I’m not a cookier by trade, so I don’t have a huge collection of awesome cookie recipes in my files. Instead, I keep a handful of really solid recipes like this shortbread that I know and trust. Often these recipes either evoke a memory of a time in my life or a person who shared the recipe, or they’re so damn solid in flavor and method that I can confidently tinker with them a bit from time to time like I did with this Hazelnut Praline Shortbread.
Hazelnut Praline (ground, caramelized hazelnuts just before they turn into a paste) is a current obsession of mine, so that was this year’s start, but I’ve also been known to flavor my shortbread with citrus zests, ground candy caps and holiday spices. I hope you’ll take this recipe and do the same to make it yours.
The hazelnut praline sounds advanced, but it’s pretty simple if you have a cuisinart or food processor. It’s just caramelized hazlenuts, ground into a flour-like consistency. This extra step adds an extra depth of flavor that you don’t get from raw hazelnuts, but, if you’re in a hurry, you can definitely make these with store bought ground hazelnut meal, too.
To finish these off, I sprinkled some Whiskey Barrel Smoked Sugar, which I’m also enjoying in my holiday cocktails this season, but you could use any fancy sugar.
HAZELNUT PRALINE SHORTBREAD INGREDIENTS
1/3 rice flour
2 cups AP flour
1 cup (2 sticks), plus six tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup ground hazelnut praline (see recipe below; for a faster hazelnut flavor, simply use hazelnut meal or flour)
4 oz hazelnuts
3 oz granulated sugar
1 tablespoon water
In a small saucepan, combine sugar and water over medium heat stirring just until combined.
Once mixture reaches a boil, add raw hazelnuts and continue cooking until sugar turns a light golden color.
Once all of the sugar is caramelized, remove from heat and pour mixture onto a parchment lined plate and let cool or speed up the process by placing praline in refrigerator for about ten minutes until cool and hard.
Next, break praline into small pieces and pulse in a food processor quickly, just until you have a coarse meal, similar to almond meal. Be careful not to over process the praline or you’ll end up with a hazelnut paste that won’t work for this recipe, but will work for nutella if you’re so inspired.
HAZELNUT PRALINE SHORTBREAD STEPS
In a medium bowl, whisk rice flour, salt, and AP flour.
Next, using an electric mixer with a paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar in a medium bowl until very pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Then add ground hazelnut praline and continue mixing until hazelnuts are well incorporated into butter.
Mix in dry ingredients on low just until fully combined. To avoid over mixing, you could also do this step by hand. Once flour is added, work dough into a ball and wrap with plastic. Chill for at least 2 hours and up to 2 days before baking. in plastic and chill at least 2 hours and up to 2 days.
When you’re ready to bake, preheat oven to 350°. Roll out dough between 2 sheets of lightly floured parchment to ⅛”- 1/4” thick. Using your favorite cookie cutters (I used these fluted biscuit cutters), cut cookie shapes and place dough onto parchment lined baking sheets. Bake until cookies are slightly golden, 12-14 minutes. You can re-roll scraps until you use up all the dough or freeze remaining dough, wrapped tightly with plastic wrap, up to 3 months.
These cookies keep well for about a week if stored in airtight container. They’re also a great option for DIY holiday gifting as they’re sturdy enought for shipping, but still have a rich, buttery flavor and soft crumbly texture.
If you want to add other flavors like dried spices, herbs or citrus zests, omit hazelnut praline and increase AP flour to 2 1/2 cups and add 1 tablespoon of zest or spice in step 1 when you’re creaming butter and sugar.
Enjoy and be sure to tag #cakebloom on instagram if you make them so I can see or comment below with your creative variations.