Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Week 3: White Chocolate Chip and Hazelnut Cookies

For Christmas I was fortunate enough to be given The Model Bakery Cookbook. (Thank you, Danielle.) This St. Helena Bakery, founded in 1984, has generously put pen to paper and published 75 of its cherished, time-honored recipes. The cover, featuring nothing more than fresh-baked, drool-worthy English muffins, made me want to run into the kitchen and start baking. Then I delved into the table of contents and it’s a veritable treasure trove of comfort food: muffins, pies, old-fashioned cookies. Plus it has some great recipes for breads. I can hardly believe that I waited this long to sample a recipe!

Because I had some toasted hazelnuts that needed to be used, I searched for a recipe that would incorporate them and came upon white chocolate chip and hazelnut cookies. I have found that a good number of people are not fans of the white chocolate chip. I can totally understand; they are not really chocolate, per se. But if this bakery deemed them good enough to include in a cookie, who am I to disagree? I should note that they recommend you use white chocolate chips (or chopped white chocolate) that has cocoa butter. No palm oil or other tropical fats should be in the ingredient list.

The cookies are easy to make, similar to your everyday Tollhouse chocolate chip. I took pictures as I went along, but the hazelnut/chip picture was terribly monochrome in color, as was the scoop of dough on the parchment paper. So you just have to be satisfied with an image of the end result—a deliciously large cookie that will delight friends and family.

The cookies are buttery, sweet and crunchy. I love the flavor of hazelnuts (and a big fan of Nutella) and they pair well with the white chocolate. And unlike the Lay’s tagline, you really can eat just one. They are just that big. And because I am watching my girlish waistline, I packaged up a tin for the teachers at Ponderosa Elementary School in South San Francisco, where the generous gift-giver, Danielle, works. Enjoy!

White Chocolate Chip & Hazelnut Cookies
2 1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
11 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups white chocolate chips
2/3 cup toasted, skinned and chopped hazelnuts

Position racks in the top third and center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Line two half-sheet pans with parchment paper.

Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt together into a medium bowl. Beat the butter and sugars together in a large bowl with an electric mixer set on medium speed, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl, until light in color, about 3 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and then the water and vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low. Add the flour mixture in thirds, mixing just until combined. Stir in the white chocolate chips and hazelnuts.

Using a large ice cream scoop (1/4 cup capacity), drop scoops of the dough onto the lined pans, spacing them about 3 inches apart. You will only be able to fit three or four cookies per pan.

Bake, switching the pans from top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking, until the cookies are lightly golden and set around the edges, about 17 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the pans for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire cooling racks and let cool completely. Repeat with the remaining dough on cooled pans.

Yield: 15 cookies

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