Beginning with a base of ground hazelnuts, these cookies get an extra dose of sweetness from a tablespoon of dark maple syrup, as well as a generous roll in maple sugar. It's an Ovenly version of a similar Italian biscotto, where pistachios are ground and bound with egg whites, sugar and lemon zest. In a clever move, the lemon zest is traded for orange, which fits much better with maple's almost malty flavor.
Tips: If you've never ground nuts before, you might not realize that they can be a trial to break down. I have a tiny food processor, and so I worked in batches, grinding the nuts down until they formed the coarse meal required to make the cookies. Even if you've got a big, honking Cuisinart, a pound of hazelnuts is easier to get through when separated into batches. This is especially true if your processor gets hot while working; you don't want to end up with nut paste on the bottom, and barely chopped nuts on top. Four to eight ounces (depending on capacity) is a good portion size.
Tweaks: Grade B maple syrup, which is mixed in with the hazelnut meal and plain sugar, is hard to find in stores. Yes, it does have a unique, almost woodsy flavor, but buying a jug for twenty dollars to use one tablespoon is rarely worth it. Look for the darkest maple syrup you can find, and use that; usually you can find tiny jars of it at specialty food stores that carry lots of jams and jellies.
Excerpted from Ovenly by Agatha Kulaga & Erin Patinkin (Harlequin Nonfiction). Copyright © 2014. Photographs by Winona Barton-Ballentine.
- Yield:Makes approximately 24 cookies
- Active time: 15 minutes
- Total time:30 minutes
- 1 pound raw hazelnuts, plus 12 extra for garnish
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 large egg whites
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup (the darker the better; we prefer Grade B)
- Zest of 1 small orange or 1 tangerine
- 1/2 cup maple sugar, for rolling
Preheat the oven to 350⁰F. Line two rimmed sheet pans with parchment paper.
In a food processor, pulse the hazelnuts until they form a coarse meal. The pieces should not be larger than about 1/8-inch in diameter.
Transfer the hazelnut meal to a large bowl. Add the sugar, egg whites, maple syrup and zest. Using a rubber spatula or your hands (if you choose this method, wet your hands first to prevent the dough from sticking to them), mix the ingredients together until well combined. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let rest for 10 minutes at room temperature, or until the dough is slightly dry to the touch.
Using your hands or a small scoop, form the dough into 1 1/2-inch (1 1/2-ounce) balls.
Pour the maple sugar in a small bowl. Roll each dough ball in the maple sugar, coating it completely. Place on a rimmed sheet pan, and top each with half a hazelnut by pressing the nut into the dough.
Bake for 12 minutes, or until lightly golden. Let the cookies cool fully before serving.