These really are some of the best cookies ever. I wouldn’t call them Christmas cookies. Like Chocolate Chip cookies, they aren’t all that pretty and adding extra steps or decorations does little to enhance their appeal. That’s not to say they can’t be adapted, adding nuts or a ½ teaspoon of sea salt or, as I’ve done here, some crushed Hazelnut Praline like that used in the recipe for Chocolate Hazelnut Cheesecake Spread. It’s just that they don’t need it and once you taste them you won’t want to limit their usefulness to a single season.
So, what’s the appeal? In a word, chocolate. Seasonless and satisfying, these cookies are chocolate through and through. They ably round out an assortment of cookies that are brightly decorated and fragrant with spice, adding their own silky deep tone like a bass grounding those sparkly sopranos in the Christmas choir. While they seldom carry the melody of the season those deep tones fill out the sound and warm the soul.
Hazelnut Truffle Cookies
adapted slightly from Alanna's Gourmet Mocha Cookies
13 ounces chocolate chips
1 stick butter
1½ cups sugar
1½ Tablespoon espresso powder
1 Tablespoon vanilla
½ cup flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup Hazelnut Praline bits (recipe below)*
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a small (2 qt.) saucepan, melt the 13 ounces of chocolate with the butter over very low heat, stirring often. When smooth, remove from heat and set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs, sugar and coffee granules until thick and pale. Fold in the vanilla and warm melted chocolate mixture. Fold in the flour mixture. Gently stir in the crushed Hazelnut Praline (or other add-in of your choice), if desired.
Let the batter stand for 15 minutes.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Drop dough by Tablespoonfuls (I use a 1¼-inch cookie scoop to portion the dough) onto the parchment, leaving several inches between cookies for spreading, around 12 cookies per sheet.
Bake 8 to 10 minutes at 350 degrees until puffed and shiny on top. Do not overbake. Remove to a wire rack to cool.
* Note: ½ to 1½ cups of other add-ins (crushed Heath bars, dark chocolate chips, mini chocolate chips, toffee bits, or toasted nuts for example) can be substituted for the Hazelnut Praline Bits.
Hazelnut Praline Bits
1 Tablespoon coffee liqueur
¼ teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon espresso powder
½ cup hazelnuts, chopped and lightly toasted
6 Tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoons water
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
Lightly oil or butter a 12-inch square of aluminum foil. Set aside.
In a small bowl mix together the coffee liqueur, ginger and espresso powder. Microwave on high for 15 seconds and stir to dissolve the espresso powder. Stir in the hazelnuts, mixing until well coated. Set aside.
In a small saucepan, stir together the sugar and water. Cook over medium high heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture begins to turns a light golden color (approximately 4 minutes).
Stir in the hazelnuts and cook until coated and golden brown, (approximately 1 minute).
Remove from heat and immediately pour onto the prepared foil, sprinkling the sea salt evenly over the candy and spreading the candy with a spoon as thinly as possible.
Let set until completely cool.
Break into pieces. Place in a food processor and process until the biggest pieces are small bits.