Chocolate Covered Hazelnut Balls

With less than 10 days to go before Christmas, it's time for a little indulgence. I won't bore you with more broccoli recipes before the end of the year. Instead, I'll share some of my new Christmas cookie recipes with you.

What makes a cookie a Christmas cookie, anyway? I never really understood. Fact is, although it is totally unscientific, cookies taste somehow better around Christmas. Perhaps it's my cultural upbringing that makes me believe that you HAVE TO HAVE cookies of some sorts in the house.

I baked three sorts of Christmas cookies and a gingerbread house on the weekend, and the whole house still smells like a bakery. The weather in Dubai has been almost Northern-Hemisphere-Christmas-sy in the past few days: lots of rain and temperatures below 20C invite to cuddle up inside the house and get some baking done.

Today's recipe is inspired by David Lebovitz' Baci Di Dama Cookie recipe. Looking at the ingredients list, they resemble pretty much the Mexican Wedding Cookie or Snowball Cookie recipe. But hazelnuts are being used in these, and I realized that I haven't baked with hazelnuts for far too long. I substituted rice flour with brown rice flour, and plain white sugar with coconut sugar or Jaggery to make them more nutritious and a bit healthier.

Working on the dough, I thought I'd treat it the same way as my snowball cookies. This would simplify Lebovitz' recipe a lot. The results were a success all over. Honestly, I even believe that Lebovitz' complicated rolling, refrigerating and cutting of the dough would not result in a better cookie.

I found the size of each cookie big enough to count as one cookie. So I decided to just drizzle a little chocolate over the top, instead of sticking two cookies together with a chocolate layer in the middle. I have baked these cookies twice within a week. My son goes straight to the cookie jar  when he comes home from school. If you love hazelnuts, you will love these! No matter if it's Christmas or not.
inspired by David Lebovitz

(Print Recipe)

100g whole raw hazelnuts
1/2 cup brown rice flour
pinch of salt 

50g butter
1/3 cup coconut sugar or Jaggery

1-2 ounces dark chocolate (I used Lindt with 85% cocoa)
raw icing sugar* (optional)

* You can make your own raw icing sugar by grinding regular raw sugar in a coffee/spice grinder

Yields ca. 25
Toast hazelnuts in a dry pan over medium low heat for 6-8 minutes, or until skin starts peeling off. Take off the heat, Let the nuts cool a little and rub off the skin as soon as you can handle the nuts. Set aside and let cool completely.

Preheat oven to 165C/325F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

Grind the cooled hazelnuts in a food processor or coffee grinder to a fine meal.
In a large bowl, combine hazelnut meal with brown rice flour, sugar and a pinch of salt.

Cut the butter into small pieces and rub them into the nut flour mixture. The mixture should become cohesive enough to roll balls out of it. Form the dough into small balls (approx. size of cherry tomato) and place on the baking sheet. Leave some space between the cookies on the sheet. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool completely on wire rack.

Dust the cookies slightly with icing sugar (optional).

Chop the chocolate and place into a small bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water until chocolate is melted and smooth. With a small spoon or piping bag, drizzle warm liquid chocolate over the cookies and leave until chocolate is firm.
Keep in airtight container.

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