In the early eighteenth century, a marriage took place in Turin, Italy, and the world has never been quite the same ever since. I’m talking about the sacred union of chocolate and hazelnuts, ground together into what is called gianduja. It was born out of economic necessity, when cocoa was expensive, and hazelnuts became a filler. Be forewarned: these cookies are maddeningly good.
2 cups [165 g] hazelnut meal or flour
1 cup [200 g] packed jaggery or muscovado sugar
1½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
¼ tsp fine sea salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 tsp hazelnut extract or vanilla extract
½ cup [75 g] chopped bittersweet chocolate [70% cacao]
¹/3 cup [55 g] chopped crystallized ginger
In a large bowl, whisk together the hazelnut meal, jaggery, baking powder, baking soda, black pepper, and salt. Add the egg, melted butter, hazelnut extract, chocolate, and ginger and stir with a large wooden spoon until the dough comes together. Grease your hands with a little oil to prevent the dough from sticking. Divide the dough into twelve equal parts and shape them into balls. Flatten them into 2 in [5 cm] rounds. Place the rounds on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Wrap the entire baking sheet tightly in plastic wrap and place in the freezer for at least 10 minutes, and preferably 2 hours.
To bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350°F [180°C]. Line a second baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove the baking sheet from the freezer and put half the rounds of dough on the second sheet. Spread out the rounds on both baking sheets and refrigerate one of them. Bake one batch of cookies at a time until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool completely on wire racks. Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days.
The approach Black pepper and ginger add a kick of spicy heat, which intensifies the taste of the chocolate. If you want these even spicier, double the amount of pepper. The hazelnut extract amps up the hazelnut flavor of the nut meal. The end result is a cookie that’s irresistible.
Excerpted with permission from Season: Big Flavors, Beautiful Food by Nik Sharma (Chronicle Books, 2018)
© 2018 by Nik Sharma