Russian tea cakes, Mexican wedding cakes, Viennese almond crescents--many countries have their own version of these melt-in-your-mouth butter-and-nut cookies. This one was created by Yigit Pura of Tout Sweet patisserie, in San Francisco and Palo Alto. We love it for its extreme crispness and toasty brown-butter flavor, and because it's not too sweet; most of the sugar is on the outside.
1 cup (140 g*) hazelnuts
1 cup plus 6 tbsp. (310 g) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-in. chunks, at cool room temperature
1/3 cup plus 2 tbsp. (90 g) granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Scant 1 tbsp. (10 g) vanilla-bean paste*
1 tablespoon cognac or brandy
3 cups plus 2 tbsp. (435 g) flour
About 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar for rolling
How to Make It
Preheat oven to 325°. Toast hazelnuts on a rimmed baking sheet until light golden brown and skins start to split, 8 to 10 minutes. Rub warm nuts in a kitchen towel to remove most of skins (it's okay if some stick). Let cool and chop coarsely.
Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment (or a handheld mixer with beaters; cookies will be slightly crumblier), beat butter, granulated sugar, and salt on medium speed until evenly mixed and fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes.
In a small bowl, whisk together vanilla-bean paste and cognac. Scrape into butter mixture and mix to incorporate.
On low speed, gradually mix in flour, scraping bowl as needed. Add hazelnuts and mix 30 seconds more.
Immediately scoop cookies into 1 1/2-tbsp. (25 g) portions and roll into balls. Chill, covered, at least 4 hours and up to 2 days.
Preheat oven to 325° with racks in upper and lower thirds. Stack a baking sheet on a second sheet (to help cookies get evenly golden brown). Repeat with 2 more baking sheets. Line top sheet in each stack with parchment paper and set chilled cookie portions on parchment about 1 in. apart.
Bake cookies 20 minutes. Switch positions of pans and rotate each 180°; then bake until medium golden brown, almost like biscotti, 25 to 30 minutes more. Slide parchment with cookies onto cooling racks and let cool completely.
Put powdered sugar in a large, wide bowl, then roll cookies in powdered sugar. Repeat, lightly pressing sugar onto cookies to form a thick, fluffy coat.
*Pura recommends weighing ingredients on a kitchen scale, since it's more precise. Find vanilla-bean paste at surlatable.com.
Make ahead: Through step 5, up to 2 days, chilled airtight, or 2 months, frozen (thaw overnight in fridge before proceeding). Baked cookies, 2 to 3 days, airtight at room temperature, or up to 2 months, frozen.
Unlike the more crumbly RTC's that I grew up eating, these are crispy. The hazelnuts are a nice (and so yummy) twist on the usual pecan variety, too. I chopped mine extremely fine, and even my not-so-nutty-about-nuts family members LOVED them. I did not follow the directions about stacking the baking sheets and they still came out really great. Not too sweet (most of the sugar in the recipe is the powdered variety on the outside of the cookie), buttery, loaded with flecks of vanilla bean and with that oh so lovely toasted and nutty hazelnut pop -- you really MUST try these!!PS: The first reviewer only gave these one star because she didn't like the fact that the recipe calls for vanilla bean paste, believing it to be hard to find and pricey. I found it reasonably priced on Amazon. It really took this recipe up a notch; I wouldn't recommend trying to substitute vanilla extract.
There is no way I can get the paste stuff. Need to know how much vanilla extract to use. I don't have or use fancy stuff for just one recipe. Too wasteful on a fixed income. Any one got any idea on the extract equivalent?
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