How to bake salted chocolate, hazelnut and rye cookies

A proper American cookie

I loathe rye bread. Really, truly, I don’t understand its appeal.

It’s either so dense that it’s a brick, miserable and damp, or it’s sliced so delicately that it crumbles on contact, disappearing into a mass of rubble so quickly and comprehensively that it’s hard to believe it ever formed a loaf. I spent one miserable afternoon cutting countless slices of the thinnest rye bread into tiny triangles to top with smoked salmon for a garden party, with more rye falling from the sandwiches than staying on them.

I know it’s a grown-up bread, a healthy bread, that it’s terribly trendy. There are many excellent reasons why I should like it, but it doesn’t seem to matter how many times I shell out extortionate sums of money on an artisan rye loaf, I still can’t bring myself to like it. Seems that money really can’t buy you taste, either mine or the bread’s.

So, to be honest, I’m not really sure why these cookies work, but work they do. And I’m even less sure why I made them in the first place – shoving a whole heap of rye flour as a rye-hater into what a perfectly good biscuit recipe seems, at best, perverse – but I’m so glad I did. When you combine the rye with light brown sugar it is transformed into something golden and good.

These biscuits really are packed full of rye: you’ll find rye cookies with a plain flour/rye flour mix, to temper the intensity of the rye flavour I’ve moaned about. Not these cookies, these are 100% rye flour, and so much the better for it. Ever the rye sceptic, I recipe tested these biscuits with different proportions of rye and plain flour, and none of them came close to the dark, delicious depth that the sweetened rye gives.

These are cookies in the proper American sense: crisp and golden on the outside, but plump and soft within. Very slightly chewy from the light brown sugar and rye flour, with big fat chunks of toasty hazelnut and the darkest chocolate. I’ve made two batches in the last week, and they both disappeared so quickly, I’m considering a third.

It goes like this…

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Salted chocolate, hazelnut and rye cookies

Makes: 15-18 cookies
Takes: 10 minutes
Bakes: 15 minutes

100g salted butter, room temperature
100g light brown sugar
75g caster sugar
1 large egg
175g rye flour
150g dark chocolate
100g hazelnuts
1 tablespoon coarse salt

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and prepare two large oven trays with greaseproof paper.
2. First, toast your hazelnuts. Place them in a small frying pan over a medium heat shuffling regularly, and cook until they start to take on a little colour and you can smell them. Nuts burn quickly and badly so do keep an eye on them.
3. Now cream together your butter and sugars. I do this with an electric whisk, and a stand mixer will do the job well, but it’s fine to do by hand with a spatula or wooden spoon: you want the mixture to be well-beaten, fluffy and noticeably pale.
4. Add the egg and beat it into the mix well. Fold in the flour and salt.
5. Chop the chocolate and hazelnuts into small pieces: you can do this to your own preference, but I tend to halve small hazelnuts, and chop chocolate into pieces smaller than that. Fold these evenly through the mix.
6. Roll the dough into balls about the size of a golf ball and place on baking trays, spaced well apart.
7. Bake for 13-16 minutes, until the top of the cookies are set and golden, but still soft. They will not feel cooked, but will harden as they cool; do not leave in the oven until they are firm. Transfer to a cooling rack on the paper, and leave for fifteen minutes before gently peeling from the paper: I find sliding a palette knife or spatula underneath helps me here.
8. Ta Dah!

Icing on the Cake

I ate these near constantly. They are compulsively delicious, just small enough to justify two, or even three in a row, and I couldn’t pass the little tin they sat in without reaching for one.


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