Thumbprint cookies, rolled in hazelnuts and decorated with white chocolate ganache, are the perfect sweet little something. Make them to share with someone special. Or just because you can.
Monday night football and weekend golf with the guys are ordinarily stiff competition, but have no fear. Serve up these thumbprint cookies with a “kiss” of white chocolate on top, and you’ll captivate him for good. These thumbprint cookies seem all froufrou and fancypants, but they’re actually quite fundamental to put together. No need to let the person you’re making them for know that, though. Shhh. Your secret’s safe with us.–Julia M. Usher
Why did my ganache split?
Generally speaking, the biggest culprit for ganache gone wrong is that your cream and chocolate was just too darn hot. Without getting into to the science of it all, it comes down to fat. That fantastic fat gets too hot and breaks away from the rest of the ganache, leaving you with an oily mess.
For the thumbprint cookies
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup lightly toasted chopped hazelnuts with their skins intact, cooled
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 sticks (8 oz) unsalted butter slightly softened
- 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
- 2 large eggs separated
- 2 1/2 teaspoons hazelnut extract
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 3/4 cups untoasted chopped hazelnuts with their skins intact, for coating the cookies
For the white chocolate ganache filling
- 12 ounces premium white chocolate finely chopped or ground in a food processor
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon corn syrup
- 3/4 teaspoon hazelnut extract
- About 1/4 cup lightly toasted, coarsely chopped hazelnuts (with skins), cooled, or 3 1/2 to 4 dozen large (3 mm) silver dragées
Make the thumbprint cookies
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) and position a rack in the center of the oven. Line 2 or more baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Place the flour, hazelnuts, and salt in a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Process until the nuts are finely ground but not paste-like. Place the butter and brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the egg yolks and extracts and continue to beat, scraping down the bowl as needed, until the mixture is well blended. Turn the mixer to low speed and gradually add the flour mixture, blending just until incorporated.
- Finely chop the untoasted hazelnuts and place in a large bowl or cake pan to form a shallow layer. Roll the dough between your palms into 1-inch balls. (For the most uniform balls, first portion the dough into 1-inch mounds using a level 1 3/8-inch (#70) scoop or 2 level teaspoons per mound and then roll the blobs into perfect orbs. (If the butter was overly soft to start, the dough may be sticky and hard to handle. It may be necessary to refrigerate it for a few minutes until it can easily be shaped. Take care not to overchill the dough, however, or it may crack when you make the indentations later in the recipe.)
- Place the egg whites in a small bowl and whisk until frothy. Working with 1 ball at a time, lightly coat the ball with the beaten egg white and then tumble it in the untoasted hazelnuts to evenly coat. Roll the ball between your palms again to firmly fix the nuts in place. Repeat with the remaining ingredients and arrange the cookies about 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets.
- Using your thumb or the end of a round-handled spoon, make a cup-shaped indentation in the center of each cookie. Bake 12 to 14 minutes, repressing the indentations midway through the baking process. When done, the cookies should be lightly browned on the bottom. Immediately move the cookies to wire racks to cool completely. (Unfilled cookies can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature for up to 1 week.)
Make the ganache filling
- Begin the ganache no sooner than you intend to fill the cookies since it doesn’t keep well. Place the chopped or ground chocolate in a large bowl to form a shallow layer. Set aside.
- Pour the cream into a medium (3-quart) nonreactive saucepan and place over medium to medium-high heat just until the cream is almost scalded. (That is, heat the cream to just below the boiling point. The cream will put off steam, but no bubbles should break on its surface.)
- Immediately strain the hot cream through a fine-meshed sieve directly over the chocolate. Let the mixture sit for 1 to 2 minutes, without stirring. Gently whisk the mixture until the chocolate is entirely melted. (If the chocolate doesn’t completely melt, set the bowl over barely simmering water in a double boiler or a bowl set over but not touching simmering water and stir frequently until smooth.) Don’t overheat or the ganache may break. When the chocolate is melted and smooth, stir in the corn syrup until incorporated and then stir in the hazelnut extract. Remove from the heat, cover with plastic wrap pressed directly against the surface, and chill about 20 minutes, or until slightly thickened.
- Transfer the ganache to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whip attachment. Beat on medium speed just until the ganache turns a shade paler and holds the “tracks” left by the beater. Don’t overbeat or the ganache will break and become grainy. Immediately assemble the thumbprint cookies.
