Chile Chocolate Hazelnut Thumbprint Cookies Recipe

Hazelnuts and chocolate are a classic combination, the buttery and subtly sweet flavor of hazelnuts imbuing chocolate-flavored treats with extra decadence and toasty warmth. And now, this recipe may convince you to add a third element to the dynamic duo: spice.

For these chile chocolate hazelnut thumbprint cookies, recipe developer Rika Hoffman spikes the usual chocolate ganache with cayenne pepper, chipotle chile powder, and a dash of cinnamon for heat. Besides their multi-dimensional flavor, these thumbprint cookies feature varied textures: tender and crumbly, crunchy and creamy. This is achieved by roasting the hazelnuts and processing them in two different ways: blitzed into hazelnut flour for the cookie dough, as well as bashed into shards that stud the exterior of the cookie. 

To make things even more special, the chile chocolate ganache is smooth and pipe-able when warm, and it sets firm. The cookie and its ganache center yield easily to the teeth upon first bite, the hazelnut-encrusted exterior crackling. And with every chew, the aroma of warm spices blooms.

Gather the ingredients for chile chocolate hazelnut thumbprint cookies

First, assemble your ingredients. For the hazelnut cookie dough, you'll need whole, shelled hazelnuts without the skin, unsalted butter, granulated sugar, 1 egg yolk, vanilla extract, kosher salt, and all-purpose flour. The chile chocolate ganache requires semi-sweet chocolate, heavy cream, cayenne pepper, chipotle chile powder, cinnamon, and salt.

Step 1: Turn on the oven

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Step 2: Toast the hazelnuts

Toast ¾ cup hazelnuts in the oven for 10-12 minutes.

Step 3: Grind some of the hazelnuts

Let nuts cool for 5 minutes, then pulse ½ cup of them in a food processor until finely ground and flour-like.

Step 4: Coarsely crush the rest of the hazelnuts

Add remaining ¼ cup hazelnuts to a plastic bag and crush into course pieces using a pestle or the end of a rolling pin.

Step 5: Cream the butter and sugar

In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar.

Step 6: Add the wet ingredients

Add egg yolk, vanilla, and salt. Stir to combine.

Step 7: Add the dry ingredients

Add all-purpose flour and hazelnut flour from step 3.

Step 8: Mix the dough

Mix until a dough forms.

Step 9: Wrap and chill the dough

Wrap dough in plastic wrap and pat into a disc shape. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.

Step 10: Measure out portions of cookie dough

Separate cookie dough into tablespoon-sized portions (weighing about 20 grams each).

Step 11: Roll the cookie dough

Roll dough pieces into balls.

Step 12: Coat cookie dough in nuts, and bake

Coat dough balls in coarsely crushed hazelnuts, arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and bake for 8 minutes at 350 F.

Step 13: Make thumbprints in the cookies

Remove cookies from the oven and make a thumbprint-shaped indent in each using a ¼ teaspoon measuring spoon.

Step 14: Bake again

Bake for another 8-10 minutes.

Step 15: Take out the cookies and adjust the thumbprints if needed

Remove from the oven. If the indents have filled back in, use the same measuring spoon to redefine the thumbprint shape.

Step 16: Cool the cookies

Let cookies rest on the baking tray for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Step 17: Chop the chocolate

To make the ganache, chop chocolate into fine shards and set aside in a heat-proof bowl.

Step 18: Heat the cream

Add heavy cream to a small saucepan and place on the stovetop over medium heat until it just begins to simmer.

Step 19: Melt the chocolate with the hot cream

Pour hot cream in the bowl over the chocolate and let sit for 3 minutes to allow chocolate to melt.

Step 20: Add spices to the ganache

Add cayenne, chipotle chile powder, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt, and stir the mixture until smooth. Taste and add more cayenne for extra heat, if desired.

Step 21: Fill the thumbprints with ganache

Using a piping bag or a spoon, pipe or dollop the ganache into the "thumbprints" while the ganache is still warm.

Step 22: Serve

Serve cookies right away, or keep in a sealed container for 2-3 days at room temperature or up to 1 week in the fridge.

What other kinds of ganache can I make for chile chocolate hazelnut thumbprint cookies?

