earlier this week, I am nominated in the Best Food and Drink blog category in India. How crazy is that? It's an honor and a humbling experience to be sharing the spot with some amazingly talented bloggers. If you do have a moment to spare, please check out the link and I would really appreciate if you could give me your vote. This past year has been amazing and I have met so many wonderful people via this tiny space of mine, your overwhelmingly positive and encouraging comments have been very supportive and I thank you.

slicing cooking dough

We are off to Charleston this weekend for the wedding of my two dearest friends.  To make our long 8 hour drive fun, I baked one of my favorite childhood cookies, the checkerboard kind. There are so many wonderful things about checkerboard cookies, they look cute, they taste good (cocoa and vanilla), they smell great, take my word for it, they are simply delicious! I got the recipe from one of my mom's old cooking notes, though I am not sure where she got it from.

checkerboard cookie dough sliced
checkerboard cookie dough prebake

Did I forget to mention, how good the kitchen smells when you bake vanilla and cocoa? I need to bake these guys more often before people come over. 

checkerboard cookies in a can

A couple of notes when baking these cookies, the dough is slightly sticky so I prefer to roll out the cylinders on parchment paper, less mess and you don't need to add extra flour. You need the 4 cylinders of cookie dough to stick together so adding any more flour to these ratios might affect the way in which they stick together. The cookies are easier to cut if the dough is firm and they also come out crispier, so refrigerate them for a few minutes before cutting and baking. 

checkerboard cookies

checkerboard cookies

yields: approximately 30-35 cookies

ingredients

1 stick (1/2 cup / 4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened 
3/4 cup  sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups (7 1/8 ounces) all purpose four
1 large egg
2 tablespoons unsweetened dark cocoa powder (70% cacao)

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy on medium speed using the paddle attachment. 
2. Sift the flour three times and mix half of it into the butter and sugar mixture on medium low speed. Add the egg with the rest of the flour and mix on medium low speed until completely combined. 
3. Remove the dough from the bowl on place on a clean sheet of parchment paper. Divide it into two equal parts. Keep one part aside and take one part and place it in a mixing bowl with the cocoa. Fold with a silicone spatula until completely combined and there are no visible streaks of the yellow flour and the dough takes on the dark color of the cocoa. 
4. Divide each of the two equal parts of the dough (the one with cocoa and the one without) into two equal parts each. By now you should have 2 parts of plain dough and 2 parts of the cocoa dough.  On another sheet of parchment paper, using your hands, carefully roll out each part of the dough into 12 inch long cylinders. 
5. Arrange them alternately to form the checks. To do this place one cocoa cylinder next to the plain flour cylinder and press them lightly together. Repeat this by layering the top and reversing the order of the two dough cylinders (plain flour and then cocoa). This will create the characteristic checkerboard pattern. Wrap the final log of dough with parchment paper along its length. At this stage, I like to smoothen the edges and gently press the cylinders together using the outer parchment paper, it gives a cleaner finish. Refrigerate the dough for an hour to firm up. Once the dough is firm, cut into 0.5cm thin slices using a sharp knife. Place the cookie slices on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Refrigerate the cookies for 10 minutes to firm up. Bake the cookies for 10-15 mins at 350F in a preheated oven in the middle rack. As soon as the cookies begin to get golden brown at the edges, remove them and allow them to cool for 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container. 
Note: When baking these cookies, I prefer to bake one sheet of cookies at a time in my oven. I usually cut the dough and split the cookies between two sheets and then refrigerate the sheet that I am not going to bake immediately. 

cocoa cinnamon sea salt cookies "nankhatais"

nankhatais cocoa sea salt and cinnamon

I'm placing the pies on the side right now because it's really time to focus on baking cookies and cakes. I love Christmas for the food and desserts but also because it has always been one of my favorite holidays of the year. Every year around this time, my mom would get together with her mother and sisters to prepare loads of holiday sweets. This is something they took very seriously and still do so much so that I know my mother would take time off from her job to bake and prepare tons of holiday desserts. 

sea salt crystals

We also had another tradition, where we'd take sweets to our neighbors and friends. This is something, I was never a big fan of and I always preferred sharing the sweets that were at the lower end of my "dessert-love scale". My mom on the other hand would reevalute the contents of the gift basket and undo all my hardwork, so the good stuff went back in. I am really not sure who benefited from this exercise but it clearly wasn't me! 

