Dream On...

With my trip to Italy just a couple weeks away, I've been thinking lately about some of my memories from my last two visits there when I was a teenager. Sadly, a lot of those memories are not particularly fond. My first time in Rome, our baggage got lost on the way there, and we were without fresh clothes and toiletries for a few days while the airline sorted things out, which was very distressing to my tween self. Plus, I got a massive case of food poisoning on our last day, which ranks as the second most-sick I can remember ever being in my lifetime. Venice, a couple years later wasn't much better -- I got bed bug bites all over my body at the cheap hostel where my student group was staying. Needless to say, I'm looking forward to creating some more positive memories during my upcoming visit.

One thing, however, that I do recall with unmitigated joy was my discovery of Nutella, at the age of 13, during my student trip to Italy. Everywhere we went for breakfast we were served fresh baked bread and little packets of Nutella. They were not only giving us permission to have chocolate for breakfast, they were going so far as to actually give it to us! I'd long been a connoisseur of other chocolate breakfast items like Cocoa Krispies, or my personal favorite, chocolate croissants, but Nutella was still a revelation. Plus, in Italy, it was everywhere. That part of the trip, at least, was a dream come true.

I still harbor a fondness for Nutella, whether it be banana-Nutella crepes, Nutella gelato, or a simple smear of the spread across a piece of crusty bread. I don't usually keep it in the house (because, honestly, who needs that kind of temptation?), but I spotted a jar leftover from last year's cookie bonanza in the back of my cabinet recently, that never got turned into the Nutella-filled sandwich cookies I had bought it for initially. With its existence floating around in the back of my mind, I decided to put it to good use when I spotted a recipe for Nutella-filled chocolate cookies on one of my favorite recipe blogs. I had all the ingredients on hand (I'd planned on putting hazelnuts in the dough for the sandwich cookies that never got made and had frozen them in the meantime), so I decided to whip up a batch.

As it turns out, stuffing a fairly stiff cookie dough with a substance as fluid as Nutella is a tricky proposition. Suffice it to say, I made a huge mess and had to wash my hands after every two cookies I formed. These were not cookies that were easy to throw together, and after all that work, I was a little bummed that I only had 18 of them to show for my effort. I can see why each cookie had to be so large -- it would have been difficult to get the dough to wrap around the filling with less, but ultimately I felt that the Nutella filling to cookie ratio was a little too heavily skewed in the cookie's favor. They were still popular, especially with Justin and my coworkers, but I would have liked them better with more straight-up Nutella. 

If you're a Nutella fan, and you have a high tolerance for messes in your kitchen, by all means, give these a try. When it comes to chocolate cookies though, I think I'll be sticking to my tried-and-true chocolate brownie cookies, even if they don't have the same aura of European cool about them.

Nutella Dream Cookies
adapted from Serious Eats

2 c. plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 c. sugar
1 c. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 eggs
1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 c. roughly chopped hazelnuts
1/2 c. semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 c. Nutella

1. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about three minutes. Beat in eggs. Add cocoa powder and mix until fully incorporated.
3. Gradually add in the flour mixture and beat until just combined. Stir in the hazelnuts and chocolate chips by hand.
4. Divide the dough into 18 equal pieces, and roll into balls. Press a large indentation into the center of each, and fill with 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of Nutella. Crimp the dough on top to seal in the Nutella filling and roll gently between your palms to recreate a round shape. Cover dough and refrigerate one hour.
5. Preheat the oven to 350.
6. Bake the cookies on parchment-lined sheets for 15 minutes, or until cookies appear dry and cracked on the surface.

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