I’m Italian and my grandma never made me Italian hazelnut cookies! No fair!
A few weeks ago I was flipping through the newest issue of EatingWell and came upon an article by an author whose father grew up in the Piedmont region of Italy. Also an Italian longing for connection to my roots, I was suddenly compelled to prepare almost every recipe said author provided. Reason finally caught up with me and I selected a few dishes that fit into my schedule and pocketbook, one of which was a simple recipe for hazelnut cookies.
These cookies are so easy to prepare that you can almost make them while blindfolded. The ingredients are simple: hazelnuts, sugar, egg white, vanilla, and salt. They contain no grain or oil, so they’re probably the healthiest cookies you’ll run across this side of the Mediterranean. The no-grain thing fits well to my current gluten-free diet, and they’ve also got a good crunch, making them ideal for enjoying with a cup of coffee or tea. It’s been ages since I’ve been able to enjoy a cookie with my morning tea!
- 2 cups hazelnuts, toasted and skinned*
- 1¼ cups sugar
- 4 large egg whites
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Position 2 racks as close to the center of the oven as possible.
- *If your hazeluts are not already toasted: Preheat oven to 350°F. Toast whole hazelnuts on a baking sheet, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, 7 to 9 minutes. Let the nuts cool for a few minutes, then rub together in a clean kitchen towel to remove most of the papery skins. The skin won’t come off of all of them… don’t even bother trying if a few resist. The dark skin won’t harm the cookies if you blend them well.
- Prepare the cookies: Lower heat to 325°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats.
- Pulse nuts and sugar in a food processor until finely ground. Scrape into a large bowl. NOTE: Do not process nuts for longer than necessary to get them to a fine consistency. When they heat up, the oil will separate from the nut matter and you’ll end up with an awful mess. If this happens, you have to toss them (or continue processing to turn them into nut butter) and start with a new portion of nuts. Watch carefully for darkening down near the bottom of the food processor bowl!
- Beat egg whites and salt in another large bowl with an electric mixer on high speed until stiff peaks form. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the nut mixture. Add vanilla and gently but thoroughly mix until combined.
- Drop the batter by the tablespoonful 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. The runny batter will spread quickly, so make sure you leave space!
- Bake the cookies until golden brown, about 25 to 30 minutes, switching the pans back to front and top to bottom halfway through. Let cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes. Gently transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. When the baking sheets are thoroughly cooled, repeat with the remaining batter.