Salt sprinkling

These days, I make holiday desserts that I really, really love and make enough to gift to friends and family while keep enough to last us for a few weeks. These cookies are fall into this special category of holiday desserts that I must make every year. They bring back nostalgic childhood memories of baking with my mother and her family, memories laced with sugar, flour and above all things, love. Indian "

Nankhatais"

as these cookies are commonly known, are crispy and eggless. You will love them, the cookies are crisp all-throughout with a deep dark cocoa flavor with a hint of black pepper and cinnamon that will warm you up. The center of each cookie is topped with a generous sprinkling of sea salt crystals that will shock your tastebuds with a delicious amalgam of sensory wonder.

If you like the combination sea salt and chocolate, you will love my

mixed multigrain muffins

. They are a great addition to your breakfast table at Christmas.

cookies all salted
plate of cocoa cinnamon sea salt  nankhatais

This recipe calls for the use of Indian ghee or clarified butter. Ghee is super easy to make and has a wonderful fragrance and taste. You simply melt unsalted butter in a thick bottomed stock pot until all the fat has melted and the milk solids have separated. The butter is melted and cooked on a low flame to prevent burning of the solids (this is different from browned butter where you want to use the browned milk solids for flavor) but not boiled. The melted fat is then passed through a sieve lined with several layers of muslin/cheese cloth to filter out the separated solids. The resultant fat that is collected is ghee and stored in the refrigerator. It solidifies as it cools. I've been finding ghee in most grocery stores these days but if you need to prepare it at home, start with 3-31/2 sticks of butter to get around 2 cups of ghee using the instructions I just described. 

cocoa sea salt nankhatais

cocoa cinnamon sea salt cookies "nankhatais"

yields:

approximately 2 dozen 2 inch cookies

ingredients

4 cups ( 1lb 3/8 oz) all-purpose flour

1/2 cup (2 ounces) dark cocoa, unsweetened

1 teaspoon instant dark roast coffee

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon fine salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground 

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, freshly ground

1 3/4 cups raw dark brown sugar

1 1/2 cup (12 ounces) ghee/clarified unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

2 to 3 tablespoons sea salt crystals

1. Whisk all the dry ingredients from the flour to the sugar in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer. 

2. Add the ghee to the dry ingredients and mix on medium-high speed until combined. The mixture should acquire a fine crumb-like texture. Cover the bowl with cling film and refrigerate for at least two hours. 

There is no need to bring the dough together to form one large ball, just store the dough in the crumb-like phase.

3. Before baking the cookies, remove the bowl from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

4. Preheat the oven to 350F and place the baking rack in the middle section of the oven. Take some of the mix in your hands and press and mold together to form small one inch balls. The warmth from your hands will soften the ghee and help to bring the cookies together. Flatten the ball into discs that are about 2 inches in diameter. The cookie discs might crack a little on the edges so press and mold them gently. If they do crack a little, just push the cracked ends closer to seal the gap. (Personally, I don't mind a few minor cracked edges). Sprinkle a pinch of the sea-salt crystals over each cookie.

5. Place the cookie balls on cookie/baking sheet pre lined with parchment paper and bake for 15-20 minutes until the edges start to get crisp and appear a little darker than the color of the cocoa. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely and store in air-tight container for up to two weeks. 

sea salt chocolate muffins

Sea salt chocolate muffin

On some mornings, all I want is a muffin, a deep and dark chocolate muffin with my coffee. Okay, perhaps more than one would be ideal and even perfect but either way I really like a good dose of cocoa in them. It's really the best way for me to double my daily am dose of caffeine with a whole lot of joy! Coffee with chocolate it can't get any better than that.

Brown sugar

I never ate a lot of muffins because most of the time they were either too sweet or too greasy and they also never had any interesting flavors that I would have wanted to try. Personally, I like my breakfast muffins to be multigrain or wholegrain based and I am a big fan of oat and oat bran in the mornings. So with the desire to keep things wholesome, I added a couple of different flours into the batter; oat bran, brown rice and whole-wheat give a delicious soft and grainy texture. 

Sea salt chocolate muffins

This is a very deep dark chocolatey muffin with a little bit of sea salt on the crust. When you take a bite into the muffin, the combination of the sea salt with the dark chocolate is simply amazing. The flavors intensify and every subsequent bite is even more exciting than the first, exactly the way I'd like to start my mornings. 

Muffin cocoa and salt

You only need to sprinkle a few salt crystals on top of each muffin, halfway through baking. If you put them on before they will start to sink which is why I recommend placing them once the muffins are slightly firm on the surface but not completely baked. I used a standard 12 cup muffin pan to bake these guys and you could use a smaller sized 24 cup pan as well, just make sure you divide the batter equally between the cups in the pan. You can eat these muffins warm or even at room temperature. Store them in an airtight container for up to 4 days. 

