Quarantine Cuisine Week 1: Stress Baking

If you follow me on Instagram, you already know that I spent much of our first week of voluntary self-isolation baking, but I thought I’d do a quick round-up here. Because both baking and eating baked goods are good stress relief.

Salted Butter Chocolate Chunk Shortbread from Smitten Kitchen

Ligurian Focaccia from Salt Fat Acid Heat

Malted Buttermilk Biscuits via Lottie + Doof

Bagels via Epicurious

I hope that you’re keeping safe and well, and finding your own ways to deal with these difficult days.

New Rochelle Cookies*

Okay, not only did I fix these babies, I perfected them. Recipe first, then let’s talk about how it went down.

New Rochelle Cookies

new rochelle cookies

Makes about 3 1/2 dozen

12 TB unsalted butter, at room temp
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup hazelnut butter (see below)
2 oz. bitter- or semisweet chocolate, melted and slightly cooled
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp kosher salt
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 cup of your choice (or several, adding up to 1 cup – I used 1/3 cup each chopped hazelnuts, hazelnut brittle, and hazelnut crunch, see below for more details): chopped hazelnuts, hazelnut brittle, hazelnut crunch, chocolate chips, chopped chocolate chunks, chocolate crumb

1. Cream together the butter and sugar, beating until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until light, scraping the bowl as needed. Add the hazelnut butter and chocolate, and beat until it’s like a chocolate-hazelnut whipped cream cloud consistency.

2. Add the vanilla, and mix until combined. Add the dry ingredients all together, and, again, mix until just combined. Add the mix-ins and stir just until incorporated. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour, and up to a week or so.

3. When you’re ready to bake, preheat your oven to 350° F. Line two baking sheets with parchment, and scoop out dough in heaping tablespoons, leaving an inch and a half between them. Bake for 12 minutes, rotating halfway if you need to, you know your oven better than I do. Remove and set the cookie sheets on racks to cool for five minutes, then use a spatula to transfer the cookies to racks to cool, but definitely at least try one warm.

toasted hazelnuts

toasted hazelnuts

To toast and peel hazelnuts:
Put them on a baking sheet in a 350° F oven for about 10-15 minutes, to your desired level of toastiness. Take them out of the oven and wrap them in a clean kitchen towel to cool. Then rub them with the towel to remove their skins.

Hazelnut Butter
Put a cup and a half toasted hazelnuts in the food processor with a pinch of salt and a pinch of sugar. Process until they’re crushed and starting to release their oils. Add 1/2 tsp canola oil (or hazelnut oil, or another unflavored oil) and process into butter. Or you could just buy hazelnut butter, just make sure it’s not too sugary.

hazelnut brittle

hazelnut brittle

Hazelnut Brittle
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts

Cook the sugar over medium-high heat. When it just starts to melt, begin stirring constantly, to make sure it melts evenly, until it is a fairly dark amber (you probably know your limits as to how dark you like a caramel to be). Remove from heat, stir in the hazelnuts, and spread in a single layer over a silpat or other nonstick surface (do all of that quickly, because it will harden as it cools). Break into pieces, then throw it into a food processor and process to very small pieces, about the size of a grain of rice, so nobody breaks a filling.

Hazelnut Crunch and Chocolate Crumb
Are both Milk Bar recipes that I don’t know if I feel comfortable reposting. Anyway, the crunch involves an ingredient that is a pain to get your hands on, and maybe not worth it when all is said and done. If you did 1/3 c chopped hazelnuts, 1/3 c hazelnut brittle, and 1/3 cup chocolate chunks, I think you’d be aces.

cookie dough

cookie dough

You may have noticed that, in the end, I didn’t end up using any Nutella, or Whole Foods knock-off chocolate hazelnut spread. That’s because the original cookie recipe had way too much fat and sugar, and not enough hazelnut flavor. So, I decomnstructed it, and came up with a much better plan. I also walked back the Milk Bar-iness of the cookies, making them smaller and less fiddly (if you don’t count all the hazelnut stuff). And the end result? They are great! You can taste the chocolate and the hazelnut. They are soft, but with little crunch-sparkles from the brittle. They are very very worth it, and I hope you give them a try!

*The name comes from the episode of Gourmet Makes where Claire Saffritz recreates Ferrero Rocher candies, and Brad Leone calls them New Rochelle Balls, and the name sticks.


One of my New Year’s resolutions was to make more cookies. It came about because I made the usual epic amount of cookies for the holidays, and some of them were really fantastic, but the sheer over-abundance made it difficult to appreciate them individually. Cookies have a really great time-commitment-to-happiness ratio as far as desserts go (the way I make them, anyway; there are some insanely complicated cookie recipes out there, and then there’s all the fancy icing stuff…), and I guess I wanted more of that spread throughout the year.

Plates of holiday cookies
so many cookies

Then this spring my daughter was going through kind of a rough patch, and, when I asked her how I could support her, she requested cookies. Specifically, some Nutella-stuffed cookies from the Delish cookbook. I was happy to oblige, and happier to learn that my baking skills might contribute to making her day a little brighter, but the cookies were a production. I mean, the hazelnut-cocoa-spread-from-Whole-Foods-filling was tasty, but the cookie surrounding it was kind of plain, and stuffing them was a whole thing. By the time they were finished, I was inspired to try and come up with a chocolate hazelnut cookie in the style of a Milk Bar cookie, and after some planning, and some ordering of exotic ingredients from Amazon, I got to work.

And here is where I wish I had a finished cookie recipe to give to you, for this, my first real post, but it turns out we are still in the testing phase of this plan.

chocolate hazelnut cookies
these gigantic cookies will devour us all

My friends, that is a wide-mouth jar lid for scale. The smaller cookie, baked on a chilled cookie sheet, is pretty close to what I’m looking for, but it still needs some work. How do they taste? Oh, fantastic. Maybe needs a little more hazelnut. But they spread like, well, obviously, and they released a bit too much fat on baking. I think less butter and sugar, and a bit more flour, maybe some chopped up hazelnuts, and we’ll be good to go.

So instead of a recipe, this is a lesson being patient with yourself, and allowing yourself to take risks, and make mistakes. It’s a lesson for me, mostly, but maybe you need to hear it too?

Anyway, welcome to the blog, and I hope you stick around, because I promise those finished cookies are going to be amazing when I’m done.