Assemble the thumbprint cookies
- Working quickly before the ganache sets, fit a pastry bag with a medium (3/8-inch) 6- to 8-pronged star tip and then fill the bag with the ganache. (Alternatively, scoop the ganache into a large resealable plastic bag and snip off one corner of the bag.) Hold the tip of the bag perpendicular to the cookie and pipe a rosette (or, if you will, a delicate blob) into the indentation in the cookie by moving the bag in a tight circle. Quickly pull the bag up or to the side to form a delicate peak. (Alternatively, use a teaspoon to dollop the filling in the indentation.) Repeat with the remaining cookies and filling. Top each cookie with a piece of coarsely chopped hazelnut or a single silver dragée if you prefer more glitz. Serve at room temperature. (The filled cookies should be stored in the fridge for no more than 2 to 3 days or they will get quite soft.) Originally published July 27, 2009.
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We’d love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
These are like deconstructed chocolate-chip cookies but with white chocolate and heaps of hazelnuts. They are wonderful! I could see this recipe making it into the holiday cookie catalog with very happy results. Crumbly, buttery, and with a creamy dollop of frosting-like ganache, I predict these will disappear from the cookie plate very, very fast.
The name lives up to its promise! One bite of these cookies and that person will be under your control, begging for more. “Nutty, creamy perfection!” “An eleven out of ten!” “Mmmmm!” were among the comments I received from my testers. The recipe is a bit of a labor of love and leaves a lot of dirty dishes, but it’s worth every minute. I’ve wanted to make this recipe for months, but I’ve yet to find hazelnut extract. Unable to wait any longer, I substituted almond extract for the hazelnut extract and almonds for the hazelnuts. I don’t know how much it changed the taste, but even with this substitution, these cookies are a 10.
My dough came together easily, but it was sticky from too-close-to-room-temperature butter, so I refrigerated it for about 30 minutes. By the end of shaping all the cookies, the last of the dough was a little too warm to make pretty balls, but it still seemed to do fine keeping its shape once it was rolled in the nuts.
One thing I appreciate about this recipe is the lack of waste. So often when you do an egg wash or use a crumb mixture or, in this case, a coating of nuts, you end up with gobs of extras. Not with this recipe. I was tilting the bowl of egg whites to coat the last 3 or 4 balls of dough and I had less than 1/4 cup extra nuts that went unused.
Feel free to fill your cookie sheets, as the cookies don’t spread much during baking. I ended up with 44 cookies. The indentation you make in the dough ball will completely disappear during the baking process, so halfway through the baking I used my thumb to redo the indentations on some batches, on the other batches I was too distracted making the ganache and forgot so I redid the indentations immediately upon removing the cookies from the oven. I couldn’t tell the difference later. Also, it’s hard to tell that the cookies are done by appearances. I removed mine at 12 minutes and they were perfect.
If you start making your ganache half way through the baking process, you’ll be able to fill your cookies just about the time the last batch has cooled. After 20 minutes in the refrigerator, my ganache mixture was cool but not cold. I didn’t notice a real change of color to a whiter shade, but I did stop mixing when the ganache was clearly holding the tracks left by the whisk attachment. The ganache is very easy to work with and holds its shape nicely on top of the cookies. I ended up with about a cup more than I needed, but I have a feeling I’ll find other ways to use it. As an aside, scalding the cream brought back wonderful memories of being a little girl and my Naunie—my father’s mother—teaching me to scald milk to make her banana pudding. It’s a recipe I still cherish. The results from this recipe are so good your grandchildren may one day be thinking of you and remembering when you taught them to scald cream for these cookies.
I’ll definitely make this recipe again and again! And I’ll now search that much harder for hazelnut extract so I can try that version.
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
You had me at hazelnut. I love cookies with nuts. Absolutely delicious! Perfect cookie for tea time, holiday time, and the perfect companion for espresso and coffee. The toasted hazelnuts smell heavenly and taste even better. Nice texture, too. They are absolutely fine without the ganache but absolutely scrumptious with the icing on the cookie! These will be added to my cookie baking repertoire.
Halfway through baking, in addition to repressing the cookies with the back of a quarter teaspoon measure, I rotated the pans.
The ganache was a bit on the sweet side. I’m not the biggest fan of white chocolate so I bought the best tasting I could find but next time I will useless as I don’t like it so sweet. I’m wondering if I needed the corn syrup? The timing for the chill was close but it took a good 30 minutes for this batch. It came together very nicely and I love to use my pastry bag with a star so everything worked there.
I make cookie trays every holiday season and give as gifts. These will be included. I decorated with the hazelnuts. If it was holiday time, I would use the silver dragees. Well worth the time.