Thursday 27 December 2012

Nutella and hazelnut-stuffed browned butter chocolate chunk cookies

Nutella and hazelnut-stuffed browned butter chocolate chunk cookies

So that’s it, Christmas is over and most of us are probably eating leftover turkey sandwiches (I’ll have mine with a wedge of brie and a dollop of cranberry sauce please) whilst contemplating the plans for New Year’s Eve.  At the risk of sounding like a grumpy old woman, I must say, I’ve never been a huge fan of New Year’s.  For me, it comes second only to Valentine’s Day (don’t get me started!) as an over-hyped ‘holiday’ designed to make most people feel pretty pants about themselves.

I cannot be alone in thinking thus.  The pressure to go out on New Year’s Eve and have a wonderful time is surely enough to give anyone a nervie b and - for me anyway - 9.9 times out of 10 it’s an anti-climax.  So much so in fact that usually I am more than happy to stay indoors, comfy-cosy in my PJs, watching all the commotion on television and trying – usually unsuccessfully - to stay awake long enough for the countdown.  Perhaps it’s a sign of my age…

Nutella and hazelnut-stuffed browned butter chocolate chunk cookies

Having said all that, this year, I’m doing a volte-face.  I’ve been invited to a house party you see, which, not only do I plan to go to, but I actually plan to get dressed up for (yes my friends, rejoice, the pyjamas will be shed!) and whatever happens darn it, I will have, not just a good time, but like, oh-my-God, just like, the most super-amazing time, like everrrr!!!

Of course, after the big night out will come the inevitable New Year’s resolutions to detox/lose weight/start exercising/[fill in with your resolution of choice].  But before all that, should you want to make the most of the remaining few days to indulge (until we all give up on our resolutions that is), I can’t recommend these Nutella-stuffed chocolate chunk cookies highly enough.  I came across them on the fantastic blog Ambitious Kitchen.  Admittedly, they take a bit more time and effort to make than your average cookie, both because of the beurre noisette* and the Nutella filling, but I can guarantee you, Cookie Monster would definitely approve!

Nutella and hazelnut-stuffed browned butter chocolate chunk cookies

These cookies are chewy, soft and buttery with a secret stash of Nutella hiding away in the centre, ready to shout 'BOO!' out at you when you bite into it!  Ideally, they're best eaten on the day of baking, whilst the Nutella centre is still soft and gooey.  Yummo!  I tweaked my cookies ever so slightly by adding a whole hazelnut into the centre of the Nutella, à la Ferrero Rochers, and by omitting the sea salt (mainly because I forgot to sprinkle it on while the cookies were still hot.  Doh!)

*Beurre noisette is brown butter.  If you’re nervous about making it, there are online guides on how to do so.  This how-to, on Ambitious Kitchen’s website saw me through the process (after I’d burnt my first lot!):

Makes around 20 cookies
  • 20-25 whole hazelnuts
  • 335g plain flour
  • 1¼ tsp bicarbonate soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 220g unsalted butter
  • 210g dark brown sugar
  • 45g granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tbsp plain greek yogurt
  • 1½ tsp vanilla extract or 1 tsp vanilla paste
  • 250g chocolate chunks (I used 40% cocoa but you can use darker if you prefer.  I think milk chocolate would make the overall cookie too sweet – it’s very sweet as it is!)
  • 1 jar of Nutella, chilled in the fridge (200g should be enough, but it might be safer to buy a 400g jar. After all, anything you don’t use up for the cookies, you can just polish off with a spoon!)
To start, toast the hazelnuts by placing them on a baking sheet and popping them in the oven at 180C (160C fan) for 7-10 minutes.  Check them periodically to make sure they aren’t burning.  Once toasted, leave to cool, then rub gently in a clean tea towel to remove as much of the papery skins as possible (the skins can be bitter which is why they're best removed).

Sift the flour, bicarb and salt together into a bowl and set aside.

To make the brown butter, or beurre noisette, melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat. The butter will begin to foam. Make sure you whisk consistently during this process.  After a couple of minutes, the butter will begin to brown on the bottom of the saucepan.  Continue to whisk and remove from heat as soon as the butter begins to brown and give off a nutty aroma.  Immediately transfer the butter to a cold bowl (either chilled in the fridge or over some ice) to prevent burning. Set aside to cool for a few minutes.

Once your butter has cooled, with an electric mixer and a K-beater attachment, mix the butter and sugars until thoroughly blended (a good few minutes).  Then beat in the egg, yolk, yogurt and vanilla until combined.

