White Chocolate, Espresso & Hazelnut Pinwheel Cookies

White Chocolate, Espresso, and Hazelnut Pinwheel CookiesOne thing I really appreciated about traveling in Belgium and the Netherlands this fall was that every time I ordered a coffee or tea, it would be served with a little something sweet.  In most cases, it’s just a packaged cookie or a thin wafer of chocolate, but once in a while, you really luck out and get a tiny cream puff or a narrow sliver of a tart.  

My best bonus treat came after dinner one night.  We had finished our meal and I was in dire need of a coffee.  Matt and I each ordered one and a couple of minutes later, our server set a tiny silver tray on our table.  On it, sat 2 espressos with some of the densest crema I’ve ever seen and a thick chunk of white chocolate with a small knife.  Now, mind you, we were stuffed and white chocolate is something we both claim to dislike, but not wanting to be rude, I picked up the knife and broke off a shard for each of us.

Within seconds, I retracted my statement about not liking white chocolate.  Paired with the espresso, it was so unbelievably good!  I nibbled and sipped, nibbled and sipped, wondering why coffee isn’t always served with a slab of white chocolate.

So that’s the moment I was dreaming of I was when deciding what kind of cookie to bake.  I wanted to combine those flavors into a small, rich bite to be nibbled with coffee.  And, as always, I’ll take any excuse I can find to retreat into a happy vacation-memory fog for a moment.

Now on to the cookies!  I used a rugelach dough as my base and rolled it with white chocolate, espresso powder, and toasted hazelnuts to make pinwheels.  The result was a subtly sweet, absolutely delicious, cookie.  The buttery dough bakes up rich and flaky.  White chocolate melts into the espresso and hazelnuts, caramelizing and adding a touch of crunch.  All that adds up to my new favorite treat to enjoy with a cup of coffee.

Most of your ingredient list is in the title of the cookies.  You’ll need a bar of decent to good white chocolate, instant espresso powder, and hazelnuts, plus sugar, flour, cream cheese, and butter.

White Chocolate & Espresso Cookie IngredientsI used Dorie Greenspan’s rugelach dough recipe for the base of the cookies.  It’s a dead simple recipe that I now have committed to memory, which could end up being dangerous.  Just measure out a cup of flour, toss it in the food processor with a pinch of salt.  Cut a stick of butter and half a block of cream cheese in chunks, scatter them over the flour, and pulse until clumps of dough form.  Dump it out, smash it all together, wrap in plastic, and chill.  

Rugelach Dough I Rugelach Dough II Rugelach Dough IIILet the dough chill for a couple of hours.  While it chills, prep your ingredients for the filling.  Toast, skin, and chop some hazelnuts, mix espresso with sugar; shatter a bar of white chocolate, and melt a pat of butter.

Cookie FillingNow we’ll put it all together.  Roll each piece of dough into a rectangle about the size of a sheet of paper.  Brush the dough with melted butter and sprinkle with the espresso and sugar mixture.  Scatter the hazelnuts and white chocolate bits over the espresso and use your palms to gently press the toppings into the dough.

Filling the Rugelach PinwheelsRoll each piece of dough over itself to create a long cylinder.  Pop them in the fridge for half an hour or so before your tackle cutting them into cookies

Rolling Rugelach PinwheelsAfter the rolled dough has chilled and firmed up, cut each log crosswise in 1/4 inch intervals with your sharpest knife and transfer the cookies to a baking sheet.  Some of the filling is bound to tumble out as you make the transfer–don’t sweat it (or curse my name!)–just sprinkle whatever spilled out over the cookies before you pop them in the oven.

Cutting the Rugelach PinwheelsBake until the cookies are golden and your entire house is filled with the scent of strong coffee and, uh, melted candy bars.  Smelling these cookies bake is almost as good as biting into one.  Almost.

Espresso, Hazelnut, and White Chocolate Rugelach Pinwheels 

White Chocolate, Espresso & Hazelnut Pinwheel Cookies
These cookies are a perfect 2-bite treat with a cup of coffee. Don't be intimidated by the lengthy instructions. You can certainly make the dough a day ahead or put the cookie logs in the freezer to be baked off whenever you need them.
Recipe type: Cookie, Baked Goods, Dessert
Cuisine: Holiday, Christmas
Serves: about 4 dozen
  • 1 c. All-Purpose Flour
  • ¼ tsp. Salt
  • 8 Tbsp. (1 stick) Unsalted Butter, slightly softened and cut in a few chunks
  • 4 oz. (1/2 package) Cream Cheese, slightly softened and cut in a few chunks
  • ½ c. Hazelnuts
  • ¼ c. Sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. Instant Espresso Powder
  • 4 oz. White Chocolate
  • 2 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter
  1. Combine flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to incorporate. Scatter the chunks of butter and cream cheese over the flour and pulse in 1 second bursts until clumps of dough form (don't process until the dough comes together in a ball). Dump the clumps of dough onto a counter or board, divide in half, and press each half together into a 1-inch thick rectangle. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours or more.
  2. Meanwhile, prep the ingredients for the cookie filling. Toast, skin, and finely chop the hazelnuts. In a small bowl, stir together the sugar and espresso powder. Chop the white chocolate into fine slivers. Melt the remaining 2 Tbsp. of butter and allow to cool slightly.
  3. To form the cookies, flour a counter or board and roll a piece of dough into an 8 in. X 10 in. rectangle. If you chilled your dough for more than a couple of hours, you might have to let it warm slightly before you are able to accomplish this task. Brush the dough with the melted butter. The butter with act as glue (and add extra buttery deliciousness, of course!) to adhere the espresso. Sprinkle half or the sugar-espresso mixture over the butter, followed by half of the hazelnuts and half of the white chocolate. Try to keep the toppings fairly even. Using your palms, gently press the chocolate and hazelnuts into the dough. Now, with the long side of the rectangle closest to you, roll the dough into a log. Repeat with the second piece of dough and remaining ingredients. Let the logs rest on their seams in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before slicing and baking.
  4. Preheat oven to 350° and line baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a very sharp knife, slice the chilled cookie dough logs crosswise in ¼ in. intervals. Carefully transfer the cookies to the prepared baking sheets. You might lose a few hazelnuts along the way--just sprinkle them over the tops of the cookies. Bake until the cookies are lightly golden, about 15 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through.
  5. Transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool. Make sure to have one (okay, a couple) while they're still warm. The remaining cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature and will keep well for a few days.


And a special thanks to Balthazar’s Keuken in Amsterdam for a great dinner and inspiring these cookies!


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