Ideally these cookies should have been made for Valentine’s Day. Since they were not (and let me blame other things and get away with it just this once), I am going to go with the views of people who do not celebrate this day. “Why should one celebrate love just once a year?” “One should make each day special.” “Make your loved ones feel special every single day.” “This is a commercial gimmick created by Hallmark.” “Do you really want to celebrate Valentine’s Day? Really?” etc by a variety of people who in general consisted of my family and friends of different temperaments.
But just this once, let me forget the scoffers, the doubters, the cynics. Let me say that heart shaped things should not be isolated just to Valentine’s Day. Let me urge you to make these cookies any time of the day, any time of the year for those very special people (read: friends) with whom you have had some of the best times of your life. Let me say that in particular, these are for S.S. and H.G. who are going to be starting a new journey of sorts. Here’s wishing them love, luck and all kinds of adventures. May your life be full of balloons and magic!
Now, back to the cookies. They are quite simple to make, really. To make the nut meal (ground nuts), always add one teaspoon of sugar or flour to one cup of nuts before grinding. Make sure the nuts are completely ground otherwise it will be difficult to roll out the dough. You whisk together the flour, nuts and spices. Beat the butter and sugar. Add the eggs. Work in the dry ingredients and blend. Then you roll out the dough and refrigerate it for a few hours. Once they are chilled, cut them into any shape you like and bake. Sandwich them, or eat them plain but definitely dust them with some icing sugar first.
I cut out lots of heart shapes – little hearts, big hearts and hearts with a heart shaped whole in them. I have heart shaped cookie cutters in 3 sizes. I used the largest size to cut out the big hearts, and cut the heart in the middle and the little hearts with the smallest one. Just to make this more fun, some cookies I just coated with milk chocolate, some cookies I sandwiched with strawberry jam. Some I sandwiched with strawberry jam and just to make it more mysterious, I used a chocolate coated little heart to cover the jam shaped whole in the large cookie! This gives people the nicest surprise when they bite into the cookie expecting only chocolate and get a burst of jam instead.
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: from my home to yours.
I made ½ the recipe and that gave me about 12 sandwich cookies and lots of little hearts.
1 ½ cups finely ground hazelnuts
1 ½ cups flour
1 ½ tsps. Ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cloves
1 large egg
2 tsps water
1 stick (115 gms) butter (add ¼ tsp salt to the batter if using unsalted butter)
½ cup sugar
¼ cup strawberry jam plus 1 tsp water (optional)
50 gms milk/dark chocolate for coating the cookies (optional)
Icing / confectioner’s sugar for dusting
1) Whisk together the nuts, flour, spices and salt (if using unsalted butter).
2) Stir the egg and water in a small bowl using a fork.
3) Beat the butter and sugar at medium speed using the paddle attachment for about 3 minutes. Add the egg mix and beat for another minute.
4) Add the dry ingredients and work them in until they just disappear. Do not overbeat. Preferably, use a spatula to do this or, if you are using the mixer, reduce the speed to the lowest setting. If some crumbs remain at the bottom, use your hands to bring the dough together.
5) Divide the dough in half. Put one half between two sheets of wax paper, flatten it out and roll out the dough until it is ¼ inch thick. Repeat with the second half of dough. At this stage, make sure that the nuts are completely ground. If you are out of wax paper (like me) you can flour your kitchen counter and roll out the dough there.
6) Transfer the rolled out dough to the refrigerator and let it chill for 2 hours.
7) To bake, preheat the oven to 375 F or 190 C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon mat.
8) Cut out as many cookies as you like and as many shapes as you like. If you want sandwich cookies, then cut out big hearts and cut little hearts in the centre of about half of the big hearts (like a peekaboo cutout). These are the top and bottoms of your sandwich cookies.
9) Place the cookies on the mat leaving some space between them. Bake them for 11 – 13 minutes. They should be golden, dry and just firm to touch. They will harden more as they cool. Place them on a cooling rack.
10) If you are making sandwich cookies, place jam in a small saucepan and add the water. Bring to a boil over low heat. Let it cool slightly. Turn half of the cookie flat side up and place about ½ tsp of jam in the centre of each cookie; sandwich with remaining cookie.
11) If you want chocolate coated cookies, melt the chocolate over a double boiler. Dip the front of the cookie in the chocolate. Then place it on parchment paper and allow to harden. This you can use to cover the peekaboo cutout in the sandwich cookie.
12) Just before serving, dust the cookies with icing sugar.