To celebrate that the final piece of the Unicorn Kitchen was put into place on Friday morning — only 14 months after the actual work on the project started — we decided to make something special. Something special that could also serve to kick-off a new series that we’re very excited about here at stately IPB Living manor: Cookie of the Month! We’re going to not take the beautiful kitchen for granted and not get stuck in a peanut butter cookie rut by trying out a new cookie recipe every month. Kicking off this project is August’s cookie, Baci di Dama, or Chocolate-Filled Hazelnut Cookies.
These little sandwich cookies had everything a special baking event requires. Fancy ingredients? Check!
New techniques? Check!
FAN-tastic! We couldn’t wait to try them!
Schnookie kicked things of by toasting the hazelnuts. We had directions that said to toast them for 12-14 minutes or until lightly toasted. What exactly constituted “lightly toasted” was a little unclear. Were the nuts going to be slurring their speech? Perhaps they’d knock over a priceless Ming vase when stumbling through the living room. Or maybe they’d make an awkward pass at a co-worker they’d regret in the morning. It was tough to tell, since when we looked in on the oven, they were all just sitting around. Finally when they got fairly aromatic we decided they were done. Schnookie tucked them in between some paper towels and closed them in a sealable plastic baggie to steam. Meanwhile, I decided to get a head start on the rest of the recipe.
While the nuts were cooling I mixed 1 cup of flour, 1/8 of a tsp of salt, and 1/4 tsp of lemon zest in a bowl. Then I read the recipe. Heh. Starting over, I mixed the softened butter, the salt, and the zest, and then filled a cup measure with cake flour. I then saw my hand lifting the measuring cup and moving it towards the bowl. I apparently could not handle the fact that the flour didn’t get mixed in with the salt. Cookie of the Month is a necessary thing for me — I’m obviously brainwashed by Tollhouse chocolate chip cookies! I’m a disaster! Fortunately, I stopped myself and things could proceed.
The nuts were cool at this point, so we each took half of them and placed them in a kitchen towel. I had been assuming that this step would take forever and would involve lots of hazelnuts being thrown violently across the room out of frustration. Turns out, once they’ve been toasted and steamed, hazelnuts are remarkably eager to molt. There were a staggered few that were a tad ornery, but skinning the hazelnuts was considerably easier than it sounds. So into the food processor they went! Once again, the directions were a tad vague. Very nervous about over-working the ingredients, Schnookie veered on the side of caution with the food processor. We were both convinced the mixture would turn to the dreaded paste in the blink of a an eye. So as soon as it looked powdery, we added the mixture to the butter, salt, and zest. (That’s butter, salt, and zest. Pookie.)
The directions said to mix with a wooden spoon or spatula. I went for the old school wooden spoon and waved it around a bit ineffectually. Schnookie, Miss CIA Baking Boot Camp Graduate, stepped in with the spatula and two seconds later the dough was perfectly combined. I tried to console myself with the knowledge that Schnookie hates the process of actually baking cookies, and thus couldn’t banish me completely from the kitchen. We added the flour and it was time to load up the trays. The directions said to make dough balls that were 1/2 tsp big, aka “the size of a marble”. A few moments later it was established someone (it rhymes with “Blnookie”) seems to think marbles are huge. My tray was lined with delicate marble-sized balls, while hers was groaning under the weight of, well, slightly larger-marble-sized balls. There was much bickering over whose would be better.
This bickering was most likely born out of the anticipation that filling the trays with miniature cookies would take forever. Once again, though, we discovered the teaspoons clattering against the empty mixing bowl considerably earlier than we expected. It was time for Miss Never Been To The CIA Except For That Failed Fruit And Vegetable Carving Class to step in to do the baking. The directions said 12-14 minutes or until lightly golden. How eerily familiar. It turned out it was almost as hard to judge when the cookies were done as it was the nuts. Still, after about 10 or 11 minutes, the cookies looked to be lightly brown on the bottoms. They weren’t, however, the adorably puffy cookies in the picture that accompanied the recipe on Epicurious. Rats.
We decided it was either that the nuts weren’t mixed enough or the humidity of New Jersey in August was too much for the dough. Yeah, we’ll go with the latter. After the cookies had thoroughly cooled, it was time for the last step we were both secretly fearing. Filling them with melted chocolate. Schnookie had a recipe ages ago for chocolate-espresso sandwich cookies, filled with ganache. Possibly one of Earth’s tastiest cookies, they were also the single most annoying kitchen experience ever. Filling sandwich cookies sucks, no ifs, ands or buts about it. But this was a celebratory event, so filled cookies it was! I took control of the piping bag, and Schnookie signed up for sandwiching duty. Between the two of us, it took… you guessed it, considerably less time than we were expecting!
It’s a new kitchen miracle! Everything about making these cookies was a blast! But how do they taste, you ask. Delicious! Crisp, crunchy, nutty and sweet, these little cookies pack a huge punch. They taste a little like the most delicious Pepperidge Farm Brussels cookie you’ll ever have.
The recipe suggested serving them with coffee, so out came the coffee grinder, the French press, and the Small World House Blend beans. As delicious as the cookies are on their own, with coffee? They’re phenomenal. Even in their lumpy, misshapen, non-puffy state, these cookies had a perfect ratio of fancy-looking to easy-prep. In short, they were a delightfully different and refreshing way to celebrate the completed kitchen.
3/4 cup hazelnuts, toasted, any loose skins rubbed off in a kitchen towel, and cooled
1 cup confectioners sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, well softened
1/4 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup cake flour (not self-rising)
3 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened; preferably 70% cacao), chopped
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 or 3 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Grind nuts with confectioners sugar in a food processor until powdery (be careful not to process to a paste).
Beat together butter, zest, salt, and nut mixture in a large bowl with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon until creamy, then add flour, stirring until just incorporated (do not overwork).
Roll level 1/2 teaspoons of dough into tiny balls (the size of marbles) and arrange 1 inch apart on baking sheets. Bake, 1 sheet at a time, until very pale golden, 12 to 14 minutes, then slide parchment with cookies onto a rack to cool completely.
Melt chocolate in a metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Spoon melted chocolate into a small plastic bag and seal bag, forcing out excess air. Snip off 1 bottom corner of bag with scissors to form a small hole.
Pipe a small mound (about 1/8 teaspoon) of melted chocolate onto flat sides of cookies, then top with matching cookies, pressing flat sides together to help adhere.