Sandwich cookies suited to a more sophisticated palate

Hazelnutmochathins120813

Cookies are great, but not all adults want the same over-sugared treats that might be made for children. What about adults looking for something sweet and a little more grown-up than your average sugar cookie?

I’m a firm believer that there needs to be something for everyone on the holiday tray, which is why I was thrilled when I found this recipe for Hazelnut-Mocha Sandwiches in the Holiday 2010 edition of America’s Test Kitchen Holiday Cookies magazine.

The chief flavors in these cookies are provided by hazelnuts, espresso and chocolate. There’s no frosting to be found and no decorating to be done. The flavor reminds me of hazelnut biscotti, just in a different form. I’ve made these twice and received rave reviews both times from adults, particularly those who also love coffee.

I hope you enjoy this third cookie in my Christmas countdown.

Ingredients
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup hazelnuts, toasted and finely ground
1 cup superfine sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces and softened
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons cream cheese
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
12 ounces milk chocolate, chopped

Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. With electric mixer on low speed, combine flour, nuts, sugar, salt and butter and mix until crumbly and slightly wet, about 2 minutes. Add vanilla and cream cheese and mix until dough just begins to form. Finish kneading dough by hand to form large, cohesive mass. Divide dough in half, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes.

Roll each dough half to 1/8-inch thickness and rechill until firm, 10 minutes. Using 2-inch round cookie cutter, cut out cookies and place 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake until edges are light golden-brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Cool 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack and cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough, gathering and rerolling scraps once.

In saucepan over medium-low heat, whisk together heavy cream and espresso powder. Add chocolate and stir until melted and smooth; cool 30 minutes. Spread heaping teaspoon filling over bottoms of half of cookies; top with remaining cookies. Let sit until firm, about 1 hour.

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A triple-threat cookie for Christmas

cinnamon swirls

I discovered one of my now-favorite Christmas cookies in the 2010 edition of America’s Test Kitchen Holiday Cookies. I tried many of the recipes in that edition, some failures and some successes, but this one stood out. I could make the dough ahead of time, something that really helps when making a large number of cookies.

Some of the cookies I make for Christmas are elaborate — chocolate cookies with homemade caramel, carefully decorated sugar cookies, chocolate-dipped mint cookies — so I need a couple that are less involved. These Cinnamon Swirls were exactly what I wanted. They’re simple, beautiful and tasty, what you might call a triple threat in the world of baking. They’re like a sweet shortbread, one with cream cheese mixed into the dough; and the cinnamon not only adds a bit of spice, but a nice design as well.

One thing to note when making these is to make sure to roll them tight enough. On my first attempt a couple years ago, the rolls were too loose, so there were gaps in the baked cookies. Be sure to refrigerate the dough for the proper amount of time, too, because they’ll spread out too much if the dough is at room temperature before it goes in the oven.

I really do love this recipe. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Ingredients
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup super-fine sugar, plus 3 tablespoons for filling
1/4 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces and softened
2 tablespoons cream cheese
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

With electric mixer on low speed, combine flour, 3/4 cup sugar, salt, and butter, and mix until crumbly and slightly wet, 2 minutes. Add cream cheese and vanilla and mix until dough just begins to form. Finish kneading dough by hand to form large cohesive mass. Divide into 2 disks of dough, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Whisk remaining sugar and cinnamon together. Roll one disk between two large sheets of parchment paper to a 12-by-7-inch rectangle. Remove the top layer of parchment and sprinkle dough with half of the cinnamon-sugar, leaving a 1/4-inch border along the edges. Spritz the filling with water, and roll dough into a 7-inch log, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, about two hours. Repeat with remaining dough and cinnamon-sugar.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and place rack in the middle position. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Trim the edges of each log, then cut each log crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Transfer to parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing about 1 inch apart. Bake until edges are golden brown, about 12 to 15 minutes, switching baking sheets halfway through baking time. Cool 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough.