It started as a quest for a Passover dessert that could be made in advance, if, say, you were the type of person who may or may not have (I admit nothing) invited eight people over for a Passover seder 48 hours after returning from a week-long sojourn on the open sea and wanted to get a head start on cooking.
I started with a delightful sounding recipe for almond cookies with jam thumbprints that I am sure someone’s family will enjoy and I do hope someone makes those for them. But I wanted to turn these into something for my family which meant that somewhere, there had to be chocolate. And if there was chocolate, there may as well be hazelnuts.
But that wasn’t enough either because man, I hate putting too much energy into a recipe with limited use, you know, a dessert recipe for the subset of people who a) want to eat cookies, b) want to bake the cookies that they’re going to eat, c) also celebrate Passover, when, for eight days, these cookies must be flour-free and d) actually want to eat these cookies during those eight days, so I made them two ways, one that involves matzo cake meal and one that involves flour. You know, for the other 357 days of the year.
It took a little tweaking (and a little accepting that different ingredients will indeed work differently; i.e. the cookies with flour spread a little more) but I am pleased to say that anyone who wishes to can enjoy these cookies. They’re crisp on the outside and chewy and dense on the inside; the hazelnut flavor is extremely pronounced and the cookies are clearly delighted — if taste is any indication — to have chocolate bellies. Can you blame them? Bellies are delicious.
This week: We’re on a boat! We’re sailing the sea! Thus, comment responses will be slow and spotty. However, new posts will (hopefully) still magically appear as we work through my cooking backlog. Everyone wins!
Hazelnut Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies
Adapted from Gourmet
Makes about 2 dozen (24 for the Passover version, 26 for the flour version)
1 almost-full cup (4 ounces) hazelnuts, toasted, skinned and cooled
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup matzo cake meal or 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Chocolate (I used chocolate baking discs or “wafers”; 2 or 3 chocolate chips would also work)
Pulse hazelnuts, sugar, matzo cake meal or flour, and salt in a food processor until finely ground. (Be careful not to grind to a paste.) Transfer to a bowl and stir in butter, egg, and extract until combined well. Chill dough, covered, until firm, about 30 minutes.
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.
Drop level tablespoons of dough 1 inch apart onto 2 ungreased baking sheets (though I lined mine with parchment paper, for an
easier lazier clean-up). Roll dough into balls, then chill until slightly firm, about 10 minutes.
Press one piece of chocolate firmly into the top of each ball of cookie dough and bake, 1 sheet at a time, until tops are pale golden and undersides are golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Be careful not to overbake. Transfer cookies to a rack and cool completely.
To fill with jam instead: After balls of cookie dough have been chilled for an additional 10 minutes, make a 1/2-inch-wide (1/3-inch-deep) indentation in center of each ball using your thumb, index finger, or the rounded end of a wooden spoon. Fill each indentation with 1/4 teaspoon jam.
Almond variation: The hazelnuts can also be swapped with 3/4 cup sliced almonds.
Do ahead: Cookies keep in an airtight container at room temperature 3 days.