Hazelnut-Orange Shortbread

by angelika on December 12, 2010

It Christmas cookie time! Every year we make dozens of cookies to give as gifts. Growing up, my grandmother was the cookie lady. She spent weeks in her basement kitchen sifting and rolling and baking. Everything by hand! She didn’t get her first Kitchenaid mixer until I was well into my teens. She had several long tables laid out with tin after tin filled with different delectable cookie varieties, all of which came from recipes passed down in her family for generations. Everyone, and I truly mean everyone, wanted in on her cookies. Even today her church calls her in early December to enquire as to whether they can count on her cookies for the Christmas bizarre this year. Every year she bakes away, even at 85! Growing up, Mom gave out tins of my Omi’s cookies to everyone she knew, with as much pride as if she had made them herself.  My parents have been divorced for decades, and my Dad still hits one of us kids up for Omi’s Christmas cookies, even requesting his favorite varieties. I have a few of her cherished recipes and I will post them this week, along with the other cookies we make.

Hazelnut-Orange Shortbread

1 1/2 cups hazelnuts, toasted and skins removed
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup plus 2 TBS granulated sugar
10 TBS unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 tsp grated orange zest
1/4 tsp coarse salt
2TBS sanding sugar
This is a Martha Stewart recipe for which I am eternally grateful. I adore the combination of orange and hazelnut, and put those things into a shortbread, otherwise known as crispy buttery goodness, and you have a fan for life. 
Preheat the oven to 350º.
Roast the hazelnuts for about 6 minutes to toast them. Remove from the oven and place the nuts into a kitchen towel. Gather the nuts into a ball in the towel and rub them vigorously for several minutes to remove the skins. If you have some skins left, try to scrape them off with your fingernail. If some nuts still won’t give up their skin…well frankly I just eat those. Warm hazelnuts are delicious.

Grind the nuts in a food processor for 20 seconds.  Place the ground nuts in a large bowl and add all the other ingredients to it, except the butter. For this recipe you get to use your hands, which brings back so many childhood memories for me. Who doesn’t love to play with their food? Using your hands mix all the ingredients together to make sure they are all well distributed. I found I had to work with the orange zest a bit as it wanted to clump up. 

Once you have the flour mixture blended well, add the butter and squish your fingers through it until the whole thing comes together. Try to form two equal balls. Mine were really crumbly so I just moved on to  the next step and it all worked out.

Put parchment onto two baking sheets. Take half of the dough and form into onto a disk on the parchment. Even if it is crumbly it all comes together as you work it. You want the disk to be about 7″. This is approximately the size of your hand from base to tip of middle finger, if you, like me, are too lazy to find a ruler. 

Score the disk in 12 parts, but do not cut through. I actually only got 10 parts on one of my disks, good thing no one was looking. Sprinkle the disk with sanding sugar. I use India Tree white sanding sugar. India tree is all vegetable based dyes, and no artificial food coloring. 

Place your oven racks at 1/3 and 2/3 of the oven. Bake the sheets for 8 minutes and then switch and turn them. Bake for an additional 8-12 minutes until lightly golden. 

Take your knife and gently cut down the score marks to separate the wedges. Let it cool on the sheet pan for about 10 minutes. Then gently lift the wedges onto a cooling rack. 

A votre santé! 

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