This Autumn, Tuesday nights have turned into a bit of a ‘thing’ with a few friends of mine; themed evenings with food and wine and relaxed, female company. This week someone brought soup, another some red wine and our host provided rustic, twisted bread sticks from the bakery. I naturally assigned myself in charge of ‘dessert’ and I needed to throw something together that was as paired down as the food. Cupboard trawling. Internet trawling. I started to formulate ‘macaroons’ in my head. Not those tiny, French, pastel-coloured monstrosities, but old-school, chewy, nutty macaroons. I remember eating these big, chewy discs of almond mounted on edible rice paper as a child.
These hazelnut cookies are German in origin (Nussmakronen) and are traditionally baked in their masses around Christmas time. To be authentic they need to be baked on wafers, which are similar to rice paper discs (or the discs used in Holy Communion). You can put together a macaroon with hazelnuts, almonds, pistachios or coconut. The essence of the recipe is simple and the result is a crisp crumb and a deliciously moist centre. I believe hazelnuts to be the most aromatic and flavourful of all the nuts, and using them here means that these little cookies exude the rich aromas of praline. If this is an sample of pleasures to come then I cannot wait for the Christmas markets here in Germany, all the twinkling lights, scents of wood smoke, hands clasped around mulled wine and, with any luck, piles and piles of beautiful German cookies.
Having tasted these plain and unadorned, with only a subtle hint of cinnamon, my mind wanders to flavour possibilities. I feel that hazelnut pairs beautifully with both coffee and chocolate and plan to try baking these with an addition of coffee essence, or perhaps dipping the bases into some melted dark chocolate. A tin of these fudgy, little flavour bombs would make beautiful Christmas gifts, nestled in tissue paper and accompanying all those festive coffee moments. I’m getting carried away here…we haven’t even had Halloween.
(Makes approx. 30)
2 Egg whites
200g ground hazelnuts (or whole)
125g caster sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
Pinch sea salt
- Preheat oven to 180°C/160°C Fan/350F and line a large baking tray
- Carefully toast the ground hazelnut in a large pan, stirring constantly until golden in colour and the scent of hazelnuts if strong (if using whole hazelnuts do the same process but allow to cool completely before rubbing off any skins with a tea towel and blending to a coarse powder)
- Allow to cool slightly before combining with the sugar, salt and cinnamon and mixing thoroughly
- Beat the egg whites until very stiff and fluffy
- Mix the egg white with the dry ingredients until a thick paste forms
- Allow two teaspoons of mixture per cookie, shape into a ball and press lightly with your thumb.
- Bake for 10-12 minutes until the thumb print is barely visible.
- Remove from the tray immediately and allow to cool
- Leave plain, dust with icing sugar or dip the base of each cookie into melted dark chocolate
- Transfer to a cookie tin, these should keep for a couple of weeks