Mariel here. Back in December, I swung by a tree-trimming party at a friend’s amazing loft downtown – I covet her apartment, it’s airy, it’s spacious, it’s for grown-ups. As I found out later that evening, the reason for hosting a tree-trimmer is two-fold: first, it provides an uncontested excuse to chow down on fattening sweets in the name of holiday spirit, and secondly, as the emcee, you enlist your friends to do the decorating for you. It’s win-win, really. After bedazzling a picture of The Hoff with all manner of glitter and feathers – just like real life – and stringing it high on her 10-foot-tall Tannenbaum, I got down to business and raided the cookie plate. My friend – a.k.a. the second coming of Martha Stewart, only pretty, skinny and hilarious – had run out of time to home-bake so she did what any self-respecting hostess would do: she paid for them. She happens to live near Milk & Cookies, a delicious – albeit slightly overpriced – bakery that churns out the most diet-crushing cookies ever, in a good way. In addition to the usual rigamarole of Chocolate Chip and Oatmeal, they also serve up these Salted Macadamia Cookies that wipe the floor with the competition. They’re sweet – but not overly sweet – they’re chewy and soft, and they’re dusted with just enough sea salt to make you stop and think. Naturally, I had to take a stab at recreating them – only in a wallet-friendlier way – and I started by swapping out pricey macadamias in favor of ubiquitous hazelnuts (my renditions are $0.21 per confection, theirs $2). I nailed it, in my humble opinion. In fact, if you’ve ever sampled a Milk & Cookies cookie, I’d be curious to hear what you think.
Chewy Salted Hazelnut Cookies Makes about 24 cookies
Ingredients: 1¼ cup whole wheat flour (you can also use all-purpose flour, if you’d prefer) – stock ½ cup peanut butter (chunky or smooth, whatever you have on hand) – stock 1 stick of butter, softened – stock 1 cup chopped hazelnuts – $4.99 2 eggs – stock 1 cup packed light brown sugar – stock 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract – stock ¾ teaspoon baking soda – stock ½ teaspoon baking powder – stock ¼ teaspoon table salt – stock 1½ teaspoons sea salt (or coarsely-ground salt) for sprinkling – stock Grand total assuming well-stocked kitchen: $4.99 Cost per cookie: $0.21 Directions: 1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter or “Pam” two cookie sheets 2. In a large bowl, lightly whisk together the baking soda, table salt, baking powder and flour. Set aside. 3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter, peanut butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla, and mix on medium speed until combined. Be mindful of not over-mixing and remember to dredge up the bottom of the mixing bowl with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon – butter tends to stick there. 4. On a slower speed, gradually add the dry mixture to the wet mixture until just incorporated. Fold in the chopped hazelnuts using a wooden spoon. Again, don’t over-handle the dough. 5. Using a tablespoon (the kind you use for coffee or tea, not measuring) drop an ample spoonful onto the prepared cookie sheets. Give each drop cookie some space, as they’ll spread during the baking process. 6. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-11 minutes or until they’re just starting to turn golden along the bottom but the top still looks a little bubbly and soft. Don’t over-bake. Set the cookie sheets on wire racks and cool for 10 minutes. Sprinkle the tops of each cookie with sea salt while they’re cooling. Store in a sealed container at room temperature for up to a week.