As you might recall, last year I took part in something called the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap – and it was really fun, so I decided to do it again this year! (As a reminder, last year I made these Chewy Ginger Sparklers – still one of my very favorite cooke recipes!) Basically, you sign yourself up, and you send a dozen cookies to three food bloggers that are assigned to you… and then you sit back and wait for YOUR cookies to start rolling in! Of course, I went ahead and threw out all the cards and contact information before it occurred to me that I should really link to the ladies who sent me cookies, because sometimes I am not very smart… but all the cookies I received were DELICIOUS, and a welcome treat during the busy and hectic holiday season. Ladies, if you are reading this, feel free to comment and I’d be happy to link to your blog!
Edited to add: Eleana from Chou Down contacted me – she sent me these delicious Salty Chocolate Peanut Butter cookies (they’re gluten free, too)! She also included some Gingerbread Twix with her package, which I did not know existed until I received them… and they are amazing. You should definitely go find some, ASAP. Thanks again, Eleana!
Anyways… this year, I was determined to make a cookie that has been plaguing me for quite a while now. You see, Trader Joe’s sells these amazingly delicious hazelnut chocolate sandwich cookies, and I was determined to recreate them at home – and after half a dozen failures over the course of a year (the cookies were too dry, the filling was too overwhelming, the filling was too runny, etc), I finally succeeded! The cookies themselves are buttery and rich, the hazelnuts are toasty and nutty, and the filling is chocolatey without being too sweet. Just what I was aiming for!
Hazelnut Shortbread Sandwich Cookies with Milk Chocolate Fudge Filling
Makes about 18, depending on cookie size
For the cookies:
3 sticks of salted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 tsp kosher salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
8 ounces hazelnuts, toasted and chopped
For the filling:
7 ounces sweetened condensed milk
6 ounces milk chocolate, chopped*
a pinch of kosher salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
*I’d advise that you use a chopped up chocolate bar for the filling, rather than chocolate chips. I find that chocolate chips don’t melt too smoothly (because they’re specially coated to prevent them from clumping up in the bag), so I keep a few chocolate bars on hand for things like this.
1.) Preheat your oven to 350°; toast the hazelnuts on a baking sheet for about 10 minutes, until the skins are dark brown, and the nuts themselves are golden.
2.) Once the nuts have had a chance to cool a bit, wrap them in a clean kitchen towel, and gently rub the skins off. Discard the skins, and set the nuts aside.
3.) In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large mixing bowl, using a hand mixer), cream together the butter and sugars. Add the vanilla and kosher salt, and combine well.
4.) Add the flour in three additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl in between each addition, and mixing until the flour is just incorporated each time. Finely chop the hazelnuts (either with a knife, or using a nut grinder), and add those to the dough.
5.) The dough will be pretty crumbly at this point, and that’s okay. Lay out a sheet of plastic wrap about 15″ long; grab handfuls of the dough, and work them with your hands until the dough comes together (the heat from your hands will warm the butter in the dough and help it stick together).
6.) Form the handfuls into logs about 2″ in diameter, and lay them end to end on the plastic wrap. Smush the logs of dough together, end to end, until you’ve got a larger roll of dough that’s about 10-12″ long. Roll the dough up in the saran wrap, and twist the ends in opposite directions to tighten the roll and smooth it out.
7.) Refrigerate the dough for at least 30 minutes, or as long as overnight. When you’re ready to bake the dough, preheat your oven to 350°, and line a baking sheet with parchment or a silpat liner. Slice the cold dough into 1/2″ slices, and bake them for about 12 minutes, until the edges are just golden brown. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheets for about 10 minutes, then remove to a cooling rack to allow them to finish cooling completely.
8.) Once the cookies are cooled, make the filling. Add the chopped chocolate, sweetened condensed milk, vanilla, and salt to a small bowl. Microwave it for about 30 seconds, then stir; everything should be warm enough to fully melt the chocolate and create a smooth consistency, but you can microwave longer (15 seconds at a time) if needed. Once the mixture is smooth, let it cool for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
9.) Pour the filling into a piping bag or large ziploc, and cut off the corner so the opening will be about 1/4″ wide. Pipe a layer of fudge filling onto the bottom of half the cookies, and top with the remaining cookies. Allow the filling to set for at least a few hours, but preferably overnight.
These might seem complicated, because there are a lot of steps – but they’re actually pretty simple to make! Best of all, you can make the cookie dough ahead of time and store it in the fridge (for up to 5 days, I’d say), and then when you’re ready for cookies, you just slice them and bake them! It’s worth noting that these hazelnut shortbread cookies are also delicious on their own – so having a roll or two of cookie dough in the fridge might not be a bad idea, in the event you have an emergent need for freshly baked cookies. You could also substitute another nut, if you’d prefer – toasted pecans would be delicious!
Thanks again to the three lovely food bloggers who send me their delicious cookies – and to those who received mine, I hope you enjoyed them!
I would like to have a Christmas dinner that consists of nothing but cookies,