Coffee-Nut Shortbread Cookies

Satisfy your cookie cravings with a smooth, rich and nutty shortbread flavoured with coffee and roasted hazelnuts.

The problem with having your heart set on something is that it may take some time and a bit resourcefulness to get exactly what you want, but often what you end up with is the most delicious and effort-worthy version of your idea. This week I was firmly set on baking a nutty shortbread, but specifically one that was flavoured with a taste that I look forward to every day: coffee.

As it happened, I came across a recipe for hazelnut and brown sugar pan shortbread and suddenly remembered a stash of hazelnuts tucked away in my freezer waiting for such an occasion. There were only two obstacles between me and my cookies, how to procure finely ground nuts and instant espresso powder without food processing equipment or proximity to an Italian supermarket. Luckily both snags were easily solved with a plastic freezer bag, a wooden rolling pin, and an inexpensive spice grinder.

To achieve a rough nut meal, simply toss toasted and cooled nuts into a plastic freezer bag and take a heavy rolling pin to them. Avoid the instinct to give the nuts a good pounding, which will only tear the plastic, and apply heavy pressure as you roll the pin over a hard surface. The finished product will not be as fine or as even as machine processed nut flour, but for this recipe it will be just as yummy.

In the past I have used instant coffee (which on its own I abhor) to flavour desserts by dissolving the granules in a tablespoon or two of boiling water and then using the liquid as if it were a mild extract. However in the case of shortbread and many other cookie recipes I would hesitate to add the additional liquid, so another brilliant option is to combine fine espresso powder with the rest of the dry ingredients. To convert course instant coffee grains into a fine powder, I popped a half cup into a small electric spice/coffee grinder and gave it a few whizzes, just until the granules were reduced to a light and perfectly whisk-able dust. Do make sure to use your new ingredient in moderation, as finely grinding the coffee greatly increases the potency per tablespoon. For a large double batch of shortbread, I used only 1 tablespoon of the flavouring.

And the result was almost as satisfying as the first roast of the morning. The dark aroma of coffee heightens the richness of the shortbread and brings out the creaminess of the butter, while the presence of toasted hazelnuts and brown sugar rounds off the entire ‘latte’ experience. A drizzle of chocolate and a dollop of whipped cream wouldn’t hurt either.

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