Monday, October 15, 2007

Mondays with Maida - Hazelnut Rusks

Hazelnut Rusks
Page 260 in the old book / page 277 in the new book

I guess Maida's cookie book was written before biscotti were all the rage. Maida describes this recipe as an old German recipe and there's nary a mention of those other twice-baked cookies we've come to know and love as biscotti. To head off any complaints that the cookies were too hard or lawsuits related to chipped teeth, I warned everyone that they were indeed like biscotti and advised they might want to dunk the cookies in their favorite hot beverage to soften them up. Some dunked, others braved dental disaster and ate them dry, but everyone (including me) enjoyed these tasty cookies.

I had toasted the nuts very lightly beforehand because I was worried that they were bland. I had purchased them blanched rather then attempting to remove the skins myself (a task that I find particularly onerous). I'm not sure what process is used commercially to remove hazelnut skins, but my guess is that it is not toasting followed by rubbing the nuts in a dishtowel - the nuts I'd purchased appeared to have been mechanically abraded and sure didn't taste toasted. Anyway, five minutes in the oven perked them right up and perfumed my kitchen as well. Is there any nut with a more heavenly scent than the hazelnut?

The cookies were very easy to make. The one step I worried about just a little was neatly slicing the baked cookie strips. I remember the first time I ever made biscotti I had a terrible time cutting through the nuts. That was thankfully not the case this time around, thanks to my bread-knife. The only trouble I did have was getting those half-inch slices to stand upright for the second baking - they were acting more like dominoes then cookies!

Here's the panel...

Suzanne: "The Hazelnut Rusks were delicious. They reminded me of the mandel bread cookies that my aunt used to make. They were definitely hard and yes, I did need to dunk them to soften them up, but the dunking was part of the fun. This was a great morning breakfast cookie. Rating - 4.0"

Denny: "Excellent. Just a tad too crunchy. I considered suspending my No Chocolate penalty because they were so good, but I've got to be consistent. I'd give them a 4.0 with the -1 no chocolate penalty. I could even taste the hazelnuts. Rating - 4.0"

Laura: "Very tasty, once dunked! (Without dunking, they are indeed very hard.) Rating - 3.5"

Terri: "These are definitely like biscotti and were delicious dipped in my coffee! Since they're twice baked, they're crunchier than usual, but very tasty. The hazelnuts are delicious. Very good, but maybe not for anyone worried about losing fillings or chipping a tooth! Only kidding - they're not that hard! Rating - 3.5"

Overall rating by the panel - 3.8

Next week - Black-and-White Rusks

Nutrition Facts


Anonymous said...

Hazelnuts: Yum! Biscotti: yum! Hazelnut Rusks: Super yum! Now that I've gotten past some of my favorite things...I've often wondered how those skins were removed, too. The skin's probably still too 'tight' on the nut to use one of those rubber tubes that's used for de-skinning garlic. After Day of the Dead cookies, I think I'll look up this recipe and give it a try.

Heleen said...

Cathy, I will have to try these for sure. I love hazelnuts in anything, and I'm a big fan of biscotti too, so there you have it :o). Your picture selaed the deal! Thanks...

Unknown said...

Cathy, "Maida Heatter's Brand-New Book of Great Cookies" from 1995 actually has a chapter devoted to biscotti and zwieback. The more curious thing to me is that I find no mandelbrot in either of her 2 cookie books that I have. I'll have to check a couple of her dessert books for them.

Leigh said...

I've never made biscotti with nuts, so I haven't had the problem of cutting through them. (If I did use nuts, I'd have to use them ground as nut meal I think, as my family declares they don't like nuts in cookies.) What I did notice was that your rusk loaves appear to have had height to them that my biscotti never has. My biscotti loaves are always rather flat, spreading out from side to side rather than rising. I like the shape of your rusks better (not that it would probably matter in regards to taste.)

Cathy said...

Hi Mari! I found an article (only the abstract was available for free viewing) about removing the skins with lye - yuck! I was relieved to find a brochure from some Hazelnut association that described the method usually used (roasting, friction from other nuts and soft brushes, and a vacuum) which did not involve lye.

Hi Heleen! These were delicious and if you love hazelnuts and biscotti, I'm certain you'll love them... just watch out for your teeth! ;)

Hi Susan! I remember that the second book has that chapter, but have yet to make anything from it. As for mandelbrot, next week's cookie is actually described by Maida in the recipe notes as mandelbrot even though the name of the recipe is Black and White Rusks. With a chocolate center, though, I'm not sure these would qualify as traditional!

Hi Leigh! These rise some, but start out quite high (1 1/2"). I think because there's no butter in the recipe, they're less prone to spreading. I believe it's also that lack of added fat that makes them so hard.

Reid said...


These look so delicious and I can imagine how you'd compare them to biscotti. I love hazelnuts and I can imagine the scent wafting through the air as they were being toasted.

I definitely have to try these.

Cathy said...

Hi Reid! Do try these - they're really very easy and are so good. They make a big batch too, so you'll have lots to share!

Iva said...

I have an old copy of this book. I recently made these rusks for the holidays. I picked up the hazelnuts from the orchard of a friend. I shelled and blanched them myself.
I'm always modifying recipes I find or use. For these cookies I added some orange zest and a cup of mini semi-sweet chocolate chips. They are wonderful and are sure to make great gifts.