Friday, July 13, 2012

Hazelnut Baci

Baci

Sometimes summer makes me overlook chocolate.  I get so excited about strawberries, peaches, plums, cherries, and especially watermelon, that chocolate can get relegated to all the months I don't enjoy these fruits in season.  Then I tasted these cookies at a picnic, and liked them so much I had to make them.  Soft, crackly chocolate-hazelnut cookies sandwich a layer of Nutella in little bites.

Picnic Collage

We enjoyed them at our recent Jane Austen book club picnic at World's End, and boy do we know how to do picnics right.  My contributions were fried chicken, scones, and plum skillet cake.  Rebecca made her "Austen" cucumber sandwiches and the most delicious nectarine-steeped iced tea, and brought real china teacups!  And Mrs. Hot Potato, or "the Mrs.," as she's known on her blog, made these hazelnut baci and lemon-lavender shortbread.  Yum.

Hazelnut Baci

The Mrs. adapted her Baci di Cioccolato (chocolate kisses) recipe to use hazelnuts instead of almonds and Nutella instead of ganache.  I followed her instructions but was stumped about measuring out the dough.  The original recipe calls for shaping the dough into logs of a certain diameter and then cutting up pieces.  That sounded fussy, so I can see why the Mrs. used an ice cream scoop.  I didn't know what size she used, and if I wasn't making these on my wacky schedule in the middle of the night I would have asked her.  I used my "tablespoon" scoop, but those turned out too big, like Oreos, and a little flat though they tasted just as good.

Unbaked Baci
Wonder about using sanding or sparkling sugar?  Don't.  I experimented, and it was pretty but too crunchy.
For my second try, I did what I call "the insurance policy": I froze the dough balls to help maintain a round shape and made them in 3 sizes, figuring one of those sizes had to be right.  Turns out using the tablespoon scoop and then halving those pieces makes the perfect two-bite cookie.  And this cookie is definitely making an appearance come Christmas cookie basket time.  Some relatives will be very happy indeed.

Butterfly
Butterflies kept us company during the picnic.

Hazelnut Baci
Adapted from Baci di Cioccolato by Mrs. Hot Potato

½ cup chopped hazelnuts (or ¼ cup toasted hazelnut flour)
1 tbs granulated sugar, plus more for rolling
1½ cups plus 1 tbs all-purpose flour
⅓ cup dutch-processed cocoa powder (I like Guittard)
¼ tsp baking powder
½ tsp kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks/8 oz.) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup confectioners sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbs dark rum
Jar of Nutella

Preheat the oven to 325°.

Roast the almonds on a baking tray for 15 minutes, stirring once and watching them carefully to ensure they don't burn.  Let the hazelnuts cool, then grind them up in the food processor with 1 tablespoon of sugar using the metal blade to a fine consistency.  To skip all this, you can use tablespoon scoop, which is not the actual measure of a tablespoon but intended to imitate the dinner tablespoons used in old cookie recipes.  Use the dough to measure level portions of cookie dough, then cut each scoop of dough in half.  Roll each half into a ball with your hands, then roll in sugar and place on the baking sheets ½ inch apart.  The Mrs. says you want the balls to be about the size of a walnut in its shell.  Repeat with remaining dough.

Chill the dough balls in the freezer for about a half-hour.  Preheat oven again to 325°.  Bake for 12 to 16 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through to ensure even cooking.  The cookies should be puffed and crackly.  Let them cool for a few minutes on the baking trays until they firm up, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Assemble the cookies by spooning a bit of Nutella on the flat end of one cookie, then topping it with another cookie and squeezing the halves gently so the Nutella comes to the sides.  The cookies can be stored at room temperature for up to three days.

13 comments:

  1. Blasphemy! Chocolate should be on the mind in every season...hahaha

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  2. Amazing! I love chocolate for any occasion and these cookies look divine!

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  3. They look great, Shirley! Sorry for the confusion on the size, but yours look perfect after a little trial and error. ;o)

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    1. Thanks!! They are so good, and we've really been enjoying them.

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  4. I haven't make dessert for a while and your post just makes me craving for it badly~!
    Looks very yummy!

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  5. You know, I never thought about it, but I think I neglect chocolate during the summer too! It feels so heavy compared to lighter, fruity desserts. But after looking at these cookies, suddenly my cravings for chocolate are back. :)

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    1. Exactly! And these cookies are a bit rich, but you can stop yourself after one or two, and they're just little bites. I think they're even good without the Nutella.

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  6. I as well forget chocolate in the summer. Why!!???
    These look gorgeous. And your pick-nick sounds like a fairy tale...

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    1. I think chocolate can seem heavy in the summer, or fruits in season just take over. Thank you!

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  7. First of all, I love your picnic gathering! Using real tea cup and all the yummy homemade food... I don't know how many of my friends can come up with fancy dishes (Costco?)! And then I was surprised by your experiment of cookie size. You are thorough. Even though it might take extra effort, thanks to you, we know what size is perfect and you can make next batch in perfect size. I learned from you that it's okay to bake the same twice so that we can experiment to get one perfect recipe. I'm silly I'm always trying to aim perfect from the first one and discourage to bake at the end and not baking at all.. What a negative circle! LOL! These cookies look really good. Love nutella~~!

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    1. It's absolutely OK to bake the same thing twice! (Though I once gave up on a cake recipe after it came out flat 3 times. Sometimes it doesn't work.) I get frustrated if it doesn't come out right the first time, but we learn from mistakes. And practice makes perfect. These are still not as pretty as my friend's or other ones I've seen on the Internet, but that's life. :)
      We love our friends in spite of their Costco ways. haha But I find that people who don't like to cook or get intimidated by cooking/baking are great candidates for bringing plates, ice, drinks, etc. to picnics and potlucks.

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