Although our traditional American holiday repertoire lacks chocolate cookies, I found many while living in Europe, where each region has its own unique holiday specialties. Most of my favorites come from Germany, Austria, Italy, and Switzerland, and their chocolate cookies often include hazelnuts. The sophisticated chocolate-glazed chocolate and hazelnut cookies are proof of just how appealing this flavor pairing can be. Inspired by several German recipes and a Swiss cookie called Brunsli, these cookies are rich and bittersweet, not only from dark chocolate and cocoa powder, but from espresso powder, which deepens and enriches the other flavors.
You can use semisweet or bittersweet chocolate in this recipe, although many brands of semisweet chocolate will produce a slightly milder, sweeter cookie, and some extra-bittersweet chocolates will yield an intensely bitterrsweet result. The overall flavor of the cookies depends greatly on the chocolate, so choose one that suits your taste. Don’t use unsweetened chocolate, however; it’s too bitter.
Chocolate and hazelnuts
Throughout Europe, chocolate and hazelnuts are a classic pair. The combination appears frequently in Italian cakes, in various frozen desserts called semifreddo, and in a hazelnut-chocolate confection known as gianduia. Gianduia originated in Italy, but it’s enormously popular throughout Switzerland, Germany, and Austria as well, turning up in an array of bonbons, truffles, and other candies. The Swiss, Germans, and Austrians also use chocolate and chopped or ground hazelnuts in all sorts of tortes, puddings, pastries, and cookies like the chocolate-glazed ones.
I decorate these cookies by dipping them into melted chocolate. Usually, pure chocolate must be tempered in order for it to set and stay smooth-looking. But since I store the finished cookies in the refrigerator, I skip the time-consuming task of tempering.