February 20, 2012

Hazelnut-toffee chocolate chip cookies

I was on an almond kick for a while and now, it seems to be hazelnuts.  I'm a big fan of most nuts in general and love incorporating them in baking.  And ever since I made toffee during Christmas, I've been wanting to make some cookies with toffee.  So here we are.  These are chocolate chip cookies with hazelnuts, English toffee (chopped Heath bars), and some ground oats thrown in for good measure.  They're crisp around the edges and chewy in the center, just the way my family and I prefer a chocolate chip cookie.
I took the easy route by using chocolate chips instead of chopping up some chocolate, which would be much better.  These were very satisfying just as they were.  I love recipes using ground oats in the cookie batter (even if it means a little more work) - it adds some chewy texture and a little something good for you.
If I close my eyes, I can't say that I'd be able to tell you right away that there's toffee in these cookies.  If you really eat and look at it carefully, you'll find little bits of slightly hard, chewy toffee, but in general, the toffee contributes an extra sweet, caramel note to these cookies.  I liked these a lot (particularly after resting the dough a few days in the fridge) but if I'm comparing, I'd have to say that those milk chocolate hazelnut cookies from Flour bakery edges out just a bit because the hazelnut flavor just really pops. 
But one can never have too many good chocolate chip cookie recipes and their many variations.  This is another one and quite a good one at that.  Make the cookies on the small side or scoop them a little larger if you like.  Either way, it makes a very tasty afternoon snack.

This recipe comes from Giada De Laurentiis.  It's a fairly basic chocolate chip cookie recipe.  I've adapted it a bit, mainly by slightly reducing the amount of sugar in the recipe from a total of 2 cups to 1 3/4 cups.  With plenty of chocolate chips and the sweet English toffee in the dough, 1 3/4 cups of sugar is enough for my taste.  I also recommend chilling the dough for at least 24 hours to "develop" the flavors.  If you scoop the dough out by tablespoon full, a full recipe yields about 4 dozen cookies.  Since they don't spread much during baking (particularly after being chilled), they will appear rather small.  You could certainly make larger cookies (and I did that too), keeping an eye on the baking time.

I made half a recipe.  To start, chop oats in a food processor until fine.  Add the chopped oats, along with flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt to a bowl and mix together.  Beat butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar together in a stand mixer until the mixture is just fluffy.
Next come the eggs and vanilla extract into the butter mixture.  Beat these in until incorporated, stopping to scrape the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl as necessary.  Then add the flour mixture and combine until just blended.
Now that the basic dough is ready, here comes the fun part.  Add the chopped hazelnuts, chopped English toffee pieces (you can chop them coarsely or fine but I prefer not to make them too small), and chocolate chips.  I wish I had some homemade toffee lying around but I'm reserving that for the holidays since it's just too easy to over-indulge if they're around.  If you like, use chopped chocolate instead of chocolate chips.  I took the lazy route with the chips this time but using high-quality chopped chocolate has the benefit of not only being delicious but also providing a nice uneven distribution of chocolate throughout and great "ooze" appeal.
I highly recommend chilling the cookie dough for at least 24 hours.  The benefit to that is a more flavorful baked cookie.  In fact, the dough can sit in the fridge for several days and you can bake up a few as you please.  If you plan to make extra to freeze, go ahead and do like David Lebovitz's chocolate chip cookies and roll them into logs and wrap tightly.  You can freeze it for up to a month and slice and bake them at a later date.  The previously frozen cookies are just as (if not more) delicious than the "fresh" dough.
Scoop the cookie dough out with a small ice-cream scoop or by tablespoon.  Bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for about 12-15 minutes.  The original recipe says 15 minutes but I found this to be too long so I recommend checking on them early to ensure a soft cookie as opposed to a crispier one.
Mine didn't spread out much during baking.  You can experiment, like I did, with larger cookies.  The larger ones won't take more than a couple more minutes to bake.  When they're done, the cookies are lightly browned on the edges and soft in the center.  Let them sit a few minutes on the baking sheet before removing them to cool completely on a wire rack.  I would enjoy one while it's still warm.
I love the texture of these cookies - the slightly crisp sides and chewy, tender center.  I love the taste and aroma of the hazelnuts and the subtle caramel flavor of the dough.  Once in a while, you get a little hard bite of toffee and that is a pleasant surprise.  If I'm not lucky enough to eat these fresh out of the oven (or at least the same day), I like to pop them in the microwave for about 10 seconds before eating.

The Recipe:

Hazelnut-Toffee Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

- Makes approximately 4 dozen cookies -

1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup toasted, skinned hazelnuts, chopped

2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips or 12 ounces chopped semi-sweet chocolate
4 ounces English toffee candy (i.e., Heath bar), chopped

Place oats in a food processor and chop until fine.  Add oats to a bowl and mix in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. 

Beat butter and sugars in the stand mixer until just fluffy.  Beat in the eggs and vanilla extract, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.  With the mixer on low, slowly add the flour mixture and stir in until just combined.  Use a rubber spatula and stir in the hazelnuts, toffee, and chocolate chips.

Preferably, transfer the dough to a medium size bowl and chill for 24 hours or up to 4 days.  (If you would like to freeze any of the dough, roll into logs and wrap tightly before chilling and freezing for up to a month to slice and bake at a later date.)

When you're ready to bake, preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Drop tablespoonful of dough onto parchment lined baking sheets, about 1 inch apart.  Bake for about 12-15 minutes.  Let cookies stand for about 5 minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a cooling rack. 

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