Oregon: Chocolate Shortbread Cookies with Hazelnuts and Sea Salt

Oregon’s cookie is chocolate to the max: chocolate shortbread with bittersweet chocolate chunks, dipped in more bittersweet chocolate and sprinkled with sea salt and chopped hazelnuts.

Recipe source: https://www.bobsredmill.com/recipes/how-to-make/chocolate-shortbread-cookies-hazelnut-sea-salt-oregon/

I ended up skipping a week of baking because I was busy pricing and sorting for a town-wide yard sale we participated in. But these cookies were worth the wait.

There’s something about dark chocolate that just makes eating it an overpoweringly rich experience, and I mean that in a good way. Somehow it’s more satisfying than milk chocolate. One really good piece of dark chocolate, and I’m sated. Milk chocolate just leaves me wanting more of it (I bet it’s the sugar). Don’t get me wrong: I love all chocolates, and some flavor combos do better with milk chocolate (I’m looking at you, peanut butter). But dark is my favorite.

I found the hazelnuts at Market Basket for $5.

I elected to chop the chocolate with a knife instead of the bench scraper. Honestly, I’ve never found the bench scraper to be a good chocolate chopper in the first place: too blunt.

I hope this is finely chopped enough. Otherwise I might as well grate it.

Hazelnuts are too round to chop with a knife without lots of frustration, so I broke out the mini food processor again.

Again, half big chunks and half powder. Maybe next time I’ll break out the small bowl on the big food processor.
Cocoa powder sifted with the flour. They told me to sift in kosher salt too, but that stuff doesn’t fit through the sifter.
The dough is very stiff.
This really looks like good, dark earth in the garden, and you can tell I’ve been planting lately if that’s where my mind goes.

After chilling (overnight, though the recipe said an hour I ended up getting waylaid by life and had to come back the next day) the dough was pretty crumbly, especially in the one log I managed to roll while maintaining an air pocket inside of it. I also chopped it with my bench scraper instead of with a knife, which I used for the second log. The more rugged-looking finished products are from the bench scraper, the smoother topped ones from the knife.

I just pushed the pieces together and hoped they would meld as they baked, and they did.

These were rich, chocolately and satisfying before dipping in chocolate, but you gotta get those hazelnuts on (they weren’t incorporated in). Instead of the microwave method most of these recipes (including this one) recommend, and I’m often lazy enough to do, I did a double boiler. I do this because instead of using microwaves to heat the water in the chocolate, this applies heat from outside and you can do a slower, easier to control melt. Not only are you less likely to seize it up, the chocolate ends up being nice and runny to work with, and if you keep the temperature low enough you won’t break its temper and instead of having to temper it again yourself, you’ll have the nice shiny chocolate that sets well and has the satisfying snap. This is of course easier to do with the bar baking chocolate that is made to melt, rather than the chocolate chips that are meant to hold their shape better.

When they say “a bare simmer” this is what they mean: no bubbles breaking the surface, just some steam and tiny bubbles forming on the bottom of the pan. I honestly just heat an inch or so of water on medium until I get these bubbles, then turn it as low as it will go.
Leave it on the heat until it starts to get liquidy, stir gently with a spatula (don’t beat air in pwith a whisk) and once you only have a few lumps like this, remove from the heat and keep stirring. If it starts to set up at the edges or the lumps just won’t melt, put it back on the heat for less than a minute, remove and stir more. It can be tedious, so put on music or a podcast or something.
Daaaamn, look at that shine!
That shine!
They called for “flake sea salt” but I had coarse, so…
The excellent thing about tempered chocolate is it will set (without being soft and coming off on your fingers, unless you have hot hands or hold it for a while) at room temperature. This gets less true if you add cream or oil to it, so just be patient with the melting process.
In deference to my husband and his dislike of nuts in things (though he turned out to be mostly okay with them on these) I left off the nuts on a few and just did the salt.

Overall impressions: YUM. These are chocolate upon chocolate. The salt does an excellent job of keeping me from being overwhelmed by it. Hazelnuts are amazing. I would love to incorporate them into the dough but it was very stiff dough to begin with and I’m surprised I even managed to incorporate the chocolate chunks. An option would be to swap the chocolate chunks out for the nuts, but then you lose the chunks. If you think there’s one chocolate thing too much, you might consider it.

Next time: Pennsylvania brings us Cranberry Walnut Sand Tart Cookies, which look very simple and lovely. These will actually have to be chilled overnight, so I’ll plan ahead. They take a whole frickin’ pound of butter o__O

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