Whole grain sea salt chocolate muffin


sea salt chocolate muffins

yields: 12 muffins

ingredients 

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon dark roast instant coffee powder
1/2 cup oat bran
1/2 cup brown rice flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 stick unsalted butter, chilled
1 2/3 cups brown sugar
5 large eggs, chilled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I used the madagascar bourbon variety)
1/2 cup plain non-fat greek yogurt, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons sea salt crystals

1. Preheat the oven to 350F and place the wire rack in the middle position. Line a standard muffin cake pan with baking cup liners. 
Mix and sift all the dry ingredients from the cocoa to the baking powder.  Transfer any grain bits back to the dry mix. Keep aside.
2. Cube the butter and transfer it to the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the sugar and fix the paddle attachment to the mixer. Cream the butter and sugar on medium low speed for 5 minutes. Add one egg at a time and beat until completely smooth.  Add the vanilla and mix for another 30 seconds on medium low speed. 
3. Add half of the sifted dry ingredients from step 1 to the creamed eggs. Mix on medium low speed until smooth and completely blended, approximately 3 minutes. Add the yogurt to the batter and beat for 1 minute. Add the rest of the dry ingredients and beat for another 3 minutes until completely mixed.
4. Divide the batter equally among the muffin pan cups. Bake the muffins for 12 minutes, remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle the salt crystals over the muffins. Return the pan to the oven and bake for another 8-10 minutes until the centers are firm to touch or skewer comes out clean from the center of the muffin. Allow the muffins to cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool further.

chocolate butter cookies

Chocolate Butter Cookies

This is that special time of the year when I carb load for a few days, no not for a race or marathon or any other sort of event that requires athletic prowess it's a simple way for me to celebrate my birthday. Each year, I make myself a different sweet treat/s, something that I've wanted to try/make all year round but avoided as a preventative measure to protect my waistline (The relationship between aging and waistline length is a direct proportion, at least for me). Ageing is an unwanted artifact of birthdays, as you cross a certain threshold (at least in my case), you have to learn some self-control. Taste and eat a little and occasionally indulge your tastebuds. Come birthday week and I will indulge every wicked dessert fantasy that has crossed my mind and make up for all those times I have been good. 

cooling cookies and forget me nots_1

One would assume that I might want a cake on my birthday, while I won't say no, this year I have a different opinion. Heck, I've made myself birthday cakes in the past but once in a while, I will crave for something other than a cake such as a pudding or a caramel flan. It all really depends on what my obsession was centered around. Images of freshly baked butter cookies have been circulating around my brain cells for a long time, just like those delicious Danish ones with that perfect nutty butter fragrance that melts in your mouth.

Strawberry flower and a lonely cookie

This recipe is based on the version I found in The Cook's Illustrated Cookbook. Browning a little bit of the butter, followed by a brief cooling period gives these cookies that extra heightened buttery nutty flavor that I absolutely love! To work with the dough, the refrigerator is your buddy. The dough is easy to work with when chilled and rolling it out between sheets of wax paper makes it even easier.

You can use any type of cookie cutter to shape your cookies, I used one of my Linzer cookie cutters. As my friend John says, they look like chocolate sprockets. Of course, depending on the size of the cookie you end up cutting, you will end up with either more or less cookies than I did. My cookie cutter measures around 2 inches and I got around 50-58 cookies. 

eating a cookie


chocolate butter cookies 
(adapted from The Cook's Illustrated Cookbook)

yields: approximately 52-58, 2 inch cookies

ingredients

2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon Madagascar bourbon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1. Melt 4 tablespoon of the butter in a medium saucepan over high heat. Stir continuously until the milk solids turn orange brown. Remove the browned butter from the flame and stir in the cocoa to form a smooth silky paste. Keep aside to cool for 20 minutes.
2. Attach the paddle to a stand mixer, add the remaining butter, sugar, salt, and the cocoa-butter mixture. Mix completely on high speed, the mixture should appear light and fluffy. Add the yolks and vanilla and mix for about 40 seconds. Scrape the bowl down with a silicone spatula. 
3. Adjust the speed of the mixer to the low setting and add half of the flour mixture. Blend until completely incorporated. Scrape the bowl down with the spatula. Add the rest of the flour to the batter and repeat. Once the dough is formed into a ball, divide it into three flat discs. Transfer and wrap, each disc on to a large sheet of wax paper and refrigerate for 1 hour. Cut two large sheets of wax paper and sandwich a disc of the refrigerated dough between the sheets at the center. Roll out the disc into a rectangle, about 1/4 inch thick. Refrigerate the flattened dough for another 15-20 minutes. 
4. Preheat the oven to 375F and place the wire rack in the center. Remove the dough from the refrigerator, peel the top sheet of wax paper and cut out desired cookie shapes. Place the cut cookies onto a baking sheet or tray lined with parchment paper. Bake the cookies on the centered wire rack in the oven for 10 minutes (if the edges start to get dark, remove them immediately as the cookies are burning), rotating the baking sheet halfway during baking. Bake only one batch of cookies at a time. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool to room temperature. Store in an airtight container for up to a week. Any extra bits of dough can be pressed together and re-rolled and cut to make more cookies. Repeat with the rest of the refrigerated discs to make the rest of the cookies or refrigerate the dough for up to 3 days.

