Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

The Best Cookies In The World

Finished! Again, for a while. Plus, cookies!

Whew, what a weekend. I thought I might wrap up the latest draft of No Foreign Sky on Friday, but no way. I finally tied a bow around it at seven AM this morning and sent it off to Caitlin just now. I do think it’s better — she was dead right about this one particular plot element being repetitive — and it is certainly shorter. I cut three chapters entirely, which of course required a good deal of adjustment to the remainder. Then I tried to trim 500 words per chapter. Didn’t quite manage that, but the finished draft is down to 143,000 words. I believe the longest draft was, what, something like 180,000 or so.

Anyway, I’m pretty pleased with this draft and I hope and believe Caitlin will agree it’s ready to send out now. Then will come months of not knowing whether it will find a home, probably. Crossing my fingers!

I find the best thing to do at these moments is put the manuscript completely out of mind and work on something else. I’d like to have the third Black Dog novel, Shadow Twin ready to go sometime in January, so that’s one thing. Hopefully Navah won’t have MAJOR suggestions for The Dark Turn of Winter, but this would also be a good time to work on that.

Meanwhile, Christmas preparations! Gotta bake a lot of cookies. Here is one recipe I adjusted substantially and now like a lot. The original recipe is from Bon Appetit and looks pretty much like this:

Chocolate-Nut Rugelach (by which they do not mean traditional rugelach, which are a pain to shape, as you may know. These slice-and-bake cookies are easier).

½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking powder
2½ cups flour
¾ cup chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 large egg yolks
⅓ cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 13-ounce jar Nutella
1½ cups finely chopped pistachios, divided
2 tablespoons demerara sugar, divided
1 teaspoon flaky sea salt, divided, plus more
1 large egg, beaten to blend

Pulse cocoa, brown sugar, kosher salt, baking powder, flour in a food processor to combine. Add butter and pulse until largest pieces are pea-size.

Beat egg yolks, sour cream, and vanilla extract in a small bowl until smooth. With the motor running, stream sour cream mixture into food processor and process until dough forms a ball around the blade. Turn out dough onto a surface and knead until smooth. Divide in half and form into two ¾”-thick disks. Wrap in plastic and chill until firm, about 2 hours.

Roll out dough to a 12″ square on a lightly floured sheet of waxed paper. Spread half of Nutella over dough. Sprinkle half of nuts, 1 Tbsp. demerara sugar, and ½ tsp. sea salt over Nutella. Roll up dough to make a log. Repeat with remaining dough, Nutella, nuts, 1 Tbsp. demerara sugar, and ½ tsp. sea salt.

Slice logs 1″ thick and transfer to parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing 1½” apart. Brush tops with egg and sprinkle lightly with more sea salt. Bake rugelach until centers are set and tops are firm to the touch, 25–30 minutes. Let cool.

Now, I followed that recipe last year and sort of liked the result, but several things struck me as needing improvement. The cookie itself was not sweet enough, for one thing, all the sweetness coming from the Nutella; and I hated the salt; and I am not a big fan of pistachios. So this year I adjusted the recipe, thus:

½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
¾ cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking powder
2½ cups flour
¾ cup chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 large egg yolks
⅓ cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
Some milk, about a quarter cup
Almost an entire 26-ounce jar Nutella
1½ cups finely chopped walnuts, divided
2 tablespoons demerara sugar, divided
1 teaspoon flaky sea salt, divided, plus more
1 large egg, beaten to blend

Pulse cocoa, brown sugar, kosher salt, baking powder, flour in a food processor to combine. Add butter and pulse until largest pieces are pea-size. For some reason, the butter refused to be chopped into tiny bits so I poured the contents of the food processor into a deep bowl and used a pastry cutter. That won’t happen to you, probably. I’ve never had it happen to me before as far as I can recall. Anyway, moving on:

Beat egg yolks, sour cream, and vanilla extract in a small bowl until smooth. With the motor running, stream sour cream mixture into food processor and process until dough forms a ball around the blade. Add enough milk to get this to work if the mixture turns out to be too dry, as it probably will. I believe I added about 1/4 cup of milk, but honestly I’m not sure. Turn out dough onto a surface and knead until smooth. Divide in half and form into two ¾”-thick disks. Wrap in plastic and chill until firm, about 2 hours.

Roll out dough to a 18×8″ rectangle or something approximately like that on a lightly floured sheet of waxed paper (the change in dimensions is to give smaller cookies when you slice the roll, which is a personal preference). Spread a good bit of Nutella over dough. Sprinkle half of nuts and 1 Tbsp. demerara sugar over Nutella. Roll up dough to make a log. Repeat with remaining dough, Nutella, nuts, and 1 Tbsp. demerara sugar. Chill or better yet freeze the rolls because that will make them easier to slice.

Slice logs about 1/3″ thick — again, I was making smaller cookies than the original recipe aimed for, but a whole inch seemed way too much to me — and transfer to parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing maybe half an inch apart. Bake until centers are set and tops are firm to the touch, maybe 15-20 minutes. Let cool. Remove to racks and cool completely.

I didn’t measure the nutella, but there wasn’t as much left as you might think after I made these cookies. Unfortunately, since I’m quite happy to eat Nutella straight out of the jar. But the cookies are very good, are not too Nutella-heavy, and are definitely going on my every-year list. You should definitely try them if you’re a Nutella fan — with or without the salt. Frankly I can’t see the salt, but I know many people are a fan of sea salt for desserts.

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8 Comments Finished! Again, for a while. Plus, cookies!

  1. charlotte

    This is an important post. Thank you. I have been thinking about how to make Nutella cookies for several weeks now, and the log idea had not occurred to me. I will try to make these, using hazelnuts instead of walnuts…(though chopped hazelnuts might be harder to find…..)

  2. Elaine T

    I wonder what a substitute for Nutella would be? I do not like hazelnut. But I used to love rugelach.

  3. Elaine T

    Could try marzipan. I’ve never combined it with chocolate, but, there’s a first time for everything!

    speaking of which, while sitting in a waiting room I browsed through a recipe mag, which had a chocolate-juniper cake. That’s a flavor combo I’d try a very small amount of before investing the effort in a cake.

  4. Rachel

    Juniper. Hmm. Well, it’s certainly creative. I do have a few juniper berries sitting around for those occasions when I want one or two. But not sure I would dash off to try this.

  5. Rachel

    Also, maybe almond paste rather than marzipan? For less sweetness? Unless you’re going for extremely sweet, of course!

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