Apricot Hazelnut Squares
The worst thing about my latest cookbook acquisition, Essence of Chocolate: Recipes for Baking and Cooking with Fine Chocolate by John Scharffenberger and Robert Steinberg, is the terrible difficulty I had in trying to decide what to make first. In the end, though, I had to go with these cookies.
This turned out to be absolutely the right decision.
These cookies really push all my buttons – they are elegant and beautiful; they have several contrasting textures (slightly sandy cookie, crunchy crushed cocoa nibs, soft jam, firm, snappable tempered chocolate); they have nut flavor without nut texture; and they were a lot of fun to make. Each step is easy, but put together it’s an interesting project.
I will be making these again and again, I’m sure. They leave so much room for variation! Maybe with almonds instead of hazelnuts next time? Fig jam instead of apricot jam? I don’t know, but any which way, I’m confident that they will be delicious.
Apricot Hazelnut Squares
(from Essence of Chocolate: Recipes for Baking and Cooking with Fine Chocolate by John Scharffenberger and Robert Steinberg)
3/4 C finely ground hazelnuts
1/4 C finely crushed (not ground) cocoa nibs
1 1/2 C all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
12 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
3/4 C confection’s sugar
6 oz. 70% bittersweet chocolate
Approximately 10 oz. apricot jam
Place the hazelnuts, cocoa nibs, flour, cinnamon, and cocoa powder in a bowl and set aside.
Note: I ground the hazelnuts (skin on) in a spice grinder, and crushed the cocoa nibs by pouring a layer of them out between two sheets of parchment paper and going over them with a heavy rolling pin.
Mix the butter, lemon zest, and lemon juice in your stand mixer until combined. Add the sugar and mix on low speed until it is mixed in, then raise the speed and beat until fluffy. Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined (try not to over-mix).
Form the dough into a 7″ square, wrap it in plastic wrap, and let it chill in the fridge for half an hour or so.
Microwave or melt the jam in a small saucepan until, well, it melts. Strain it and throw out the clumps of fruit (or set aside for some other use unrelated to these cookies).
Preheat the oven to 350º.
Cut the dough in half, and leave half in the fridge as you roll out the first half. Roll it out until it is about 3/16″ thick. Cut the cookies out into approximately 1 1/2″ x 2″ rectangles. Place them on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, about 1/2″ apart – the cookies will spread a little while cookies, though not much.
Bake for 18-20 minutes, rotating the baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking.
Slide the parchment paper onto cooling racks and let them cool to room temperature. Then place half of them upside down, drop on about 1 tsp of the strained jam, and top with a right-side-up cookie.
Set up some fresh parchment paper or Silpat sheets.
Temper the chocolate. (Probably best to go to someone else for advice on this, honestly.)
Dip the cookies partly into the chocolate, and place them on the fresh parchment paper or Silpat sheets to set.