These chocolate hazelnut thumbprint cookies are unsurprisingly delicious yet surprisingly easy to assemble, and the work goes especially quickly if you’re making a batch of my chocolate-filled peanut butter blossoms at the same time. No handmade chocolate kisses required!
One afternoon each December, I sit down and make a list of all the cookies and candies that will appear on that year’s Christmas cookie plate. I have probably five tried-and-true recipes that I make every year — sometimes swapping nuts or extracts just for fun — and then I try a small selection of the most special-looking recipes I’ve absentmindedly bookmarked over the course of the previous year. This might sound like a simple task, but I … have a bookmarking problem. As my last computer sludged toward its final days, I was convinced that every new bookmark I added to my browser was contributing to its molasses-slow state of inoperability.
While my curiosity is easily piqued, I just have terribly little time. Rare are the days that I see a good-looking recipe and can head straight to the kitchen to make it, so whenever I see something that looks delicious, or incorporates an interesting combination of flavors or cooking technique, I bookmark it. When I’m considering a new baking endeavor, I like to queue up 10 or so different versions of it to cross-compare ingredients, methods, and results so I can enter into it fully informed. And since I like making things from scratch, I might also look up 10 different versions of an ingredient in the recipe, and so on and so forth until I’m so buried in tabs and research and indecision that I have to put it aside for the night, bookmark all tabs, close my browser, and walk away.
Really, it’s a miracle that I get any cooking done at all.
All of that is just to say that this weekend, I got lucky. I glanced through my bookmarks, picked a cookie that sounded good, wrote out my ingredient and method alterations, and went to work … and a couple of hours later, I had a new favorite Christmas cookie. The cookie part is rich and kinda fudgy, with loads of hazelnut flavor, and then you sink your teeth into slightly soft chocolate centers. They’re legit.
- ½ c + 2 Tbsp raw hazelnuts, separated (~2.5 ounces)
- 2 c flour
- 7 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 Tbsp Dutch-process cocoa powder (or more regular cocoa powder)
- 1 Tbsp corn, potato, or tapioca starch
- 2¼ tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp baking soda
- ¼ tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp kosher salt
- 1 c vegan butter, softened
- ¾ c granulated sugar
- 2 Tbsp water
- 1 Tbsp vanilla paste (or extract)
- ½ c turbinado sugar, for rolling
- 4 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (about 1 cup)
- 1 Tbsp refined coconut oil
- a round teaspoon or small melon baller
- Pour turbinado into a small, shallow bowl and set aside.
- Spread hazelnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment or aluminum foil.
- Bake hazelnuts just until fragrant and golden (about 10 minutes), tossing occasionally.
- Enclose nuts in a clean kitchen towel and rub them together vigorously for a few minutes to remove their bitter skins. Don't worry if some of the skins don't fall off. Cool fully.
- Once your nuts are cool, or the following day, preheat oven or toaster oven to 350°F.
- Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- In a clean coffee grinder or small food processor, finely grind ½ cup cooled hazelnuts, reserving the rest for decoration. (Don't grind them long enough that they start turning into nut butter).
- Finely chop remaining 2 Tbsp hazelnuts, transfer to a small bowl, and set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together ground nuts, flour, cocoa powders, starch, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
- In a large bowl, cream together sugar and vegan butter.
- Add water and vanilla and beat until combined.
- Add dry mixture to wet and beat until a stiff dough is formed. It will be a little dry, but should ultimately come together.
- Form heaping tablespoons of dough into balls and roll each ball in turbinado.
- Arrange balls on prepared baking sheets about 2" apart.
- Bake cookies until puffy, but still moist, about 8-10 minutes.
- Remove baking sheets from oven and immediately make an indentation in the center of each cookie a round teaspoon or the small end of a melon baller.
- Transfer cookies on parchment to wire racks and cool completely. After a few minutes of cooling, their centers may puff back up a little; just press them back down gently with your tool of choice.
- While the cookies cool, melt chocolate chips and coconut oil in a double-boiler over low heat, stirring frequently, until mixture is smooth.
- Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes.
- Using a spoon with a tapered tip, spoon chocolate into indented centers of cooled cookies.
- Lightly sprinkle each cookie with reserved chopped hazelnuts.
- Allow chocolate to set fully before serving (about half an hour at room temperature).
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