Thursday, December 17, 2009

Chocolate Hazelnut Thumbprint Cookies

Even though I love chocolate, I tend not to bake with it often. I’m so enamored of plain chocolate, preferably of the darkest-of-dark variety , that there seems little cause to dilute its impact by mixing with flour, sugar, eggs, and butter. Feel free to remember this anecdote should you feel compelled to shower me with culinary gifts.

However, it’s also hard to go too wrong with chocolate. When I first spotted this recipe, it seemed like a likely candidate for my Christmas cookie tray. It called for Nutella, spread of the gods, and for hazelnuts, of which I still had quite a few leftover from my adventures in fruitcake.

Of course, when I went to actually *make* the cookies, I realized I didn’t have a couple of key ingredients on hand. I had forgotten to check my stores of cocoa powder, which were low, and I was also fresh out of powdered sugar (which had all been used for the icing of my Florida Christmas Cookies).

On the other hand, I did have a whole jar of Nutella, and Nutella, like love, can cover a multitude of sins.

Instead of making a run for more cocoa, I decided to replace some of the butter with everyone’s favorite chocolate-hazelnut spread to assure a strong chocolate flavor. I also decided that regular sugar would probably be fine, and I was right. Because I added the Nutella, which is plenty sweet in addition to being chocolaty and fatty, and because I dislike cloying cookies, I reduced the amount of sugar.

I knew the Nutella would soften the cookies, so I also added a bit of baking powder and used whole eggs instead of just the yolks. Ironically, that makes my version of this cookie slightly healthier than the Cooking Light version.

Probably the fact that I used very generous half-teaspoonfuls of Nutella instead of the “scant” half-teaspoons called for makes up all those missing calories.

Chocolate Hazelnut Thumbprint Cookies
¾ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ½ cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon instant espresso or cofee (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt

1 jar Nutella or similar chocolate-hazelnut spread, divided use
1 cup toasted hazelnuts, chopped fine

Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, cream together butter, ¼ cup nutella, sugar, vanilla, and instant espresso. Add eggs and stir until combined.

In medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Add to wet ingredients and stir until blended.

Dough can be chilled or frozen at this point until ready to use but does not have to be. Use your hands to roll dough into 1 ½ inch spheres. Roll in chopped hazelnuts. Use your thumb to make a large indentation in center.

Place on parchment-paper lined cookie sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes or until just set. Let cool completely, then spoon a generous ½ teaspoon of Nutella in the indentation of each cookie. Makes about 3 dozen.

I chilled the dough after I made it – not because you need to, but because I had all sorts of things to do and couldn’t be running to the oven every 10 minutes until these were all baked. The chilled dough didn’t do a good job of getting hazelnut pieces to stick to its side, so if you have the time to bake them right away, that’s probably the way to go.

On the other hand, I didn’t “finely chop” my hazelnut pieces; I put them all in a Ziploc bag and whacked at them with my rolling pin until the hazelnuts were mostly pulverized. I think if you chopped the nuts, you might get more uniformly sized pieces and would have less trouble getting the hazelnuts to adhere.

So the verdict is: success! These cookies look fabulous and taste even better. They’re pretty soft, which is a plus in my book; I have a longstanding bias against most crispy cookies (biscotti is the biggest exception).

These are great cookies for your home, but transporting them presents a bit of a challenge because the Nutella doesn’t really set up. The centers stay gooey and sticky, and if you try to stack these cookies atop one another, the Nutella centers will adhere to the nearest neighbor.

The best advice I can offer is a) make a really deep indentation with your thumb to get more Nutella into the concave; and b) store these single-layer, or, barring that, put wax paper between the layers of cookies and hope for the best.

They don’t smear in an ugly way; it’s just that you’re likely to lose some of the Nutella if you’re not careful. That would be a tragedy, as Nutella is a precious, precious gift and not to be flagrantly wasted.

Printable recipe here.


  1. Oh my goodness, these look wonderful!! I like your blog...just discovered it on tastespotting.

  2. Thanks! I hope you continue to enjoy it. :)

  3. Your cookies sounds delicious! Thanks for sharing :)

  4. I love how easy these were; I'm not a baker. However my cookies completely spread out and lost the thumb print. Any suggestions? I can't figure out what happened except that maybe I baked them too long? (I baked them for 10 minutes) They are delicious though :)

  5. Hmm, maybe omit the baking powder? That would make them less soft but more "coherent." And make really, really deep thumbprints -- almost all the way through. :) I'm glad they at least tasted good!