Ho ho ho! It’s that time of year again when we tackle the various baking challenges that the festive period has to offer. Over the last few years, I’ve done the “Twelve Days of Christmas Baking” challenge, which basically sees me take on an insane amount of biscuits, cakes, cookies and breads in the month of December. I did it first in 2011, vowing at that stage that I probably wouldn’t do it again. Of course, I had another bash in 2012, and so it’s become a bit of a Christmas tradition. So, here goes again!
For my first festive bake, I’ve had a go at a traditional American favourite, the chocolate crinkle cookie. Think of these as basically mini-brownies. This does make the dough a little tricky to work with (you need to keep it as chilled as you can while working with it) but the result is fantastic – soft, slightly chewy and incredibly rich and quite indulgent at this time of year. The perfect little treat with a mug of coffee when you come inside from a brisk walk in the crisp winter air.
However, the real magic here comes from rolling the dark balls of dough in icing sugar. During baking, the cookies expand, and create the cracks that are the hallmark of these cookies. The contrast of snowy white icing sugar and the rich chocolate looks really striking.
The traditional way to make these cookies seems to be just with chocolate. However, I happened to glance at a jar of Nutella as I was rummaging in the baking cupboard, and thought it might be nice to add some hazelnuts to the mixture for some extra flavour. If you don’t want to do this, just replace the ground hazelnuts with flour, but I think it is worth doing. It certainly adds a little extra something to the final result.
I’ve also got a top tip for getting these cookies to look great – it really does make a difference if you keep the dough as cold as you can when working with it. My initial batches looked perfect. However, I left the last batch to sit out a little too long, and so the dough was not as cold as it could have been. As a result, the combination of all that butter and chocolate can mix with the icing sugar and leave the cookies looking less snowy and more brown. However, they will still taste amazing!
To make Chocolate Hazelnut Crinkles (makes around 40):
• 225g dark chocolate
• 100g plain flour
• 50g ground hazelnuts
• 55g cocoa powder
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1/4 teaspoons salt
• 115g butter
• 240g light brown sugar
• 2 large eggs
• 1 teaspoons vanilla extract
• 80ml milk
• 100g icing sugar, sieved
1. Put the chocolate into a heatproof bowl and place over a pan of barely simmering water. Leave to melt, the put to one side and allow to cool to lukewarm.
2. Next, prepare the dry ingredients. Mix and sieve the flour, ground hazelnuts, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.
3. In a large bowl, beat the butter and light brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, and then the vanilla, and beat well.
4. Beat the melted chocolate into the butter/sugar mixture. Make sure the chocolate is not too warm, otherwise it will cause everything to melt.
5. Add the flour to the chocolate mixture in three batches, alternating with the milk until everything is just mixed.
6. Cover the bowl in cling film and leave to chill in the fridge, ideally overnight.
7. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F). Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.
8. Cut a quarter of the chilled dough and remove from the fridge. Take generous spoonfuls of the mixture, rolling each into a ball. If you’re obsessed about getting everything perfect, you can weigh each piece using digital scales (I did, with each being 20g…). Put the balls onto a plate and return to the fridge for 10 minutes.
9. Remove the balls from the fridge and roll each in icing sugar. If any chocolate is showing through, re-roll until covered.
10. Arrange the cookies on the baking sheet, leaving space for them to expand. Bake for around 12-14 minutes until they have flattened a little and the sugar has cracked. Remove from the oven when done, let them sit for a moment, then allow to cool on a wire tray. Repeat with the rest of the mixture until it has all been used up.
Worth making? This recipe does take a little time, but it is fairly easy and the result is both visually stunning and absolutely delicious. Well worth making!