Well hello there. I know in my last post I promised to write about a compote I was making, but it ended up not being as great as I wanted and thus I don’t feel ready to share the recipe. BUT. I did make some Christmas cookies for my book club last weekend, and those are a fun, easy recipe that I needed to share before the holidays.
Our book club (where these cookies, along with my roommates equally delicious almond raspberry cookies, were a big hit) is a feminist book club. That doesn’t mean we only read female authors, but everything we read, we discuss through a feminist lens. So far, we’ve read Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood and An Object Of Beauty by Steve Martin (yes, Steve Martin). Next up is The Feminist Porn Book. In the future, I might throw some John Updike in there. I find his books to show an interesting vision of America, specifically in the way he talks about women and their bodies. If you have any books you think an all lady book club would enjoy discussing, please post in the comments!
My roommate and I also greatly enjoy hosting book club because it means we get to create fun images of our cat, Persephone, to send in our monthly book club reminder emails. You can see our most recent one below:
But back to cookies. It’s Christmas (and Hannukah) time, which means it’s baking time and cookies are a huge part of that. These cookies are salty, sweet, rich, and airy, and perfect for your Christmas celebration. I recommend them with a glass of milk or some heavily spiked eggnog. Maybe you should leave them out for Santa? I’m sure he’d appreciate them.
The true power in the cookies though, comes from the interplay of the textures. The cookies themselves are relatively soft, not firm or crunchy like shortbread. The burned sugar crust, however, is crunchy, like the hazelnuts in the cookies. This, along with the flakes of salt that melt on your tongue, combine to make a truly special Christmas treat.
Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies with Sea Salt and Sugar Crust
Adapted from the NYTimes, makes about 50 cookies
2 ½ cups/363 grams all-purpose flour
¾ cup/75 grams cocoa powder
1 teaspoon espresso powder (my fun addition)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 ½ cups/340 grams (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 ¼ cups/250 grams granulated sugar
2 large eggs at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup/133 grams roughly chopped, toasted hazelnuts
Egg wash (1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water)
About 1/2 cup/120 grams coarse sugar (such as sanding or demeura sugar), for rolling
Flaky salt, preferably Maldon, for sprinkling
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, espresso powder and salt.
In another bowl, with either an electric mixer or by hand, beat butter for about thirty second and then add sugar on medium-high until the mixture is light, fluffy and pale, about 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add in the eggs, 1 at a time, and vanilla extract. Beat until everything is well combined, about 2 minutes.
Add dry ingredients all at once, and mix on low until almost incorporated, or fold in with a spatula. Add hazelnuts, and continue to mix until just fully incorporated.
Scrape dough out of mixer, and divide it into 2 pieces onto cling wrap. Wrap each piece in cling wrap and roll them into logs about 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter, and 12 inches long. This can be a very frustrating and messy process.
Refrigerate the logs at least 2 hours, or up to 5 days.
Heat oven to 325 degrees.
Brush the outside of each log of dough with egg wash. Sprinkle sugar (regular granulated sugar also works here) onto a piece of parchment paper, and roll the logs in it. Alternately, sprinkle and press on the sugar onto the outside of the log. You want to make a nice sugar crust, so be sure to have a true coating of sugar that you can see around the entirety of the log. Slice log crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices.
Place dough slices on parchment-lined baking sheets 1 inch apart, and sprinkle with flaky salt. Bake until the edges are just set and cookies are baked through (difficult to tell with chocolate cookies, but the center should feel set when pressed gently), 12 to 15 minutes.