Who can resist a "shortbread" layer topped with chocolate, toffee and hazelnuts? Bliss, right?
I have mentioned it elsewhere, but I am an ATK geek. Translation - a big fan of America's Test Kitchen recipes. I have so many of their books, it's embarrassing. They do test recipes a lot and that likely explains why they are almost always guaranteed to be perfect.
They have recently published "The Perfect Cookie" book. I first came across this recipe in the 2012 Christmas Cookie publication. If you have access to that, you will notice I have deviated from their method - which sounds bizarre given that I just sang their praises - but sometimes a gal's just gotta do what works. This ATK recipe tends to appear in the KB Kitchen only at Xmas. (Why only then?) It's ridiculously easy to make - there's no rolling out pastry or fancy tricks. It is made in a 18 x 13" bake sheet, so you get a lot out of it - depending on how you cut it - about 4 dozen. Because it stores well in a tin, in a cool place, it is often one of the first Xmas cookie recipes I make in December.
as with most baking, and especially ATK recipes, I find they work best when you measure ingredients, such as flour, by weight.
buy toffee bits; I can never find "Heath's" Toffee Bits in Canada; they really are the best; otherwise use Skor bits
buy the best quality chocolate chips you can find / afford
ideally, buy unsalted butter that is 84% fat (e.g. Stirling, or President)
line a 18 x 13" rimmed bake sheet with parchment; fold or cut it to fit perfectly, not coming up the sides
toast and coarsely chop hazelnuts (see Notes); can be done day before
bring butter and cream cheese to room temperature
ideal if you have an off-set knife
preheat oven to 375 F; adjust oven rack to lower middle position
prep / measure out toppings - important tip - have all your toppings ready before the base goes into the oven
16 TB unsalted butter (softened)
1 oz cream cheese (softened)
2 and 1/2 cups (12 1/2 oz) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (5.25 oz) superfine sugar (see Notes)
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla
Cut the butter into 1/2" pieces
Whisk the dry ingredients in the large bowl of your stand mixer (using the whisk attachment). One by one, drop in the butter pieces and continue beating on medium speed until the mixture becomes crumbly. The batter may not come together, but should hold together if you squeeze some in your hand. (I think I once did this step in a food processor - seems to work fine.) Then add the cream cheese and vanilla, and you should notice the batter coming together.
Distribute the batter in bits over the prepared sheet pan (see photo). Use your fingers to press it into an even layer.
Bake at 375 F until the dough is light golden brown. This could take between 13-20 minutes. Keep an eye on this!!
As mentioned above, have all other ingredients ready. As soon as the pastry comes out of the oven you'll be sprinkling it with chocolate chips and the heat of the pastry is what is going to melt it.
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (9 oz)
1 cup (5 oz) hazelnuts (toasted, skinned and chopped)
1 cup Toffee Bits
Now you need to work fast. As soon as you remove the pan from the oven, sprinkle the chocolate chips evenly over the base. By three minutes at most, they should be melted enough to spread them into a thin layer - works best with an off-set spatula. Evenly distribute the chopped hazelnuts and the toffee bits on top of the chocolate. Don’t let the chocolate cool, or the hazelnuts / toffee will not stick.
Let this cool for 20 minutes. Using a sharp knife, cut the diamond-shaped cookies.
Lift the cookies out and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely, before storing in a tin.
Notes and Tips...
Digital Scale - one of the best kitchen tools (read more)
Hazelnuts - toast skinned nuts before chopping (about 10 minutes in a 350 F oven; if the nuts you buy are not blanched - here's how to remove the skins); do not chop too finely - you want small chunks, not dust.
Superfine Sugar - this is easy to find, though may be labelled as fruit sugar; alternatively, you can put regular sugar in a food processor for about 30 seconds.
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