On the second day of Christmas … my true love gave to me … Mocha Java Hazelnut Cookies.
Every Christmas cookie bake-a-thon should include at least one amazing chocolate cookie. Not only does chocolate add a festive and luxurious note to any celebration, it actually elevates mood and feelings of good cheer. As if this were not enough advantage for a single food source, chocolate is also the richest source of antioxidants known. Imagine! Cookies that bless the mind AND the body.
Fortunately, small-batch, single origin, chocolate maker extraordinaire, Shawn Askinosie, of Missouri-based Askinosie Chocolate, recently graced me with a selection of his legendary chocolates, including his single origin, unsweetened, non-alkalized natural cocoa powder (Soconusco Mexico). If there is brighter, more lush, or more balanced cocoa powder on this earth, I haven’t discovered it yet. (You can follow Shawn’s chocolate adventures on Twitter @askinosie.)
That surprise gift got me thinking about the one chocolate cookie I would create for this year’s Starry Night collection. It had to be all about the chocolate but with intriguing counterpoints. Espresso came to mind instantly, followed by toasted hazelnuts, then cayenne for a little spicy heat, then cardamom for smoky, earthy spice, and finally brown sugar for a support note of caramel.
This is the cookie I intend to leave by the fireplace for Santa, who will hopefully linger awhile and savor each bite.
Mocha Java Hazelnut Cookies
These delectable little morsels are for adult palates, with their intense espresso and dark chocolate flavor combination, enlivened with a generous dose of cayenne, a hint of smoky cardamom, and fragrant, crunchy toasted hazelnuts. Sometimes I make them even spicier, but I will leave that to your discretion. Short and crisp, these are wonderful with afternoon coffee or tea or as an adjunct to a creamy dessert, such as a mousse, panna cotta, or ice cream.
2¼ cups King Arthur’s unbleached, all-purpose flour
¾ cup unsweetened, non-alkalized, premium cocoa
½ teaspoon cayenne
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
1½ cups unsalted butter, at cool room temperature (3 sticks)
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup brown sugar
1½ teaspoons Starbucks Via Ready Brew Instant Italian Roast Coffee, or other espresso powder, dissolved in 1 teaspoon hot water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1½ cups chopped toasted skinned hazelnuts
2 egg whites beaten lightly with 2 teaspoons cold water
¾ cup finely chopped hazelnuts
clear sprinkles, optional
- In a medium mixing bowl, sift the flour, cocoa, cayenne, cardamom, and salt together. Reserve.
- Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together thoroughly, about 3 minutes.
- Add dissolved espresso and vanilla, and incorporate.
- Add the flour mixture and mix very briefly, only until incorporated.
- Mix in the chopped hazelnuts.
- Using a #70 scoop (1 tablespoon) with a release mechanism, scoop balls of dough, leveling each ball with the edges of the scoop. (Thus each ball will have one flat surface.)
- You can arrange the dough balls closely together on a baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and chill for as long as a couple of days, or proceed immediately to baking.
- Coat a baking sheet lightly with vegetable spray. Arrange 18 cookie balls, flat sides down, 2 inches apart, on the baking sheet. (These cookies don’t spread very much.)
- Lay a sheet of waxed paper over the cookies and using a meat pounder or other heavy, flat object, gently flatten each cookie ball to a ¼-inch thickness.
- Brush the tops of the cookies with egg white and sprinkle on a small amount of the remaining finely chopped hazelnuts. Press the nuts into the cookie and then brush again with egg white. Sprinkle with clear sprinkles.
- Bake at 350º for 6-8 minutes. Watch closely to prevent cookies from over-browning. It is difficult to tell when these cookies are done, because color is not a cue.
- Remove from the oven and cool on wire racks.
- When completely cool, store in air-tight cookie tins in a cool, dry location.
These cookies improve with age and will keep, if stored properly, for many weeks. You can also freeze them.
Makes about 7 dozen small-to-medium cookies.
To follow along as we bake our way through this year’s cookie collection, see the kickoff post, Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Starry Night.
Also, check out last year’s collection, Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Deck the Halls.