Is it a little early to be baking for Christmas? Probably. But when a friend pulled out her holiday tome of cookies and other treats, I couldn’t resist. Don’t worry, these won’t have to wait until the 24th to be enjoyed!
If you’ve been following along, this is the second of two posts I promised for tonight. It really did stem from a conversation with a friend about the upcoming holidays and the baking we aspire to every year. She’s better at getting it done than I am; I usually peter out after the first one or two batches of bread. My greatest hope is that with age comes more than wisdom… I hope for baking endurance. But until I attain the necessary years, I’ll just get an early start. These were pretty easy to put together, and look pretty fancy to boot. I wrapped a tower of three cookies together in a cellophane wrap and a fall-colored bow (OK, it wasn’t a bow, it was a knot. Maybe there will be bows next year), and now they sit in the fridge awaiting delivery to people nice enough to deserve them.
Caramel Hazelnut Cookie Bars
Makes 24 bars
3 1/2 cups hazelnuts
nonstick cooking spray
2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cups powdered sugar
3/4 cup cold butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
2/3 cup butter
3 Tablespoons whipping cream
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 teaspoons shortening
Preheat the oven to 350 degree. Place hazelnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast for 10 minutes. Pour them onto a clean kitchen towel and rub the skins off. Set the nuts aside.
Line a 9x13x2 inch baking pan with heavy duty foil, being sure to extend foil over the sides so that you can lift it out of the pan later. Coat the foil lightly with cooking spray.
In a food processor combine flour, powdered sugar, and the 3/4 cup cold butter. Pulse until a crumbly mixture forms. Press the mixture onto the bottom and sides of the baking pan, creating a thin crust on bottom and about 3/4 of an inch up the sides. Bake for 20 minutes or until the edges begin to brown. Remove from oven and place pan on a wire rack to cool for 20 minutes.
In a medium saucepan combine the brown sugar, 2/3 cup butter, and whipping cream. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it comes to a boil. Stir in the hazelnuts and stir to coat. Pour into the pre-baked crust until filling is golden and bubbly. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.
Once cool, remove the uncut bars from the pan. In a small saucepan combine the chocolate chips and shortening and heat over low heat, stirring consistently until chocolate is smooth. Drizzle over the bars using a spoon. Once chocolate has set, use a sharp knife to cut bars into desired size. Refrigerate to fully firm up filling before wrapping.
*lightly adapted from Better Homes and Gardens