I love making these cookies. They came about by mixing and matching some of my favourite things: chocolate, hazelnuts and cherries. They require of the baker to cast aside some of the precision tools of today’s trade and rather, to use their feeling and intuition. That’s how we learnt to bake from our Oma and her sisters. Ingredient quantities were rarely used strictly, but rather as guidelines. Liquid was added only so far as the dough needed – no matter what the piece of paper said. It required them to pay close attention, to work the dough with their hands and feel when it was ready. I find this part of making these cookies so enjoyable. – Maria
Gluten free / Dairy free / Vegetarian
100 g hazelnuts
3 large egg whites
100 g runny honey
½ tsp vanilla extract or a knife
tip full of vanilla seeds, scraped
out of a vanilla bean
80 g ABC butter or almond
½ tsp roasted wattleseed
½ tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
250–300 g ground almonds,
50 g block of dark chocolate
(85% cocoa), cut into 28 × 1 cm
200 g cherry conserve or jam
In a heavy-based frying pan, roast the hazelnuts over medium–low heat until aromatic and the skins are cracking. Place in a clean tea towel and roughly rub off the skins. Cool, then finely grind in a food processor or nut mill. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 160°C conventional. Line a baking tray.
In a large bowl and using electric beaters, beat the egg whites until stiff. Add the honey and vanilla and beat until glossy with soft peaks. Beat in the nut butter and spices, then fold in both nuts. Depending on the size of the eggs, you may need to add a little more or less ground nuts, so withhold some of them to start with. Keep adding ground almonds until the consistency of the dough is sticky and just workable. Don’t overdo it, as the cookies will be less gooey if you add too much.
Shape the cookies by pinching off walnut-sized pieces of dough, rolling them into balls and placing them on the prepared tray. If your hands get too sticky, rub the dough off with some more ground almonds or with the back of a butter knife – a trick my great-grandmother always used. Similarly, if the dough gets too sticky, sprinkle some more ground almonds on top and it will be easier to roll.
Press down into each cookie with your finger to form a well – make sure the well’s walls are intact. Place a piece of chocolate into each well, then add a dollop of cherry jam on top.
Bake for 20–25 minutes, until just turning golden. When you walk past the oven and can smell the cookies, they are ready.
Cool completely before serving. They will keep in an airtight container for up to 10 days.
COOK’S NOTES: These cookies get better with age, so make them ahead of time.
CREDIT: Kindred by Maria and Eva Konecsny, published by Plum, RRP $49.99, photography by Armelle Habib & Amy Whitfield.