I’m not drunk, I just can’t feel my nose.
Saturday night. What’s a fun-loving 30-year-old, city-dwelling gal to do while her partner is out with his friends? Stay home, put on some pajama pants, and bake chocolate cookies while getting a little tipsy on a single bottle of 10% alcohol Belgian trippel beer and watching the AKC/Eukanuba dog championships on Animal Planet.
Don’t hate the player, hate the game.
Of all the spreads I can think of in my mildly inebriated state, Nutella is without doubt the one most deserving of its own special day; I’m forced to wonder why it hasn’t yet been recognized by the United States government. I’m Italian (yes, we invented Nutella and yes, you’re welcome), and I grew up with plain Nutella on bread as a favorite snack and breakfast. To this day, that remains my favorite way to eat Nutella, and that’s how you’ll find me eating it 99% of the time. Most of my family may be 3000+ miles away, but a slab of Pugliese bread (yes, Puglians make the best bread and yes, you’re welcome) slathered with a more-than-generous dollop of Nutella is only as far as my pantry and the nearest good bakery.
Did you know?: If you want to keep your chain gang in line, the Bloodhound is the dog for you.
I did, in fact eat a slab of bread spread with Nutella this evening. But I decided to do something a little more involved for World Nutella Day, since I needed to make something sweet to bring to an anti-Super Bowl party tomorrow anyway (All Olympia Dukakis movies, all day long. Would you call those uniforms eggplant, or aubergine?). So: fudgy cookies sandwiched with chocolate-Nutella ganache and rolled in toasted hazelnuts.
Did you know?: There is a breed of dog called the “Plott.”
For the cookie, I went with one of the entries from Apartment Therapy: The Kitchen’s current bittersweet baking contest. Shelly’s Brownie Cookies seemed like just the thing: crisp on the outside, chewy on the inside and relatively flat, making them good for sandwiching. They also come together very quickly and with a minimum of mess; melt some butter, pour it over some chopped chocolate to melt, mix the cooled chocolate into the sugar and eggs, then mix the wet into the dry. I followed the recipe as posted on Apartment Therapy with one small modification: the addition of a bit of espresso powder to heighten the chocolate flavor a bit.
Did you know?: Uno the beagle’s favorite thing is his stuffed frog.
Best name for a dog so far tonight: Bob
Following Shelly’s posted directions I used a small ice cream scoop to portion out the dough, and as she said, 15 minutes in the oven was the perfect cooking time. The stiff dough was fun to work with. It’s also tasty to nibble raw, not that I would know because I would never do that.
Did you know?: People assume the Schipperke is Dutch, but its origins are actually Belgian. I’m as shocked as you are.
The cookies didn’t flatten out as much as I would have liked: if I make them in the future, I’ll probably flatten the dough balls a bit before putting the cookies into the oven, or maybe I’ll just make bigger dough balls (probably the latter; never let it be said of me that I failed to seize an opportunity to make bigger chocolate cookies).
Still, they lived up to the promised chewy consistency, and had beautiful crackly tops in spite of my having been 1.5 sheets to the wind when shaping them. She offers some variations on the cookie that also sound really yummy – adding crushed peppermint candy, or pecans and small caramel bits to make a turtle cookie – so check our her post. Thanks, Shelly!
Did you know?: The good doctor is going to begin with the standard poodle.
Let’s be candid, I think we owe it to one another: We didn’t come here for chocolate cookies. We can eat chocolate cookies any day of the week. We came here for NUTELLA.
To sandwich the cookies I made one of my all time favorite frostings, chocolate-hazelnut sour cream ganache. It’s easy, delicious, versatile, and uses an entire 13-ounce container of Nutella.
The ganache couldn’t be easier unless magical elves snuck into your kitchen and made it for you. Chop up and melt 12 ounces of good-quality semisweet chocolate over a double boiler. When the chocolate is melted, whisk in the whole jar of Nutella, then mix in room-temperature sour cream and a dash of Frangelico. You’ll probably want to switch to a spatula or wooden spoon at this point, since the ganache starts to tighten up really quickly once the sour cream goes in.
I threw the ganache into the fridge to firm up a little more while I
burned toasted up some hazelnuts in which to roll my sandwiches. (Reliable sources tell me it’s now grammatically acceptable to end one’s sentences with a preposition, but I reject this needless laxity of the rules.)
Did you know?: The Brittany Spaniel is NOT a true Spaniel! OMG!!101
The ganache is the ultimate grown-up frosting. The Nutella and Frangelico add a wonderful layer of flavor over the chocolate. The tang of the sour cream and the small amount of alcohol cut some of the sweetness, so it’s not your typical cloying chocolate icing. The sour cream also gives it an incredible texture; it will certainly firm up when chilled but will retain a silky consistency right out of the fridge. But you don’t have to chill it, since it holds for 3 or 4 days at room temperature, and whatever it’s covering is unlikely to make it past the 4-day mark. It’s especially fantastic when used to frost a banana cake – or any other cake – or spread on banana bread.
I generally don’t like frosted brownies because they usually have enough sugar in them to dissolve a tractor in under 24 hours, but this ganache (plus the addition of the unsweetened, toasted nuts) changes my tune. To assemble the cookies, put a generous dollop of ganache on the bottom of one (the amount will depend on the size of your cookies; for me, it took about a tablespoon), sandwich with another cookie and press gently until the ganache starts to ooze out the sides the tiniest bit. Roll in finely chopped hazelnuts.
You’re not going to want to eat these immediately for 2 reasons. One, unless you’ve chilled the ganache a good long time, it will probably squirt out of the sandwich when you bite down and you’ll look like a rube. Two, when you assemble the cookies and chill them overnight, they turn into wonderful cookie-truffle bombs. The cookie stays chewy, but gets a little firmer. You take a bite, and start chewing on the cookie; you immediately get the chocolatey brownie flavor, the toasted hazelnuts and a hint of the ganache. Then, as the heat of your mouth and your insistent chewing warm the bite of cookie, you get an explosion of delicious, silky ganache.
Did you know?: The Spinone Italiano is the official dog of the Olive Garden.
Plus: Bonus cookies!
Chocolate-Hazelnut Sour Cream Ganache
enough to frost a 9-inch layer cake, or to sandwich several dozen cookies
12 oz. good-quality semisweet chocolate
1 13oz. jar Nutella
1 1/2 c. sour cream, room temperature
3 tbsp. Frangelico (or more/less to taste; the ganache can handle up to about 1/4 c. before the texture is affected)
Fill a sauce pot with an inch or two of water and set over low heat; bring to just below a simmer. Finely chop the chocolate; put it into a heat-safe bowl and melt it over the warm water.
When the chocolate is melted, take it off the heat and whisk in the Nutella until smooth. Stir in the sour cream and Frangelico, mix until smooth and glossy; the ganache will come together and begin to firm very quickly.. The ganache will probably be ready to use immediately as a cake frosting. To use as a cookie filling, chill for 30 minutes to firm the ganache a little. Chill for 4-24 hours to use as truffle centers.