Sometimes you forget just how good some things are to eat until you have them again. Hong Sue Tofu. Fresh blueberry pie. And these chocolate shortbread Christmas cookies. I made a batch yesterday (the Squirrelings helped), and I remembered why they'd stayed in my recipe folder--they're indescribably delicious, not in an over-the-top way like some of the full-of-chips-and-nuts cookies, but with a more subtle flavour that sneaks up on you. They're not as sweet as you would expect; they have more of a dark chocolate taste than a sugary one. Even Mr. Fixit (who's not a big Christmas cookie eater) took another one (even with the ground hazelnuts on them).
The recipe came from Canadian Living magazine, December 1992. I've added my own notes.
Chocolate Hazelnut Slices (or Crescents)
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup icing sugar (confectioner's sugar, if you're in the U.S.)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup ground hazelnuts (also called filberts) or almonds (I bought them already ground at the bulk store)
Garnish: 5 or 6 oz. semisweet chocolate, and about 3/4 cup ground nuts [2010 update: We've discovered that they taste even better, and look even fancier, dipped in white chocolate instead--white chocolate chips work fine.) [2011 update: Watch them--really watch them while they're baking, and take them out early if they seem to be done. This is the second year in a row that a few of mine have come out too dark on the bottom. It's hard to tell because they're very dark anyway, but you don't want burned chocolate cookies.]
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Stir in the flour, cocoa and ground nuts.
If you want to slice and bake the cookies, turn the dough out onto waxed paper; shape into two logs about an inch in diameter, wrapping the paper around the logs. Chill until firm. Cut the logs into 1/4-inch slices. Bake on ungreased baking sheets for about 15 minutes at 325 degrees F or until set. Let cool. (Cookies can be prepared to this point, covered and frozen for up to 1 month).
Garnish (we'll get to the crescents in a minute): In a bowl set over hot (not boiling) water, melt the chocolate (or do it in the microwave). Dip edges of cookies into chocolate, then into ground nuts. Let stand on a rack until set. [Put waxed paper under the rack first unless you want to scrape chocolate off the counter.] Cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 week. Makes about 5 dozen.
Chill the dough in the bowl for 30 minutes. Form 1 tbsp. of dough each into crescents. If you have kids around, they can help roll small balls into sausages and then bend them a bit to form moon shapes. Make sure that the bendy part is good and solid, though, without cracks; otherwise the crescents will break in half when you take them out of the oven.
The directions say to chill the dough on the baking sheets for 30 minutes, but I don't bother; besides, I can't fit two sheets of cookies in the fridge at once. [2010 update: I think the chilling is a good idea, though, because I didn't chill them again this year and they spread a bit more than I wanted.] Then it says to bake for 30 minutes, but I think that's a typo (somebody got carried away with the 30 minutes thing)--15 minutes at 325 degrees is fine. You can then dip the ends in melted chocolate and nuts; or if you're very pressed for time (and don't mind wasting a few nuts), you can drizzle the chocolate over the cookies on the cooling rack (with waxed paper underneath), and sprinkle the nuts on top of that. Let them set and then shake off any excess. Since the crescents are slightly bigger than the sliced cookies, this variation makes only 3 dozen.