As it’s Monday, it’s time for another recipe recap from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook from which I’ve been recreating recipes. This time I tackled some sweet heart shaped cookies just in time for Valentine’s Day.
As you may or may not recall, I’ve been drawing and painting pretty much my entire life, however I’ve just recently gotten the kick in the pants I needed to buckle down and paint regularly, in the form of an opportunity to exhibit some paintings in an art show in Brooklyn.
Since the art exhibit was put on by a collaborative collective of women artists and entrepreneurs, self-funded, and all of that good stuff, I figured I would also contribute some snacks to the event. Any why not some Valentine’s Day Linzer Heart cookies from Martha Stewart?
The cookies are essentially hazelnut shortbread cookies filled with jam and dusted with powdered sugar. While the original recipe calls for raspberry jam, I substituted strawberry jam, and to be frank, by the end of the whole process I kind of gave up and made a few sandwich cookies with Nutella and left some cookies plain instead of working with the jam.
I knew the dough needed to be chilled overnight, so I started on Thursday with the intention of finishing up the cookies on Friday.
I have to tell you, these were probably the hardest, most time-consuming cookies I’ve ever made, including French macarons, which should tell you something.
First, there was the matter of the hazelnut flour. I really should have thought ahead and purchased pre-made hazelnut flour, but I didn’t. Instead, I wanted to stay true to the recipe, which calls for grinding blanched hazelnuts in a food processor to create the flour.
All well and good, except I didn’t really account for the incredible annoyance that is blanching hazelnuts (in other words, removing the skins).
You see, I ordered regular, whole hazelnuts from Amazon. No problem, right? Wrong.
While these were fine and dandy as far as hazelnuts go, they weren’t blanched. Honestly I glazed right over the “blanched” direction in the cookbook the first time I read it. Like, “What’s that? Who cares?”
When I sat down to actually make the dough, I reread “blanched” and thought, ehhh whatever. So I Googled “Do I really have to blanch hazelnuts?”
Turns out the answer is Yes. Damn it. If you don’t blanch the nuts the skins can cause a seriously bitter taste. So I Googled “How to blanch hazelnuts.”
In theory, it’s a fairly straightforward process: boil water and baking soda, add nuts, boil for a few minutes, drop nuts in cold water and gently rub the skins off. Voila! Blanched hazelnuts.
Here’s what really happened: Boiled water and baking soda – no sweat. Added nuts. Water turned pink-black (as forewarned) and boiled over. Turned off heat. Mopped up puddles of water everywhere.
Turned heat back on medium. Pot immediately boiled over.
And so on and so forth until I couldn’t take it anymore and I scooped out the nuts to dunk them in a cold bowl of water. (PS. My white pot will never be white again. After many washes, it is still stained yellowy-pink.)
Then came the tedious process of rubbing the skins off of the hazelnuts in the bowl of water. Fine. But what to do with the sticky skins? I could barely get two nuts clean before having to shake my hand violently over the trash can to get the skins to break loose.
I moved on to rinsing the nuts under running water, which worked okay, but not having a garbage disposal, the sink quickly filled with water and the drain was clogged with particles of skins that fell apart when I tried to grab them.
Ugh. All in all, I would NOT do this again. Take the shortcut, Hannah. Buy the hazelnut flour.
Okay, fine, got the hazelnuts where I need them in the form of powder. Now onto the dough….in Part II.