It feels like a thousand years ago that The Fiancé and I first met... in reality it was only three or four, but for all I care we could've known each other for an eternity before that. We aren't exactly your typical pair, he and I, but despite the odds we fit together perfectly.
When I first started this blog, he was The Boyfriend. Now, he's The Fiancé... and in a few days, I'll have to get used to calling him "The Husband". Or, T-Hubs, as he has suggested. We'll have to see about that one.
Last year we celebrated with an Engagement Party (you can read about our party, here). It was small, and intimate, just us and our families toasting our life together. That was the ceremony he and I wanted -- nothing big, nothing fancy -- and ever since then we've been pretending to be married. Now, coming up on the anniversary of our first date, we'll be signing the required documents and making it really, truly official.
Even though we're being low-key about it, there are plenty of little things that need taking care of, which is awfully hard to manage when we're so busy gazing into each other's eyes all the time... so you'll have to excuse any interruptions to your regularly scheduled blog posts.
In the meantime, I made you these hazelnut shortbread cookies, to tie you over. They may not seem like much, but paired with a cup of tea or coffee, or dipped in a little chocolate, these cookies are just the right kind of wonderful.
Recipe Notes: These are simple shortbread cookies, which can easily be adapted however you like. The hazelnuts can be replaced with pecans, almonds, or just about any other nut you like. You can also play with other flavorings by adding other extracts, or fresh herbs or citrus zest. The cookies are even better next-day, once the flavors have had a chance to come through. Enjoy!
Toasted Hazelnut Shortbread Cookies
Recipe adapted from Ina Garten - Makes about 60-70 cookies
3 1/2 sticks (14oz.) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup + 2 TBSP (230g.) granulated sugar
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups (490g.) all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. fine-grain sea salt
1 3/4 cups (about 8oz.) whole hazelnuts
Powdered sugar, or a bit more flour, for rolling
Optional -- melted chocolate and chopped hazelnuts, for garnish
For the hazelnuts:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Spread the whole hazelnuts onto a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until fragrant, stirring or shaking the pan every few minutes to prevent burning.
3. While the nuts are still warm, scoop them into the center of a clean kitchen towel, bunch the towel up around them, and rub them around inside the towel to get the dark outer skins off. Not all of them will come off, and that's okay, but try to be as thorough as possible - the skins are bitter and not very tasty.
4. Chop the nuts finely, either with a knife or a few pulses in a food processor, and set aside to cool.
For the cookies:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Using a hand or stand-mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, and vanilla extract on low speed until just combined. (Or, mash everything together with the back of a spoon or a rubber spatula.)
3. Add the flour, salt and chopped hazelnuts, and mix on low speed until the dough just begins to come together. (If the dough is very crumbly, you can stop and use a spoon or spatula to fold the dough together, or use your hands.)
4. Dump half the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap, shape into a disc about 1 inch thick, then wrap and place in the fridge. Repeat with the second half of dough. Chill for 30-60 minutes. (Dough can be kept in the fridge for up to a few days, or frozen for future use - if the dough is thoroughly chilled like this, let it thaw on the counter for a bit before trying to roll it out.)
5. Dust your counter with a bit of powdered sugar or some flour. Working with one disc of dough at a time, unwrap it and roll it out to about 1/2 inch thick. Using a cookie cutter (I used 1 1/2 inch round), cut the cookies out and place on an ungreased baking sheet. (Alternatively, you could roll your dough into a log before refrigerating, then slice into 1/2 inch rounds with a knife. If you like, you can roll the log in more chopped nuts before slicing for a nice presentation.)
6. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the edges just begin to turn golden. Let cool completely before serving.
7. Optional, once the cookies have finished cooling, dip in melted chocolate and garnish with more chopped hazelnuts. Let cool at room temperature or in the fridge until chocolate has set.