We ended June with a celebration: our baby boy was baptised! And after the formal ceremony, feasting – of course – was in order. My sister made the cake, my mom brought trays of cookies. I had the time to contribute just one cookie, but a fancy one – walnut shaped filled cookies.
These cookies are a constant reminder of fancy events from my childhood. They would appear only at weddings or showers. They are a bit labour intensive, so anytime someone saw them on a cookie table, they “ooh’ed” and “ahh’ed” and grabbed a few for themselves. In my memory, they are the epitome of the Italian cookie form and tradition, lovingly made and unique.
The trick for these cookies is you need special baking trays. The forms can be found in Italian grocery shops and also easily found online. Try to avoid the forms that are individual nut halves, these are tough to get into the oven without tipping over. The one I have that is a full tray (see the photos) is the easiest to work with. The dough isn’t hard to make, but you do need to dedicate some time to this project, unless you buy a lot – A LOT – of forms. Either way, they are well worth it! I’m getting compliments on these cookies even a few weeks later.
Walnut Shaped Filled Cookies
1 pound butter
8 tablespoons powdered sugar
4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon dutch-processed cocoa
4 teaspoons cold water
4 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups finely chopped walnuts
Nutella for filling (as needed)
Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. In a mixer, cream together the butter, powdered sugar and vanilla until well blended. In a separate bowl, sift the flour. Add the flour and nuts to the butter mixture. Finally, add the cold water to the mixture to smooth out and finish the dough.
Spoon out the dough by the teaspoon, or using a small ice cream scoop, to fill in the forms. The dough will puff just slightly so be sure to under-fill the forms just a bit. If you fill them right to the edge, you’ll end up with a hump in the middle (where the two middles need to be sandwiched together) and that will make for some awkward sandwiches. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until golden brown on the edges.
Overturn the form on a rack immediately to cool. The cookies should fall out easily, if not, just give the tray a little tap. Fill your forms again and repeat the baking process until the dough is finished. (This makes about 10 dozen cookies, or 5 dozen finished sandwiched cookies.)
Now for my cheater’s filling: Nutella. Once the cookies are cool, put a half teaspoon of Nutella on the flat side of one cookie and press a second “half walnut” onto the filling to make the complete sandwich cookie. You can also make a chocolate ganache (chocolate melted into warm cream) or a walnut and chocolate paste (ground together), but let’s be honest, Nutella’s going to have the best flavour. And after baking a few rounds of these cookies, this is the easiest way to finish.
Pop these beauties into mini cupcake papers for fancy serving or add to any cookie tray to impress your guests. They keep for up to a week in an air-tight container. Freeze the halves (unfilled) for use later, if desired.