These lovely cookies are perfect for giving at Christmas or Valentine’s – although the centres can be cut into circles, stars or whatever shape suits the occasion. The buttery dough is also a versatile go-to when you need an elegant biscuit to decorate (think birthdays or baby showers), or as a crisp bite to counter a creamy, smooth dessert.
Preparation time: 15 minutes, plus chilling; Baking time: 10 minutes per batch
Makes about 22
For the cookie dough
175 g soft butter, plus extra for greasing
85 g blanched hazelnuts (or use ground almonds, see Tip)
100 g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
200 g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 small orange, grated zest only (optional)
1 tbsp icing sugar
225 g raspberry jam (or use Nutella or lemon curd)
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan/gas 4). Lightly grease 2 baking trays with butter, then line them with baking parchment. Put the nuts in a food processor with 1 tablespoon of the sugar, then pulse until finely ground. Tip them into a bowl.
DON’T OVERDO IT
Nuts can quickly turn from finely ground to oily, clumpy and unusable. Pulsing the blades and using a little sugar should avoid this.
2. Separate the egg (see page 127), then put the yolk in the processor bowl with the remaining sugar, the vanilla and butter.
3 Process the ingredients together until creamy and evenly mixed.
4. Add the flour, salt, cinnamon and ground nuts to the processor bowl. Finely grate in the orange zest, if using, then pulse until the ingredients form a soft dough ball. You may need to scrape the sides of the bowl down once or twice.
No problem: use 85 g ground almonds instead. Beat the yolk, sugar, vanilla and butter in a large bowl, using a wooden spoon or an electric mixer, until pale and creamy. Work the rest of the ingredients into the mixture using a table knife, then knead briefly to make a smooth dough.
5. Lightly dust the work surface with flour, turn out the dough onto it, then split it into 2 equal balls. Flatten each ball into a saucer-sized disc. Wrap in cling film and chill for 20 – 30 minutes, or until firm but not rock solid.
6. Sprinkle more flour on the work surface, then get ready to roll. Press ridges into one of the discs of dough with a rolling pin (this stretches it without overworking it, which makes it tough). Turn the dough and repeat this ridging a few times, until it is about 2 cm thick. If any cracks appear, pinch them together. Now roll the dough to about 3 mm thick, or about the thickness of a £1 coin.
7. Using a 6-cm fluted pastry cutter, stamp out 12 rounds. Next, using a small heart or star-shaped cutter (or the end of a wide icing tube to make a round hole), cut out shapes from the centres of half the cookies.
8. Carefully lift the whole round cookies onto one baking tray, and the cookies with the holes onto the other. Squish the remains of the dough together (taking care not to knead it, as this can make the dough tough), re-roll and stamp out more cookies until you have filled the baking trays.
9. Bake the whole cookies for 10 –11 minutes and the cut-out cookies for 9 minutes, or until they are pale golden and smell nutty. Leave to stand for 2 minutes, then lift onto cooling racks and leave to cool completely. Repeat with the second batch of dough.
10. Use a fine-mesh sieve to dust the icing sugar over the cut-out cookies. Spoon about 1 teaspoon jam over the whole cookies, then sandwich together with the cut-outs. They will keep in an airtight container for 3 – 5 days and are best sandwiched on the day you’re going to eat them.
Recipe extract from What To Bake & How To Bake It by Jane Hornby (Phaidon)