As people have been so kind to point out, Christmas is 19 days away. That just snuck out of nowhere didn't it? If you are anything like me, you have completely neglected all Christmas baking and instead have been leaving all studying and essay writing for the last minute possible. This procrastination is not typical of me and is a terrible habit to get into, in case you were wondering. Last week, after an intensive 4-day essay writing stint in the basement, my brain turned entirely to mush and I completely forgot basic sentence structure and how to compose an essay. It was horrifying and resulted in me breaking down in tears and babbling on about how I had finally gone on and broke myself. Another thing you should know if you do decide to leave your work for the last minute: Breaks are mandatory. For your sanity's sake.
You know what is a great way to set your mind at ease and use your break time productively? Turn on Vince Guaraldi Trio's A Charlie Brown Christmas and crank some holiday cookies out of your oven. See, I wish someone had told me this last week.
This time of year is pretty magical and I am so excited because I have some really beautiful, sweet, and wonderful treats to share with you. There will be lots of butter and sugar involved, but you aren't allowed to complain about that because it's December, for goodness sake! I promise, come January, I'll go to the opposite extreme and we'll get all healthy again, at least for a while. But for now... lets just enjoy the magic of now.
Chocolate Hazelnut Crinkle Cookies
Adapted from Gourmet, December 2006
More chocolate? What is going on here? I make no apologies for this trend. I first tried this recipe a year ago and fell in love. They are quickly becoming a Christmas tradition around here. Rich and chewy, these cookies are seriously addictive. Good luck eating just one.
Please note, these do need a couple hours to hang out in the fridge! So, for all you busy bee's out there: take a break!! make the dough and put it in the fridge! then get back to work! then take a break! and bake these up!!
2/3 cup hazelnuts
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
6 ounces fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (no more than 60% cacao if marked), finely chopped
2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ cups packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
¼ cup whole milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¾ cup confectioners sugar
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 brown, 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 just 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.
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 waxed 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 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.