Before I started this blog in January, I have to admit, I wasn’t the most internet-connected person. I used Facebook from time to time, but I was adamant about keeping a safe distance from social media so as to protect my “real” personal life. I boycotted Twitter, steered clear of Instagram, and told myself, “who really needs to ‘pin’ things, anyway? I’ll just email it to myself and keep it all organized in digital folders.”
Ha! Yeah, right. I can barely keep my sock drawer organized, much less an intricate email file system.
But all of that quickly changed when I started this little blog space of mine. So much of blogging involves connecting with people across the interwebs, both here on this site and in other places like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. And after just a few months of it, I discovered something strange about myself: I actually like social media.
Yes, I admit, connecting with other food-obsessed folks has been one of the most rewarding parts of beginning C&M. Not only has it made me more active and involved with those around the world who share my ridiculous obsession with food, but it’s given me a whole new set of people that I can call friends. Sure, I’ve never met most of them in person, but we know about each others’ lives both in and outside of the kitchen. We share words of encouragement. We inspire one another and cheer each other on. (Most of us don’t get paid much, if anything, for our blogging, so inter-cheering is happily accepted!)
Well last week I took my long-distance social media prowess to a whole new level by participating in The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap. The way it works is each food blogger who signs up for the swap online gets assigned to three other food bloggers. We each bake three dozen holiday cookies, ship them out to our new foodie friends, and then wait for three other bloggers to ship cookies to us. Basically, it’s an excuse to end up with three dozen cookies…an idea I can happily get behind.
For my three bloggers (Long Distance Baking; Life Off the Clock; and Diet Deep Dish), I made what I’m calling White Chocolate Hazelnut Crunch Cookies. These are very much inspired by my new state of Oregon, from which 99% of U.S. hazelnuts hail. The hazelnuts are first puréed with sugar, brown butter, and flour to create a gentle crumble, which is then sprinkled directly into the white-chocolate dotted dough to give the cookies an added crunchiness. I also made a few swift passes over my micrograter with an orange to give the sweet, nutty cookies just a hint of sunshine. I finished them off with the tiniest sprinkle of vanilla salt, a trick the lovely Ashley Rodriguez (of Not Without Salt) taught me.
(Speaking of which, if you’re in need of last-minute gift ideas, her pre-made chocolate chip mix is a good one…and her new cookbook, Date Night In, is coming out later this month—yay, Ashley!)
I heard from all three of my new blogger buddies, who seemed to very much enjoy these White Chocolate Hazelnut Crunch Cookies. I loved every bite of my cookies too, but I have to admit, looking back on my (almost) first year as a blogger, I’m more excited about the people I’ve met, the friendships I’ve made, and the excitement of what’s to come.
- ¾ cup of roasted, salted hazelnuts (if using unsalted, add ½ teaspoon of salt)
- ¼ cup of brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons of flour
- 2 tablespoons of butter, melted and browned
- ½ teaspoon of orange zest (optional)
- 1 cup of butter, softened to room temperature
- ¾ cups of brown sugar
- ¾ cups of white sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 3 teaspoons of vanilla
- 2 ½ cups of whole wheat pastry flour, unsifted
- 1 teaspoon of baking soda
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 12 ounces of white chocolate bars, chopped roughly
- vanilla salt, to taste (optional)
- Brown 2 two tablespoons of butter in a small saucepan by melting over medium heat and cooking until nutty and fragrant, about 3-5 minutes. In a food processor, mix together the hazelnuts (and salt if using unsalted hazelnuts), brown sugar, flour, browned butter, and orange zest (optional) until mixture resembles large crumbles. Set aside.
- Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F.
- In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter, white sugar, and brown sugar together until creamy using an electric mixer, about 2 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition and add vanilla. Make sure to scrape all of the ingredients from the side of the bowl as you are mixing.
- Mix together the flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium sized bowl. Add the flour mixture to the creamed butter mixture, a little bit at a time until well blended.
- Stir in hazelnut crunch mixture and white chocolate bits.
- Line a baking tray with parchment paper. This will help your cookies bake more evenly (trust me!) Plus it makes for easy clean up. Sprinkle with a small touch of vanilla salt (optional).
- Form cookies into rough balls, approximately 1 inch in diameter, and bake until golden brown, about 12-14 minutes. Be sure not to overcrowd the baking tray or else the cookies will not brown evenly.