20 December 2013

Nutella Hazelnut Thumbprint Cookies

There is a theme to my baking this year...non-traditionalizing the traditional.  All the childhood classics are still rolling out, but with a few minor modifications to keep things jazzy and fun.  Perhaps it's the anticipation of spring and the hubs residency match, but this year I am itching for change, even with Christmas cookies.  Why not add a little spice or swap in an ingredient or two?  Just keep that milk coming and I'll keep the cookies rolling.  And though this may not be the most festive creation of the season, it has without a doubt been the most popular on the cookie party platter.

My mom's all-time favorite Christmas cookies are thumbprints.  She would make a batch every year knowing that the only one eating them would be her.  With all the brownies, crinkles, shortbread and teacakes lying around, her children were far to distracted to remember the tin of thumbprints sitting forlorn in the pantry corner.  But it wasn't the variety alone that steered us clear of these cookies...it was also the mint jelly.  And while my mom loves its festive look and flavor, my brothers and I have never been big fans.  Strawberry jelly, ok....mint, all you mom.

If you've never made thumbprints, you absolutely need to add it to your cookie collection.  Perhaps one of the most versatile basics, it can be dressed up or down into anything imaginable.  The dough can be rolled in nuts, seeds, sprinkles or left plain.  Once baked, they can be filled with anything from lemon curd to frosting to....Nutella!  As in this cookie, right here!  Mom's mint has been swapped for a chocolatey hazelnut spread, less festive to be certain but a definite upgrade in my book.  And chopped hazelnuts are a perfect coating, accentuating the flavor of the filling and adding a savory nuttiness that is wonderful with the sweet buttery cookie.

Don't worry mom....there's still a few strawberry jam ones in there for you.  But you can keep the mint all for yourself, per usual.

Nutella Hazelnut Thumbprint Cookies (about 2 1/2 dozen cookies)
Modified from Betty Crocker's Cooky Book
  • 1/2 c unsalted butter, at room temp
  • 1/4 c brown sugar
  • 1 egg, separated
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla or almond extract
  • 1 c flour, sifted
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 c finely chopped hazelnuts
  • Nutella, for filling
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  In a large mixing bowl or stand mixer, combine the butter, sugar, egg your and vanilla.  Beat together until fluffy and light.  Add the flour and salt, then mix with a spoon or paddle attachment until just combined.  

Make the coating station for your cookies by placing the egg white in a small bowl and beating lightly with a fork, then placing the chopped nuts in a second bowl to the side of the egg white.  Use a teaspoon to scoop the dough into your hands and roll into a ball.  Roll in the egg white then coat in the chopped nuts.  Place the dough an inch apart on an ungreased baking sheet, pressing a hole into the center of each cookie with your thumb.  

Bake for 9-11 minutes, until the cookies are set.  If your centers rise too high, press back down as soon as the  cookies come out of the oven.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool before filling with Nutella.  Cookies can be stored in an air-tight container for up to three weeks.  

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