chocolate almond torte


So many things to celebrate!  Having my family here for the big commencement ceremony next Friday makes this achievement extra special and I am staying quite busy showing off the treasures of our Nation's capital.  Last week we had the opportunity to visit several places, but one topped our list--Arlington National Cemetery.  Having never visited this honorable and historic site, I was overwhelmed with the picturesque and breathtaking views. They also have a little museum that houses medals awarded to the U.S. from different countries which was a nice and interesting find.  Navigating D.C. has become quite easy for my family and they've been doing their own exploration during the day while I am at work, often coming back with interesting facts that I have missed. Besides me, Snoopy is loving having guests since he receives non-stop attention, gets to sit out in the garden and appears to have won my mother over since she is convinced he is always hungry and needs to eat more.


This is a funny story that I have to share with you. On the weekend while completing a couple of errands out in Virginia, we decided to grab lunch at a restaurant. Our order was not complicated, a couple of salads and drinks. For some reason, our order took forever so we asked the manager why everyone but us got their orders. The manager replied that it was taking some time but it would be there soon. Finally, we got our order and the assistant manager who brought our food out said "There's no cook". I was flabbergasted, it made no sense and is probably the most bizarre excuse I have heard in a while. Though we were annoyed, we were tired and hungry. We finished our lunch and got back on the road to finish the rest of our errands. Needless to say we will not be going back to that restaurant. 



I recently received a special request to bake a chocolate torte. Having never made one before, I was a bit apprehensive mainly because it is one of those desserts that requires a bit of patience and care during preparation. Since Alice Medrich is my go to for all things in the chocolate world, I was very lucky to find this recipe for her Italian Chocolate Almond Torte in her Pure Dessert cookbook. She has the knack of making the most complicated of desserts so simple and yet delicious. I added a chocolate drizzle to give the torte a richer texture and flavor. You can use blanched or unblanched almonds in this recipe. After having tasted a slice of this delicious torte, I have also come to the conclusion that it is way healthier than a rich chocolate cake since the yolks and flour are kicked out. So please do not feel guilty in indulging your cocoa needs and desires with this dessert. 



chocolate almond torte

ingredients

1 cup unblanched almonds
7 ounces unsweetened dark chocolate
1 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
7 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease a 9 inch circular springform pan and line the bottom with a sheet of baking paper. Keep aside. In a food processor, combine the almonds, salt, 1/2 of the sugar, and chocolate to get a coarse and crumbly mixture. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar at high speed to get soft white peaks. Add the rest of the sugar and continue to whisk at high speed for another 3 minutes. Gently fold in half of the almond cocoa mixture by moving from the outside to the inside, just like you would with genoise cake without destroying the structure of the foam that you made by whisking the egg whites.  Fold in the rest of the almond cocoa mixture. Pour the batter into the greased pan prepared earlier and bake for about 20 minutes in the oven. The torte is done baking when the top gets golden brown and the center is firm to touch. Let the torte cool in the pan and then remove to a serving plate. Drizzle with the chocolate drizzle (below).

dark chocolate drizzle
3/4 cup semisweet 75% dark chocolate chips
2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
8 tablespoon powdered sugar
8 tablespoons hot water (90F)

To prepare the drizzle, melt the chocolate over a simmering water bath with the whipping cream. When completely melted and combined add the powdered sugar and keep mixing over the water bath. The mixture may form into a small ball. Add half of the hot water to the chocolate and keep mixing till incorporated. Add the rest of the water and combine till a smooth liquid is obtained. Remove the glaze from the water bath and allow to cool till it is lukewarm (rather does not feel too hot to your skin). Pour the glaze on the top of the torte. You can store any left over chocolate sauce and serve it on the side.