The classic combination of chocolate and hazelnut paste, called gianduja in Italian, is my absolute favorite way to enjoy chocolate. It was Invented in Turin, Italy in the middle of the 19th century. Ferrero, one of the most famous brands that manufactures it, sells it as Nutella. In Europe it's as popular as peanut butter is here in the States. I'm addicted to it and spread it on apple slices, crêpes, and sandwiches, where one slice of bread is spread with peanut butter and the other with Nutella. That was my snack of choice while studying abroad in Europe, where Nutella is sold in little cups. Once emptied, the jars can be used as drinking glasses—I actually ended up building an entire collection in my cupboard. So to come up with a sweet treat recipe for Valentine's Day, I immediately thought of cookies sandwiched together with Nutella.
What better cookie could there be to pair with Nutella than chocolate cookies? These rolled cookies get cut out with fluted heart-shaped cookie cutters in various sizes. The dough is not that difficult to put together and, when rolled out between plastic, is very easy to handle. It also makes for a very tender cookie when no flour is used in rolling. If you like a softer cookie, bake for no more than 7 minutes. For a crispy cookie, bake for 8 minutes. The dough features a spoonful of hazelnut liqueur, which is also an Italian specialty. Find it sold as Frangelico, bottled in a monk-shaped glass. These cookies are perfect for sharing with friends, coworkers, or classmates. Kids will absolutely love them as will the adults.
I just want to be clear and say that I'm not being compensated for this post nor was I contacted by Nutella. I am writing about my love for Nutella, the chocolate-hazelnut spread, in all honesty.
Chocolate-Hazelnut Sandwich Cookie Hearts
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon hazelnut liqueur
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 large egg
chocolate-hazelnut spread, for filling
Sift together the dry ingredients: flour, cocoa powder, and baking powder.
On medium-low heat, melt the chocolate in a heat-proof bowl over a pot of simmering water. Off from heat add espresso powder, vanilla, and hazelnut liqueur; mix to incorporate. Let cool slightly.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, salt, and sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add egg and mix until combined. Fold in melted chocolate. Add the dry ingredients a little at a time on low speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Mix until combined.
Form dough into two discs and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before rolling.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line baking sheets with oven-safe parchment paper or Silpats.
Roll out one disc of dough between two pieces of plastic wrap to 1/8-inch thick. Keep second disc in refrigerator until ready to roll. Cut out cookies using a 2- or 3-inch heart cutter and transfer to lined baking sheet, arranging no more than 1 inch apart. Reshape scraps of dough into a disc, wrap in plastic, and keep in refrigerator until ready to roll again.
Bake cookies for 7 to 8 minutes. Let cool completely. Spread cookie bottoms with about 1 to 2 teaspoons of chocolate hazelnut spread and sandwich with tops, squeezing together. Yield: 20 sandwiched cookies.