Not all Decembers are created equal. Unfortunately, this year for my family, we’ve been dealing with relatives in the hospital, and an all ill cat (who subsequently died, RIP Wolfie). Nevertheless, there are some recipes that I strive to make for the holiday season, be it a good year or a trying year. Hazelnut shortbreads are one such stalwart recipe.
I came across the recipe a few years ago, Painted Hazelnut Shortbreads My attempt at the recipe, I painstakingly painted fancy patterns on the hazelnut trees using the eggwash paint. It took hours. They were pretty, but oh so fussy! I swore to myself I would simplify things, so the next year, I omitted the paint. The cookies were simpler, but tasted just as a good. When you have so many other tasks to do and people to visit at the holidays, taking the time to paint patterns on cookies isn’t for everyone (unless you have unlimited time and help, which I do not).
These shortbreads must use whole hazelnuts—do not try to use pre-ground hazelnuts; it won’t work. Most of the prep can be done in a food processor, but use your hands to make sure all of the dough is evenly mixed.
1 cup whole hazelnuts
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup unsalted butter
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Place whole hazelnuts on baking sheet, and roast for 8-10 minutes. Allow to cool, and peel the skins from the hazelnuts. Most will come away easily by hand.
2. Pulse toasted hazelnuts and sugar in food processor just until nuts are very finely chopped.
3. Add butter, vanilla and salt; pulse to blend. Add flour; pulse just until blended and a soft dough forms.
4. Dump dough into a mixing bowl, and mould dough into a ball by hand, making sure to combine any crumbly bits into the dough. Divide dough into fourths; shape each into a 4-in.-round disk. Wrap in plastic and chill 30 minutes.
5. Heat oven to 300°F. You will need 2 baking sheets.
6. Place 2 disks of dough on each ungreased baking sheet; sprinkle with a little flour. Pat or roll each disk into a 7-in. round, about 3/8 in. thick. Flute or crimp the edges of each round with your finger. With large knife, cut each round into 8 wedges (don’t separate)
7. Bake 1 sheet at a time (refrigerate remaining sheet) 30-35 minutes, or until pale-golden around edges. While hot, recut wedges. Cool slightly on baking sheet before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.
Makes 32 shortbreads. You could also dip the edge or the end into melted chocolate if feeling fancy, but I enjoy the cookies plain with a good cup of milky chai tea.