Christmas Cookies: Orange-Hazelnut Shortbread

There are two methods to getting the skins off hazelnuts, and this link will give you both. One is to roast them and rub the skins off in a dishtowel; the other is to blanch them first, rub the skins off in the sink, and then roast them. I found the latter technique much, much easier.

Orange-Hazelnut Shortbread

  • 1 1/2 cups hazelnuts (about 6 ounces), toasted, skins removed (or vice-versa)
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 2 tablespoons sanding sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees with racks in upper and lower thirds. Process nuts in a food processor until finely chopped, about 20 seconds (do not overprocess). Transfer nuts to a large bowl; add flour, granulated sugar, butter, zest, and salt. Mix with hands until dough just comes together and forms a ball.

Halve dough; shape each into a disk. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. With lightly floured hands, shape 1 disk into a 7-inch round, and score to mark 12 equal wedges (do not cut through). Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon sanding sugar. Repeat with remaining disk and sanding sugar.

Bake, rotating halfway through, until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. While shortbread is warm, cut wedges to separate completely. Let wedges cool slightly on sheets, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Smoky Carrots & Fennel

My friend Potter got married a couple weeks ago on Governor's Island. It was an exceptionally lovely wedding withe three (3) kinds of cake: red velvet, carrot and key lime. One of them had bride-and-groom rubber duckies on top.

On the way home, we had time to kill in Grand Central before catching our train. The boys went into the MTA museum while Panda and I wandered through Pylones, which is a funky little store with no end of cool things. Often they have great little books. And sometimes great great books. I got a present:

I read it the whole way home, with visions of vegetables dancing in my head. This is a great book—awesome recipes and mouth-watering photos. Vegetable porn. It's too great, actually, because I end up dog-earing every page and then when it comes time to actually cook, I can't make up my mind. I want to make everything. Or I lack some essential ingredient to make the one thing I've been dying to try.

Finally tonight I told myself to be sensible and use up the oldest vegetables in the fridge, which in this case was a head of fennel. I thumbed the pages and decided upon...(drum roll):

Smoky Spanish Carrots and Fennel with Toasted Hazelnuts

Minus the hazelnuts because I did have them, but not toasted. Toasting hazelnuts is a thankless, high-maintenance job which involves babysitting the nuts in the oven, and then giving them a brisk rubdown with a dish towel to remove all the skins. My cleaning lady came today and the last thing I wanted was bits of hazelnut skin all over my pristine kitchen, it was bad enough I was making breaded chicken. Always, always the day Celia comes to clean, I end up making breaded chicken on my immaculate stovetop.

So this dish, sans hazelnuts, uses the "Walk-Away Sauté" method.  As Susie Middleton says:

It does take time—about 30 minutes—to get the carrots and fennel to the perfect texture. But like most of the walk-away sautés, there’s not a heck of a lot you have to do during that time. Stir. Sip wine. Stir. Sip wine. That’s all. Oh, and you can fret a little when you think the pan is getting too brown. But it isn’t really a problem, I promise.

I'm in love.

Susie Middleton's Smoky Spanish Carrots and Fennel

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb (455 grams, and bless her heart, she gives measurements in standard AND metric) carrots, peeled, trimmed, and sliced.
  • 1 small fennel bulb, trimmed, cored, and cut into 3/4" slices
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp sherry or rice wine (I used sherry)
  • 1/2 tsp Spanish smoked paprika (I don't know if mine is smoked paprika or sweet or what, I just used what I had)
  • 3 tbsp coarsely chopped toasted hazelnuts (blah blah blah)

In a straight-sided sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the carrots and fennel and season with the salt. Stir well with a silicone spatula to combine. 

Continue to cook, stirring occasionally at first, and more frequently as the pan begins to brown. Be patient, as it will not look like much is happening in the beginning. Keep stirring and cooking (and don't worry about the pan browning), until the carrots have shrunken quite a bit, are tender (test with a paring knife) and somewhat browned, and the fennel is tender—28 to 30 minutes.

Add the sherry to the pan and stir until it has almost evaporated. Sprinkle the paprika over the vegetables and stir for just a few seconds to incorporate the spice and release its flavor. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool a minute. Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with the toasted hazelnuts.

This was a perfect dish, Jeeps and I ate every bit. The fennel was smooth as silk and it and the carrots had great, smoky autumn flavor. This would be amazing over polenta. I can see where the hazelnuts would have added that extra something special so I will make a point of having them, pre-toasted, on hand, to make this again. Oh yeah, I'll make it again.

Hazelnut. Nutella. Blondies.

As my good friend Jen would say, "Shut the front door!!"

As another good friend Mary would say, "Are you fucking kidding me??!?!"

I found these on Stacey Snacks, where I haven't been for a while so I had a nice long catch-up this morning with a cup of coffee, and I bookmarked about 12 recipes. These blondies, though, demanded instant attention, and an immediate trip to Hannaford because I was out of Nutella (strikes chest, shame be upon me).

Shameful Nutella Blondies

  • 8 tablespoons (one stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped
  • 3 rounded tablespoons Nutella

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, Line an 8-inch square baking pan with foil or parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two sides. Spray with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, mix melted butter with brown sugar until smooth. Beat in egg and vanilla extract.

Add salt and flour. Mix until just combined. Add hazelnuts and mix until evenly distributed in batter.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Plop three rounded tablespoons of Nutella onto the batter. Swirl into the batter with a knife.

Bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes, or until the middle is set. Do not over bake. Lift using the foil or paper and transfer the blondies to a rack to cool completely.

I can't even describe what the house smelled like when these were baking but I imagine the foyer of Heaven would be similar. And as for taste, they demanded that a cup of coffee be made immediately.

Super gooey goodness and dare I say a little too gooey and perhaps my rounded tablespoons of Nutella were too rounded, or perhaps my swirling technique was lacking.  But they were shut-the-front-door good!!