I’m a freezer nibbler.
This doesn’t mean I go around compulsively gnawing on the corners of refrigerators and freezers (although what I do on my own time is my own business, thankyouverymuch). Rather, I’m one of those people who stash extra baked goods in the freezer and eat them later. I do this for a lot of reasons—to keep them fresh, to have some sweets for a rainy day, and perhaps most importantly, to keep myself from eating two dozen cookies in one sitting.
What? You’ve been there too. Don’t deny.
Usually the freezer method works well. I package the treats, cram them into my overstuffed freezer using my manly biceps and spatial reasoning skills gained from years of Tetris, and forget about them until they fall from their forgotten corner and hit me in the head three or four months later. When I’m bored and looking for something to eat, I’m usually too impatient to dig in the back of the freezer and wait for something to defrost, so in general the system is a success. Sure, sometimes I’ll eat a rock-hard brownie, but I rarely go back for seconds. One jaw workout in a day is enough for me.
These Hazelnut Chocolate Chunk Cookies have thrown my entire system out of whack, because they actually taste delicious frozen. I’m not saying they’re fresh-out-of-the-oven good, but they don’t get unpleasantly hard like many other frozen cookies do. No need to gnaw on these puppies like a deranged gerbil! Nope, the cup of freshly made hazelnut butter in the dough gives them a soft, slightly crumbly texture that stays soft even when frozen. It’s downright dangerous to a freezer nibbler like yours truly.
But what about the taste? I think these cookies are what Nutella should taste like, but never actually does. You know how Nutella mostly tastes like wax with a little light cocoa and a hint of nut? Not so these cookies. They have a strong hazelnut flavor shot through with pockets of bittersweet chocolate.
The original recipe called for hazelnut butter, which I am sure you all have lying around your kitchen cupboards. (riiiiiight) Even my prodigious nut butter collection was lacking, so I toasted some hazelnuts until they were dark brown and fragrant, then pulverized them with some hazelnut oil in the food processor until I had a smooth, runny paste that made my entire kitchen smell like hazelnuts. After having tasted the effect of the freshly made hazelnut butter, I wouldn’t want to make these cookies any other way.
One final note: Hazelnuts are pricey and not to everyone’s taste, but good news: I’m sure this recipe would also work with other nuts like almonds, peanuts, or even pecans. Cookies for everyone! Just don’t try to hide them in the freezer…that’ll never work.
Hazelnut Chocolate Chunk Cookies
adapted from Bon Appetit
yield: 4 dozen small cookies or 2 dozen medium cookies
8.5 ounces skinned hazelnuts (to yield 1 cup hazelnut butter)
1 tablespoon hazelnut oil, other nut oil, or vegetable oil (omit if using store-bought hazelnut butter)
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
12 ounces dark chocolate, chopped into chunks
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the skinned hazelnuts on a baking sheet and toast them until they’re golden brown and fragrant, about 15 minutes. Stir every 4-5 minutes to prevent them from burning in spots. Take the nuts out of the oven and let them cool to room temperature.
Place the nuts in the bowl of a food processor and turn the processor on. When they have turned to powder, gradually stream in the hazelnut oil and continue processing the nuts. Stop the processor periodically to scrape down the bottom and sides. Continue to process the nuts until they have turned into a very fluid butter with a smooth texture. Depending on your processor this could take 3-8 minutes. If the nut butter has become warm, let it cool to room temperature.
Whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl.
Place the butter, nut butter, and both sugars in the bowl of a large stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat everything together until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla extract, and beat again until well-incorporated.
Add the flour to the mixing bowl and mix on low speed until the flour is incorporated. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the mixing bowl, then add the chopped chocolate and stir it in by hand. Wrap the cookie dough in plastic wrap and chill it for about 2 hours, until it is firmer but not too hard to scoop.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Scoop the cookie dough into small balls. Bake cookies for 8-10 minutes (for small cookies) or 10-12 minutes (for medium-large cookies) until they have spread, are puffed, and have lost the raw shine in the middle. Do not overbake, or they will be crunchy instead of soft. Cool cookies completely on a wire rack.