2018 Update: I not only updated the photos for these hazelnut shortbread and overhauled the recipe – making it just a little simpler, and I think, tastier – I wrote new text. The old text was rather lame, written no doubt when I was low on inspiration and probably just wanted to get this post online! As a consequence, some of the comments below no longer make sense.
Hazelnuts mean the holidays to me. Around Christmas my dad would buy a big bag of Brazil nuts, walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts – still in their stone-hard jackets (a.k.a. shells) and pour them into a big bowl. We’d spend the next couple of weeks idly cracking them open with silver nutcrackers as we chatted in the kitchen or watched TV, teasing out the tender meat inside and feeling as if we’d earned our snack. By the beginning of January there were usually only a few shiny Brazil nuts left in the bowl. They had the toughest shells! The hazelnuts, however, were relatively easy to crack so they went quickly, plus their natural sweetness and distinctive flavor appealed to all of us.
I rarely eat nuts straight out of the shell anymore, though around November I notice bags of them in the grocery store. But I wanted to try something that featured hazelnuts and my feeling was that inherent sweetness would do very nicely in shortbread. Nut butter stands in for butter/oil and it enhances the rich flavor of the hazelnuts. This recipe has only six ingredients and comes together in a jiffy.
I can’t find unsweetened or otherwise unadulterated hazelnut butter, so I use Trader Joe’s Mixed Nut Butter (almonds, cashews, walnuts, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, pecans) instead, but feel free to use a vegan hazelnut butter. If it contains sugar, be sure to adjust the amount of sweetener you use to compensate. I use Trader Joe’s raw hazelnuts to make the hazelnut meal, but any brand of raw hazelnuts will work.
I’m a big fan of shortbread. If you are, too, you might like these recipes:
- 3/4 cup toasted hazelnut meal*
- 2/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour
- 1/2 cup coconut sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 cup unsweetened hazelnut butter or other unsweetened nut butter**
- 1/3 cup oat milk
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the hazelnut meal, flour, baking powder and coconut sugar until combined. Add the nut butter and pulse again until a coarse meal is formed. With the processor running, pour in the oat milk until a sticky ball forms. The texture should be gooey, but not runny so add more hazelnut meal or flour if it's too wet.
- Scrape the dough onto the baking sheet and pat into a square or rectangle that is just under a 1/2" thick. Cut the dough into 12 squares.
- Bake for 20 minutes, then remove the pan and slice through the previously cut lines and gently separate the pieces. Continue to bake for another 5-10 minutes.
- Let cool slightly before transferring to a cooling rack. The shortbread will crisp as it cools.
- *I made my own hazelnut meal by toasting 3/4 cup raw, whole hazelnuts in a 350-degree F oven for about 8 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally and watching carefully. I let the nuts cool, then placed them onto a clean kitchen towel to rub off as much of the skins as I could. Then I put the hazelnuts into a DRY high-speed blender and pulsed, stirring often, until a fine meal was achieved. You'll have a little extra hazelnut meal that you can add to waffles, pancakes, cookies, or for sprinkling on top of your morning oatmeal.
- **I couldn't find unsweetened hazelnut butter and was too lazy to make my own. In this recipe I've successfully used natural almond meal - and a nice unsweetened multi-nut butter spread (almonds, peanuts, cashews, Brazil and hazelnuts) from Trader Joe's.