Next, add the sifted dry ingredients in thirds, beating on a low speed until fully incorporated.

Finally, fold in the chocolate chips.

Chill your dough for a minimum of two hours in the fridge, or even overnight if you can wait that long (a chilled dough results in a softer, chewier end cookie, so you really need to dig deep for some willpower and make sure you go through with this step, rather than skipping it and rushing to make the cookies so that you can eat them sooner!)

Once the dough is chilled, preheat the oven to 180C (160C for a fan oven) and line three or four baking sheets with greaseproof paper (if you don’t have this many baking sheets, don’t worry, you can bake the cookies in batches).

Measure out about 1½ tablespoons of dough at a time and roll into a ball. Flatten the dough ball very thinly into the palm of your hand or onto your work surface.  Place a generous teaspoon of chilled Nutella in the middle and gently push one hazelnut into the Nutella.

Raw Nutella and hazelnut-stuffed browned butter chocolate chunk cookie

Now fold the dough around the Nutella, encasing the Nutella and hazelnut inside the dough.  Gently roll the dough back into a ball, making sure that the Nutella is not seeping out.

Place dough balls onto your baking sheets, about two inches apart to allow for spread as they bake.

Raw balls of Nutella and hazelnut-stuffed browned butter chocolate chunk cookies

Bake the cookies for 10 minutes until the edges of the cookies begin to turn golden brown. They may look a bit underdone in the middle, but will continue to cook once out of the oven.

Cool the cookies on the sheets for five minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Thursday 13 December 2012

Christmas Rocky Road

2012 has been rather a topsy-turvy year. More turvy than topsy if you really want to know. Indeed, I'm going to take the liberty of quoting Queenie in saying that 2012 "is not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure…it has turned out to be an Annus Horribilis." (The Queen actually said this in reference to 1992, but being only 12 years old at the time, pretty much all I can remember of that particular year was having to wear a hideously itchy and unflattering school uniform - a look which was completed with oversized plastic-rimmed NHS specs, acne and frizzy, untamed hair - and being madly in love with Mark Owen. Agreed, not my finest year, but equally not an Annus Horribilis for me).

Whilst there have been some highlights in 2012, including the birth of my most scrumdiddlyumptious nephew and a recent sojourn to Italy where I spent most of my time feasting on beautifully fresh and flaky Nutella pastries, the lowlights have unfortunately far outnumbered these. I am not going to elaborate on my tales of woe because a blog about baking and cakes is no place for sorrow, but suffice to say, I shall be very relieved when the clock strikes midnight on 1 January 2013...assuming that is, that I don't fall asleep at 11.55pm, which, being the cotton-headed ninnymuggins that I am, is more than likely.

Still, it wouldn't be fair of me to wish away what remains of 2012 just yet. Not when one of the best parts of the year - Christmas - is yet to come. Most people are gearing themselves up for the big day now, with office parties, menu planning and present shopping. If you're going to a party and don't want to turn up empty-handed, or you're struggling to find a certain person a gift, I find a homemade edible gift is always a winner. I took these Christmas Rocky Roads - so-called by me because they are packed with Christmassy ingredients such as ginger, orange and sultanas - to a Christmas party recently and they went down a storm. They'd also make a great present wrapped up in some cellophane with a pretty ribbon, and the best part is that they're extremely easy to make.

P.S. I'd say these are more suited to the grownup palate, but if you wanted to make them for children instead, you could perhaps substitute the stem ginger with marshmallows.

Adapted slightly from Mary Berry
  • 200ml double cream
  • 300g Bourneville chocolate (or any good quality chocolate with 40-50% cocoa content)
  • 50g butter
  • 25g caster sugar
  • 200g ginger biscuits, broken into small pieces
  • 75g stem ginger, chopped into small pieces
  • 100g sultanas
  • Peel of two oranges, coarsely grated
Line a 18cm (7") square tin with a strip of parchment paper across the base.

Measure the cream, chocolate and butter into a bowl and melt gently over a pan of just simmering water until runny and melted (make sure the water in the pan does not come into contact with the base of your bowl). Stir occasionally to combine the melting ingredients. Be careful not to overheat.

Add the caster sugar, biscuits, ginger, sultanas and grated orange peel. Stir together and pour into the tin. Level the surface then chill your molten chocolateyness in the fridge for 4 hours until firm.

Turn onto a board, remove paper and cut into small squares.