In all honesty, the hardest thing about baking, for me, is that first step where I have to actually pry my ass off the sofa and go into the kitchen. Once I start, things usually go along very nicely. I have a lovely stand mixer, which I consider essential for painless baking. No longer do I leave baking until after dinner, instead I do it early in the day (when I have energy), or right before dinner (when I can be prepping something else during the waiting phases). I've learned to wash up while the cookies are in the oven, so that when they come out they are all ready and I have nothing left to do but enjoy. But another thing I do to ensure painless baking is cheat. While I do make ultra complex recipes (Remember the Rugelach?), most of the time, I do something easy for regular baking. And if it isn't easy, I make it easy. When I saw the recipe for Hazelnut Chocolate Thumbprints on Smitten Kitchen, I knew I had to make them. But like many other readers I was shocked to realize that she expected me to grind my own hazelnuts, rather than open a jar of Nutella. Clearly she doesn't know me AT ALL. So I cheated. I took thumbprint cookies and filled them with Nutella, no toasting hazelnuts, no skinning hazelnuts (seriously, a huge pain in the ass), no grinding hazelnuts. Just a stand mixer, a jar and a spoon. And trust me, it is delicious. Who says cheaters never prosper?
CHOCOLATE HAZELNUT THUMBPRINT COOKIES
inspired by Smitten Kitchen
yield: approximately 24-30 cookies
1 stick plus 5 T butter
2/3 C sugar
2 C flour
1/4 t salt
1 t vanilla
Nutella (I went straight from the jar, but I'm betting I used 1/2 C or less)
Preheat your oven to 350 F. In the stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the vanilla. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour and salt (really, you should, I on the other hand, sort of sprinkled the salt in the bottom of the measuring cup for the flour and tossed it up a bit, yeah I know). Add the dry ingredients in stages, mixing in between each addition. The dough will not roll itself together, it will seem rather pebbly, but if you press it together with your hands, you'll find it holds together pretty well. I refrigerated mine for 20 minutes, but mainly because I was baking off 2 as samples, I'm pretty sure you don't have to. Roll the dough into small balls (a bit smaller than golf balls, like meatballs maybe?) and place on a baking sheet, I laid down my silpat for this. Then use the back of a teaspoon measuring spoon to indent the top of each. Sometimes they'll kind of fall apart when you do this and look like this:You can fix this problem by sort of smooshing it back together with your fingers until it looks better:
Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes. Again, all thumbprint recipes I've used called for 20-25 minutes, but mine were browner than I would like at 17 minutes. You should pull them before they are browned on top, just a smidge golden. Let them cool on the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack. When they are completely cool, fill with a teaspooon of Nutella per cookie. I used two spoons to get the Nutella off in a relatively neat manner, and had a cup of hot water at the ready for when things got sticky.