I loved gianduia (gianduja) long before I knew that name. The Italian combination of chocolate and hazelnut is simply incredible – purely chocolate enough for any chocolate addict, but also delicately flavored with the subtle and distinctive taste of hazelnuts. Excellent in ice cream and as a melted filling in crepes, gianduia or Nutella is also superb in cakes and cookies.
Most Americans know it as Nutella, but that is really a brand name for a version of gianduia that was invented in the 1940’s and only renamed Nutella in 1964. Here’s a great history of the Nutella brand and how that spread came to its iconic status among gianduia fans.
Like my vegetarian lasagna, these nutella cookies were “beshert” – meant to be. I recently made nutella hamantaschen for Purim. As wonderful as those were, the nutella filling wasn’t as good separately as it was nestled inside the three corners of the hamantaschen dough. Then last week, as I made chocolate walnut espresso cookies for an organization I belong to, from this recipe that I like very much, I began staring at the hazelnuts in my refrigerator. And before long, a second batch was in the oven – rather different from the first, but definitely inspired by the concept of chocolate + espresso+ nuts and a few basic techniques in that recipe.
I asked my husband to taste both types of cookies. You can imagine how much he hated to have to do that, and how much he resisted when I offered him more than one of each. In the end, he said the Nutella Espresso Cookies were richer and he liked them better than the ones made with the original chocolate and walnut recipe. I don’t think he was “just trying to get on my good side” either, as he’s been known to suggest that I “rethink” other culinary experiments.
Somewhere between cookies and brownies – or maybe they are brownie-like cookies, these cookies go fabulously with a glass of milk or a cup of good coffee. Don’t be fooled by the inclusion of espresso as an ingredient; you won’t notice it. The cookies are simply rich to the point of decadence, intensely chocolate with a hint of hazelnut. Not overwhelmingly “nutella-esque” and studded with nuts and chocolate chunks, they taste as good – and maybe even better – the second day, and freeze well if packed in an airtight bag.
Ingredient Notes: This recipe requires Dutch process cocoa. Here is David Lebovitz’s explanation for the difference between unsweetened Dutch process and “natural” cocoa. Any good quality chocolate works for the bittersweet and semisweet “hard” chocolate. I use Trader Joe’s for both, the store’s Belgian “Pound Plus” bittersweet and its semi-sweet chunks, because they are good quality at reasonable prices. The store is a good source for nuts, including hazelnuts. (I don’t have a commercial relationship with Trader Joe’s and this is not a plug for that company or its merchandise.)
Nutella Espresso Cookies
Servings – about 30-36 cookies Cost – $6
- 5 ounces bittersweet chocolate
- 2 ounces (slightly less than ½ cup) Dutch process cocoa
- 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon Nutella (could use up to 2 tablespoons)
- 10 tablespoons (1 stick + 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter
- 3 large eggs
- ½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
- ¾ cup white sugar
- 1 cup flour
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 1½ teaspoons instant espresso
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup skinned hazelnuts, chopped. I used Domenica Marchetti’s method for skinning the nuts. If you buy already skinned nuts, toast them at 350 degrees in a toaster oven or oven for about 8-10 minutes before chopping them.
- 5-6 ounces semisweet chocolate chunks or chips
- Mixer – essential (either hand-held or stand) unless you have someone who is willing to whisk at high speeds for at least 5 minutes without stopping to rest or complain
- 3 bowls or 2 bowls & a double boiler
- Measuring cups
- Measuring spoons
- 1½ tablespoon cookie scoop or tablespoon
- Parchment lined baking sheets
- Wire rack
- Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a small bowl and set aside.
- Check my post on skinning hazelnuts. Use the toasting method, because it gives them an extra flavor boost and leaves them crispier than boiling.
- Melt and mix together the bittersweet chocolate, cocoa, nutella and butter. I microwaved the mixture for about 4 minutes on medium, stirring halfway through. (How long and at what setting depends on your microwave. Opt for a lower setting for a longer time to avoid burning the chocolate.) Alternatively, you can use a double-boiler on the stove.
- Meanwhile, beat the eggs, brown and white sugars, and instant espresso in a mixer on high for about 3 minutes, until the mixture thickens and makes a ribbon when you lift the beater. As noted, without a mixer, you’ll need to vigorously hand whisk the mixture continuously for 5 minutes or so without stopping – quite a feat.
- Add the chocolate mixture into the beaten eggs, sugar and coffee and stir them until fully incorporated. Then, using the spatula, stir in the flour and gently fold the dry mixture into the wet mixture until no more flour is visible.
- Add in the hazelnuts and the chocolate chunks or chips. The batter is stiff – just mix it until all of the nuts and chocolate are incorporated.
- Refrigerate the batter for at least 30 minutes, preferably 1 hour.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Using a cookie scoop or tablespoon, grab enough dough to make a ball slightly smaller than a golfball, roll it in your hands and place about 12 balls on a parchment (or silicone mat)-lined cookie sheet. I use a pattern of 5 rows, alternating 2 and 3 cookies in each row, to give them lots of room between each one. Press them down just slightly so the tops are flat. If the dough is throughly chilled, it becomes hard and is not sticky. My photo of unbaked cookies on the pan shows that I was impatient with this batch and only refrigerated it for about 40 minutes.
- Bake for about 12 minutes, one cookie sheet at a time in the middle rack of the oven. Cool on the cookie sheet until warm, then move them to a wire rack to cool completely.