Monday, January 24, 2011

Milk Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies

My parents were fortunate enough to participate in a book signing for successful Boston pastry chef and bakery owner, Joanne Chang, and I was fortunate enough to receive that signed cookbook as a gift (thanks Mom and Dad). Prior to receiving this book, I had seen her on The Food Network and was fascinated by her story. Joanne hadn't planned on being a successful pastry chef and owning her own bakery. She graduated from Harvard with a degree in applied mathematics and economics, before starting her career as a management consultant. After a couple years she decided to change career paths and pursue her love of cooking and baking. Her story is inspiring, and so is her baking.

I made these cookies last night and could not stop eating the batter, it tastes like Nutella.

Milk Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies
Recipe from Flour by Joanne Chang

1 1/2 sticks butter, plus 1 tablespoon
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups blanched whole hazelnuts, toasted (peel off the skin and toast nuts in the oven at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes)
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
12 ounces milk chocolate, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces

1. Using a stand mixer, cream together the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar on medium speed for approximately 5 minutes (10 minutes if using a hand mixer), or until the mixture is light and fluffy. Stop the mixer a few times and use a rubber spatula to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to release any clinging butter or sugar.

2. Beat in the eggs and vanilla on medium speed for 2-3 minutes, or until thoroughly combined. Scrape the bowl again to make sure the eggs are thoroughly incorporated.

3. In a food processor, pulse 1/2 cup of the hazelnuts until ground to a fine powder (stop grinding once they are powdery; if you continue, they will become a paste).

4. Roughly chop the remaining 1 cup hazelnuts.

5. In a medium bowl, stir together the ground and chopped hazelnuts, the flour, baking soda, salt, and chocolate. On low speed, slowly blend the flour mixture into the butter-sugar mixture and then mix just until the flour mixture is totally incorporated and the dough is evenly mixed.

6. For the best results, scrape the dough into an airtight container and let it rest in the refrigerator overnight (or at least for 3-4 hours) before baking. When you are ready to bake, position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

7. Drop the dough in 1/4-cup balls onto a baking sheet, spacing them approximately 2 inches apart. Flatten each ball slightly with the palm of your hand.

8. Bake for 20-22 minutes**, or until the cookies are golden brown on the edges and pale and slightly soft in the center. Let cool on the baking sheet on a wire rack for 5-10 minutes, then transfer the cookies to the rack to cool completely.
**I actually liked the cookies best when baked for 10 minutes, so just watch your cookies and bake to your desired softness/crunchiness.

Note: Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. The unbaked dough can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

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