Thumbprint cookies are composed of two components: the cookie dough and the filling — and the latter presents ample opportunity for customization. Not a fan of heat? Simply omit the chipotle chile and cayenne pepper and opt for a classic chocolate ganache. Or, consider swapping out the semi-sweet chocolate for some dark chocolate or white chocolate. Alternatively, add espresso powder to the ganache for a mocha flavor. Prefer to go the store-bought route? Amp up the hazelnut flavor with a chocolate hazelnut spread, such as Nutella.

Feeling fruity? The bright, punchy flavors of orange zest would add the perfect zing to these chile chocolate hazelnut cookies. If you're leaving out the chile, you could instead add your choice of preserves to the ganache; flavors like apple, apricot, pear, peach, and strawberry would be delicious. These preserves could be either store-bought or homemade, like a classic and easy strawberry jam.

How do you store chile chocolate hazelnut thumbprint cookies?

There are a few different methods of storing these chocolate chile hazelnut thumbprint cookies. If the baked cookies are not yet filled, they can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for about a week. Unbaked hazelnut thumbprint cookie dough balls can also be frozen for over a month, then baked off whenever you are ready (just add a couple more minutes to the bake time).

Due to the presence of dairy, if the thumbprint cookies have already been filled with the chocolate ganache, they can only be kept at room temperature for up to 48 hours. After that, they will need to be refrigerated or frozen. The ganache-filled hazelnut thumbprint cookies can last up to 2 weeks in the fridge. If frozen, the cookies can last a month or longer. To prevent the thumbprint cookies from sticking together, freeze them on a tray or plate before transferring to an airtight container.

Chile Chocolate Hazelnut Thumbprint Cookies Recipe
4.9 from 10 ratings
Cinnamon, cayenne, and chipotle powder add a tingly spice to these unique cookies, made extra sophisticated with crushed hazelnuts and silky chocolate ganache.
Prep Time
1.75
hours
Cook Time
30
minutes
Servings
24
cookies
Chile chocolate hazelnut thumbprint cookies on a countertop, with scattered hazelnuts and cayenne powder
Total time: 2 hours, 15 minutes
Ingredients
  • For the cookies
  • ¾ cup hazelnuts, divided
  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • For the chile chocolate ganache
  • 3 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped finely
  • 2 ounces heavy cream
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon chipotle chile powder
  • ¹⁄₁₆ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 pinch salt
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Toast ¾ cup hazelnuts in the oven for 10-12 minutes.
  3. Let nuts cool for 5 minutes, then pulse ½ cup of them in a food processor until finely ground and flour-like.
  4. Add remaining ¼ cup hazelnuts to a plastic bag and crush into course pieces using a pestle or the end of a rolling pin.
  5. In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar.
  6. Add egg yolk, vanilla, and salt. Stir to combine.
  7. Add all-purpose flour and hazelnut flour from step 3.
  8. Mix until a dough forms.
  9. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and pat into a disc shape. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.
  10. Separate cookie dough into tablespoon-sized portions (weighing about 20 grams each).
  11. Roll dough pieces into balls.
  12. Coat dough balls in coarsely crushed hazelnuts, arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and bake for 8 minutes at 350 F.
  13. Remove cookies from the oven and make a thumbprint-shaped indent in each using a ¼ teaspoon measuring spoon.
  14. Bake for another 8-10 minutes.
  15. Remove from the oven. If the indents have filled back in, use the same measuring spoon to redefine the thumbprint shape.
  16. Let cookies rest on the baking tray for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
  17. To make the ganache, chop chocolate into fine shards and set aside in a heat-proof bowl.
  18. Add heavy cream to a small saucepan and place on the stovetop over medium heat until it just begins to simmer.
  19. Pour hot cream in the bowl over the chocolate and let sit for 3 minutes to allow chocolate to melt.
  20. Add cayenne, chipotle chile powder, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt, and stir the mixture until smooth. Taste and add more cayenne for extra heat, if desired.
  21. Using a piping bag or a spoon, pipe or dollop the ganache into the "thumbprints" while the ganache is still warm.
  22. Serve cookies right away, or keep in a sealed container for 2-3 days at room temperature or up to 1 week in the fridge.
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