Every Christmas I like to make an assortment of cookies, truffles, preserves and cakes to give away as gifts. Among the usual suspects of biscotti, oat cookies, coffee truffles and peanut butter balls I decided I wanted to include a nutty cookie. I found a recipe for walnut shortbread that I though sounded perfect, but as always, I tweaked it to fit my own preferences. I chose to use hazelnuts in place of the walnuts, a nut I am getting more and more fond of. I also decided to toast the ground hazelnut to enhance their nuttiness. A small dash of cinnamon added a warming note and as it was Christmas, I cut the shortbreads into stars instead of circles.
The dough for these shortbreads was a little tricky to work with, as it was very crumbly. I ended up adding a few teaspoons of water to help it stick together, to no ill effect. I was a little surprised at the suggested baking time, but they do need this long as the oven temperature is quite cool meaning they bake and turn crisp without turned too brown.
I was really pleased how the cookies turned out. They were just as shortbread should be, buttery without being greasy; crumbly in texture and just firm enough so they didn’t disintegrate when you take a bite and yet still melt in your mouth. The toasted hazelnut flavour really came through and added a nutty crunch and speckled appearance which I loved. These shortbreads ended up being my favourite cookie this Christmas, I will definitely be making these again.
Hazelnut & Cinnamon Shortbread Stars
Recipe adapted from Delia Smith
50g hazelnuts (whole or pre-ground)
50g caster sugar
175g plain flour
50g rice flour or cornflour
½ tsp cinnamon
4 tsp water (only use if mix too dry)
Preheat the oven to 150C and grease a large baking sheet.
Pulse the hazelnuts in a food processor until finely ground (or use pre-ground)
Scatter the ground hazelnuts over a tray (not the greased one) and place into the oven to turn lightly golden, only 2-3 minutes. Keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t burn. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
Cream and butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
Add all the other ingredients and work the mixture together until it forms a smooth, yet still crumbly dough. Add the water, a teaspoon at a time, if the dough is so crumbly that it won’t stick together.
Wrap the dough in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
After chilling, cut the dough in half and roll out on a lightly floured surface until 4mm thick. It will still be crumbly, but after rolling the dough just smooth any cracks with your hands.
Cut out stars, or other shapes, using a cutter and place onto the greased baking tray.
Repeat with the remaining dough.
Bake in the oven for 40-45 minutes until lightly golden brown and crisp.
Transfer the shortbreads to a wire wrack to cool.
Makes around 35 stars.