The Hazelnut and Chocolate Shortbread Sandwiches are a heavenly combination. The hazelnuts really emphasise the buttery light crumb of the shortbread and the chocolate filling is totally luxurious. With Valentines Day just around the corner, this is the perfect recipe to treat yourself or a loved one. If romance is the order of the day, a heart shaped cookie cutter would really say it all when it comes to an edible homemade gift.
Shortbread is such a classic recipe that I think it sometimes gets overlooked, left until last in the tin of mixed biscuits that are now a distant Christmas memory. Making shortbread with my mother is one of my earliest memories, and I learnt it all over again when I lived in Scotland in my early twenties. Freshly baked homemade shortbread is totally irresistible and this twist on a classic recipe gives it a new lease of life.
I love recipes that are versatile, and this one is no exception. Feel free to use different nuts or to leave out the chocolate filling. These biscuits half dipped in melted chocolate are also delicious. The chocolate ganache used to fill these little treats has a few little added extras making them ideal to use to make chocolate truffles. Simply chill the mix in the fridge until it is solid. Scoop out teaspoons of the mix and roll them in cocoa or chopped nuts. A prefect way to use up any leftovers!
I think this biscuit is really perfect with a cup of coffee, but it can be enjoyed as an accompaniment to ice cream, chocolate mousse or even dunked in a cup of tea!
This recipe makes approximately 30 ‘digestive biscuit’ size single biscuits. This makes 15 sandwiched biscuits.
– 350 grams plain flour
– Pinch of salt
– 225 grams unsalted butter
– 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
– 110 grams caster sugar
– 75 grams chopped roasted hazelnuts (you can buy them prepared this way or do it yourself)
Making the dough
1- Measure the flour into a bowl and mix in the salt.
2- Cut the butter into cubes. It is easiest to do this in the flour so that the flour prevents the butter cubes from sticking together.
3- Use the knife to continue cutting the butter into small pieces. Then use your finger to break the butter down further with the flour. Similar to making pastry, you are trying to get a fully incorporated mix with no lumps of butter. This is achieved by rubbing your fingers and thumbs together, mixing the flour with the butter. The end product will look like damp sand or breadcrumbs. (You can also whizz it all up in a food processor if you prefer!).
4- Stir in the sugar, vanilla extract and hazelnuts until well mixed.
5- Use your hands to crush together the mix to form a dough. You may need a couple of tablespoons of cold water to help with this.
6 – Mix it as little as possible – work quickly as you do not want to butter to melt or the gluten to develop in the flour. (The opposite of kneading bread)
7- Chill the dough in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Now is a good time to make the chocolate ganache filling if you plan to sandwich them together.
Chocolate Ganache Ingredients
– 250ml cream
– 250 grams dark chocolate (between 60 and 80% cocoa solids depending on your preference)
– 1 tablespoon of brown sugar (optional) Pinch of cinnamon (optional)
– 1 -2 tablespoons frangelico, dark rum or cherry brandy (optional)
– 25 grams chopped roasted hazelnuts for decoration (optional)
Making the ganache
1- Break the chocolate into pieces and place in a heat proof bowl.
2- Heat the cream and brown sugar (if using) in a saucepan until bubbling around the edges.
3- Pour over the chocolate, submerging all the chocolate in the cream.
4- Leave to sit for 4- 5 minutes.
5- Stir the mixture, starting in a small circle in the centre. Keep stirring until you can see a small area of dark glossy mix, then gradually stir in bigger and bigger circles until it is all smooth.
6- Add the cinnamon and liqueur if using.
7- Allow to cool down for 15 – 20 before placing in the fridge for 30 – 40 minutes to cool down and firm up.
Shaping and baking the dough
1- Preheat oven to 170 ºC/Gas Mark 3/ 340 ºF.
2- Roll out the dough between two pieces of greaseproof paper to about 1 cm thick. (You can use a rolling pin, glass or glass bottle for this job!). It is easiest to do this between parchment for a few reasons. It means that you don’t have to add lots of additional flour to the dough and it also makes it a less messy job. However, you can of course roll it out on a floured surface.
3- Take off the top piece of greaseproof paper and cut out biscuits using cutters, glass or egg cup, depending on what size and shape you like.
4- Pull away the dough from between the cut out shapes and use a knife to transfer the biscuits to an unlined, ungreased baking tray. Reroll the remaining dough again and continue to cut out shapes.
5- Bake for 8 – 12 minutes depending on the size of the biscuits. They should have a matt finish, be slightly firmer and slightly darker around the edges when baked.
6- Leave to cool for 4 – 5 minutes as they still will be very soft from the heat of the oven. Use a knife to lift onto a plate or cooling rack to cool.
They can be eaten just like this or filled and enjoyed as below.
Filling the biscuits
1-Pair up the biscuits, getting biscuits that are as close in size as possible together.
2 -Pipe (using a star shaped nozzle) or use a knife to spread the ganache on the underside of the cooled biscuit, and then sandwich the other biscuit on top.
3- Dip the edges of the biscuit in the chopped nuts for extra decoration if you like.
The unfilled biscuits store well in an airtight container for a couple of weeks. When filled they keep for about a week in a cool place in a sealed container.
I have baked for as long as I can remember. I grew up on an organic farm in County Wicklow and Maura Laverty’s ‘Full and Plenty’ was my guide in developing the basic skills and knowledge around food. It was this manual and my surroundings that nurtured an interest in local foods and a desire to use familiar ingredients in a creative way.
I work as an Occupational Therapist in the Mental Health services and have always valued the relaxation and pleasure that baking can bring. Since competing in the Great Irish bake Off 2013, I have had new opportunities to bake for a café and write my blog, The Search for Delicious. Baking is still an important part of my personal life, but since doing the show I have a great opportunity to share my recipes and food with people outside my circle of friends and family. I hope to develop recipes that are familiar but different, comfortable but still exciting, and am always delighted when someone tries one of my recipes!