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Friday, October 4, 2013

Experimenting with Chocolate Hazelnut Butter Cookies

I remember my first taste of Nutella.  One of my favorite candy purveyors was doing a promotion on it when I was somewhere between the ages of 8 and 10.  The store was selling it in big jars as well as in little snack packs.  Unlike many children, I loved nuts.  Plus the the base was chocolate, and I don't need to say I have always loved chocolate.  When I bought a little snack pack of Nutella and tried it for the first time, I was in chocolate Heaven.  I didn't realize there was a substance on this planet that could taste so delicious.

After the promotion ended I didn't see Nutella much.  It was an occasional treat that I probably had less than once a year.  I was happy to have it whenever I could get it.

Once I learned about Nutella I realized hazelnuts are my favorite nuts.  Hazelnut flavoring just by itself is exceptionally delicious.  It makes coffee palatable.  It makes a delicious ice cream.  Hazelnut praline paste made up a cake fililng that was so delicious that I almost didn't have anything to fill the layers of my mother-in-law's birthday cake last year.  Adding chocolate to hazelnuts just takes something already delicious to a new level.

I know some crazy people aren't into it.  I remember in college I had bought some hazelnut chocolate truffles at a new gourmet store in town.  My boyfriend turned up his nose declaring that he only liked plain chocolate with no other flavors in it or mixed in with it (although he ate the various brownies I baked him filled with nuts and other treats). He also most decidedly did not like hazelnuts.  In her book Miss Media, Lynn Harris's main character declares hazelnut as an ice cream flavor "overrated".  I have been on internet forums where some crazy ladies have declared that Nutella is nothing special.  Today's recipe is not for these people.  If you're not a Hazel-nut, then go someplace else.

As much as I love Nutella, I am painfully aware of its drawbacks.  I know it's full of sugar and trans-fat.  No matter what they say in the commercials, it's not a nutritious or low-calorie treat.  What's a Nutella lover to do?  If you have a jar at home, it's awfully hard to keep the spoon out of it.

In the past year I discovered this.  Behold Justin's Chocolate Hazelnut Butter.

Although it's not pure hazelnut (it contains almonds too), it has enough hazelnut flavor to satisfy.  It has less sugar than Nutella and no trans fats.  As far as I'm concerned it's plenty sweet enough.  It's not as smooth as Nutella - it's more like natural peanut butter that is well-integrated and has sat in the refrigerator for a while- it works in situations where Nutella works.  I used it to make cake frosting for my mother's birthday earlier this year and everyone ate the cake.

When I considered its similarities to peanut butter, I began to wonder, could I make peanut butter cookies with Justin's Chocolate Hazelnut Butter?  Could I simply swap out peanut butter in a recipe?

I decided to give it a try.  I not only made the cookies with Justin's butter, but I also added chocolate chips and toasted chopped hazelnuts.



The only fault with these was I should have baked them a bit longer than I did.  Peanut butter cookies are usually not soft, but I wanted a soft cookie and underbaked them a bit, which made them a bit flabby and delicate.  They tended to break when you picked them up.  Otherwise, they were delicious.  Since the dough needs to be chilled, they were convenient to bake since I mixed them up in the morning, spent the day riding, and then baked them off in the evening when I came home.

I brought them to my office and I ended up coming home with some.  I don't get that!  At my old job these would have been gone by 10AM even if they were terrible.  No one finished these.  At least the folks who ate them enjoyed them.

Chocolate-Hazelnut-Butter Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 stick butter at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup Justin's Chocolate Hazelnut Butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking power
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup toasted, chopped hazelnuts*
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
In a small bowl mix together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

Beat the butter until it is soft and fluffy.  Add both kinds of sugar and beat until the mixture is fluffy and sugar is incorporated.  Beat in the peanut butter and add the egg until well blended.  Beat in the vanilla.

Stir in the dry ingredients.  Gently stir in the chips and the nuts.  Gather the dough into a ball, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 3 hours.

When ready to bake, heat the oven to 375 degrees.  Drop 1.5" balls onto a cookie sheet.  Bake for about 10-11 minutes.  Cool before removing from cookie sheet.

*I like to toast my nuts, rub off the skins, then place them in a plastic bag where I proceed to beat them with the blunt side of a meat hammer.

1 comment:

Emily said...

Oh my goodness. These cookies look so good! I've never tried Justin's Hazelnut Butter, but I've wanted to. I bet it tastes even better than Nutella. I'll have to make these soon.