Thursday, 2 May 2013
Have you heard about cookbook clubs?
Essentially, every month you pick a book, a host and a date. Everybody chooses one or two recipes from the book, makes them and brings them along. Then you have a big feast.
A local cafe chef set up our cookbook club in Oxford, inspired by Tea's post How to Start a Cookbook Club. I really recommend starting one up - they're a great way to meet new people in your area and try recipes and books you wouldn't necessarily pick otherwise.
Last month we decided on Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. I had planned to make the Chocolate Pecan Krantz Cake again but I was late back from my weekend in Edinburgh (read: I missed my flight home...) and didn't have time to set it up.
Instead, I made the Tahini Cookies (picture here). I wouldn't have picked them out normally but they were the only things I could make with the ingredients I had on hand after a weekend away. I was worried that the tahini flavour would be a bit odd in cookies but we were all pleasantly surprised by how much we loved them.
While I was standing over the mixer, watching the tahini whirl into the creamed butter and sugar, I started thinking about the idea that tahini is essentially puréed sesame seeds - like a thin nut butter. That reminded me of hazelnut butter, which is a bit thinner than other nut butters and absolutely delicious.
So, of course, I had to try a hazelnut version of the tahini cookies.
I first made roasted hazelnut butter a few years ago - it's so simple yet really lovely. All you do is roast the hazelnuts, roughly skin them and then food processor them until smooth and slick with a pinch of salt. I've only tried it with hazelnuts but the process is the same with other nuts (including, of course, peanut butter). I like it smeared on toast with swirls of raspberry jam.
Unusually, the tahini cookies recipe tells you to knead the dough in the mixer and by hand before portioning it. It does make it smoother but I found that when I skipped the step and just brought the dough together as I shaped it into a ball it didn't change the texture particularly and made life easier.
I also tried making the biscuits in the food processor (combining the butter and sugar with the paste already in there, then continuing as before) to save on time and washing up but the texture wasn't quite as good. I found it crumbled a little more than normal - they're quite crisp usually, which I really like. Because they're crisp through (though admittedly with a slightly, slightly moist centre) and keep really well, I've also called them biscuits instead of cookies.
After two batches I decided I needed to ramp up the hazelnut flavour, so I came up with the idea of rolling the cookies in ground hazelnuts and squishing them with a flat object rather than a fork. I think they look really pretty with the speckled nuts and little cracked edges and they gave me the flavour boost I wanted.
I love hazelnuts and I'm really pleased to have a recipe on hand that focuses purely on their flavour. It's also a great excuse to keep a batch of roasted hazelnut butter in the fridge.
Finally, I'm incredibly honoured to have been picked for The Guild of Food Writers Awards shortlist for Food Blog of the Year 2013! I never thought I'd make the list again after winning last year so the call was a big surprise. I was actually on a coach going into London when my phone went - I think I might have disturbed the other passengers with my enthusiasm...
Roasted Hazelnut Butter Biscuits
(inspired by the tahini cookies in Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi)
100g whole hazelnuts, skin on*
pinch of salt
80g unsalted butter at room temperature
70g light brown sugar
1 tbsp crème fraîche or double cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
135g plain flour
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Lightly grease a large baking tray. Pour the hazelnuts onto a small baking tray and roast for 8 minutes or until the skins have darkened and cracked open in places. Rub the skins off - some will stick but as long as you get about 2/3 off, don't worry. Tip into a food processor and pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Remove 30g of the ground nuts from the mixer. Add a pinch of salt to the mixer then pulse the remaining nuts until they become a smooth paste (with such a small amount you may need to scrape down a few times). You could now transfer this to a sealed jar and keep for up to a few weeks in the fridge - the ground nuts would need to be kept in a sealed bag.
Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat just until creamy and uniform. Add the hazelnut paste (about 65g), crème fraîche/cream and vanilla to the bowl and beat until combined. Finally add the flour and mix on the lowest setting until combined. Increase the speed briefly to bring the mixture together into a smooth dough. Take a 20g chunk of the dough (about the size of a whole walnut shell or a squash ball) and roll it between your palms until smooth. Tip the ground hazelnuts out into a shallow bowl then roll the ball of dough around until fully coated. Transfer to the baking tray then repeat with the rest of the dough - I usually get 16-17 biscuits. Use a palette knife or similar to flatten the cookies to about 1 - 1.5cm thick.
Bake for 14-16 minutes, turning the tray once at 10 minutes to help get an even colour. The biscuits should be a deep golden colour, slightly bigger and have a few little cracks around the sides. Leave to cool on the tray for 5 minutes then fully cool on a wire rack. I think they're better a day or two later and they keep in a tin for at least a week (I haven't managed to keep a batch longer than that!).
(Makes 16-17 biscuits)
* If you'd prefer to make a big batch of the paste, feel free to use more nuts. To make the biscuits, scoop 65g of the hazelnut butter into the cookie dough.
Three more posts about hazelnuts:
Fig & Hazelnut Crumble Bars
Chocolate Hazelnut Torte with Smoked Salt
Homemade Nutella - a dégustation