It's been cold here in Pittsburgh, but we're still waiting for that big snow. It seems that we've had a constant flurry of snow coming down, but no accumulation to speak of. It's been beautiful and I should probably count my blessings that the roads are clear and we haven't had to shovel, only brush the walks. Annie's been dying to get out there and play in the snow, but there's not even enough to build a proper snowman. We can even still see the tips of grass poking through the snowy white layer on the ground. Even our friends half an hour north have had enough snow for sledding, but somehow it's missed us so far.
In my mind, it's been perfect - I can get to the store without any problems, and there's no buildup of snow on the old slate roof to cause trouble. But I do love to watch the kids after a big snow. (Admittedly I watch them through the window most of the time! What can I say, I like to be warm.) There's just that happiness, when they have the day off from school and can trod around in the deep snow, that can't be matched. Ah well, they'll just have to be patient. It will come. Meanwhile, I'll watch the light snowfall out my kitchen window and keep on baking.
These hazelnut sandwiches are amazing! The dough, made with ground toasted hazelnuts (also called filberts), is made into a few skinny logs which are then frozen, then sliced and baked. My logs weren't all the same size, but I found that the thinner logs made a more elegant cookie, just the right size to have two with an afternoon cup of chai tea. The most difficult part of making this cookie is toasting and removing the skins from the hazelnuts - it's a pain and a little messy - but so worth it.
The cookie itself is the perfect consistency - not too hard when you bite into it, that all the filling oozes out, and not chewy either - they're soft with a bit of a sandy texture.
The Nutella filling, already made so you don't have to dirty more dishes (although you could make your own if you wanted to), complements the cookie wonderfully. If you don't have Nutella, substitute raspberry jam.
Hazelnut Sandwich Cookies
adapted slightly from A Passion for Desserts by Emily Luchetti
Makes about 45 cookies
1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted and skins removed
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 ounces cream cheese
2/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup Nutella or your favorite jam, or as needed
1. To toast and skin the hazelnuts: Preheat oven to 350° F. In a baking pan, toast hazelnuts in one layer in middle of oven 10 to 15 minutes, or until lightly colored and fragrant. Wrap nuts in a kitchen towel and let steam 1 minute. Rub nuts in towel to remove loose skins (don't worry about skins that don't come off) and cool completely. In a food processor, finely grind the hazelnuts with 1/2 cup of the flour.
2. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat together the butter, cream cheese, and sugar until light in color and smooth, 1 minute with a stand mixer or 2 minutes with a handheld mixer. Add the egg and mix until combined.
3. On low speed, add the ground hazelnuts, the remaining flour, the salt, and the baking powder and mix until smooth. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
4. Divide the dough into 4 pieces. On a lightly sugared work surface, roll the dough into 4 logs, between 1 and 1 1/4 inches in diameter. Place the logs in the freezer for at least 1 hour until firm. (Note: because the dough is kept frozen, you can bake a few as needed and keep the remaining dough in the freezer. Perfect for unexpected visitors or a short-notice gift.)
5. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
6. Slice the dough into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Place on the prepared baking sheets about 2 inches apart and bake until golden brown around the edges, about 8 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.
7. Sandwich 2 cookies together using about 1 teaspoon of Nutella or jam for each.
Planning ahead: The cookie dough can be made several days in advance and kept frozen. The cookies can be baked several days in advance (without the filling). Store at room temperature in an airtight container. Sandwich the cookies the day you plan to serve them.