Some recipes are happy accidents: a spice added by mistake might wake up a tired braise, a little extra butter or cream can coax more flavor out of poultry or eggs, adding ingredients in an odd order might mean the difference between a dense cake and soft, layered baked mousse. But at San Francisco’s Dandelion Chocolate, a company known for its exacting sourcing, processing, and presentation, accidents are rare. Almost everything has been made with stringent attention to detail, a commitment to sustainable agricultural practices, and an eye towards highlighting the unique flavors of different types of chocolate.
“We’re always trying to come up with new ways to use our chocolate,” says Dandelion Chocolate’s pastry chef Lisa Vega, who joined the team a few years back. The shop is best known for its hot chocolates and single-origin chocolate brownie flights, but Vega’s team puts out incredible cookies, too. Her Nutella-stuffed chocolate chip cookie went through many rounds of testing before the team introduced it to customers. Unlike the hundreds of recipes for Nutella-stuffed cookies on Pinterest, this one starts with homemade Nutella.
“It was actually our recipe developer Meredyth Haas that had the idea to use one of our smaller chocolate machines [called melangers] to make hazelnut cream, and then stir it into melted chocolate,” Vega says. That artisanal chocolate-hazelnut spread gets piped into little discs before it’s sandwiched in between nobs of cookie dough. “But home cooks can use a food processor for similar results,” Vega says, acknowledging that not everyone has a chocolate-making appliance at home. To bring out the rum-y molasses flavor of the sugar, and nutty flavor of the butter, Vega adds crème fraîche to the dough. When asked if Nutella off the grocery store shelf could work in a pinch, Vega says, “Yes, but it helps to spread it into discs and chill it first.”
Vega, who hails from Michelin-starred kitchens like Gary Danko in SF and Providence in LA, is in the unique position of working with chocolate that contains only two ingredients: cocoa and sugar. Most commercially available chocolate contains cocoa solids as well as cocoa butter (the fat from the chocolate plant that is often extracted from chocolate during processing and then added back, in varying ratios), and an emulsifier like lecithin. This makes chocolate easier to melt, temper, and shape into candies — but it also diminishes its flavor. “That’s why our chocolate tastes so different,” Vega says, noting that each single-origin bar has a distinctive flavor. Some bars might taste sweeter, others smoother on the tongue, and depending on the batch, they could smell like melted mahogany or ripe berry wine or even spices like star anise — though actual spices are not added.
In the brand’s new book, Making Chocolate: From Bean to Bar to S'more, authors and owners Todd Masonis, Greg D’Alesandre, Vega, along with writer Molly Gore, outline in great detail the processes and procedures the company practices. Eric Wolfinger is responsible for the luscious photography.
Like Franklin Barbecue’s 2015 cookbook and bartender Jim Meehan’s new manual, Making Chocolate is a master class in theory and business that would make a gorgeous coffee table book, and happens to include incredibly well-tested recipes like the one for those Nutella-stuffed cookies. “They can get incredibly gooey,” Vera says — not to mention “predictably addictive” — so plan accordingly.
“Nutella”-Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies
Yield: 24 cookies
This was the first chocolate chip cookie on the menu at Dandelion. When Meredyth Haas started with us as a pastry assistant, she developed this recipe during our season of pastry pop-ups when visiting pastry chefs took over our café kitchen from week to week. She threw everything she could in the melanger, burned ingredients, and filled cookie dough with various experiments to see what happened. From those experiments, Dandelion’s house-made Nutella-inspired chocolate-hazelnut spread was born. After we stuffed brown-butter chocolate chip cookies with the magical filling, we found this cookie quickly became a crowd favorite, and regulars still beg us to put it back on the menu. Now in charge of kitchen R&D, Meredyth is still eagerly awaiting a lawsuit from Nutella.
Our chocolate from Mantuano, Venezuela, is a perfect fit here, with toasty almond notes and a classic, chocolatey undertone that bring more depth to the hazelnuts. We also love to use our stalwart 70% Camino Verde, Ecuador, chocolate for the way its fudgy, chocolatey notes pair with hazelnuts.
The “Nutella” in this recipe can be made on its own and improves just about anything you spread it on. (Or just take a spoon straight to the jar.) Stored at room temperature in a sealed container, it will stay good for 2 to 3 weeks.
2 cups / 440 grams / 16 ounces unsalted butter
2 1/2 cups packed / 510 grams / 18 ounces light brown sugar
1/2 cup / 100 grams / 3 1/2 ounces granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon / 14 grams / 1/2 ounce vanilla extract
2 tablespoons / 30 grams / 1 ounce crème fraîche
4 1/2 cups / 630 grams / 22 ounces all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons / 20 grams / 2/3 ounce baking soda
1/2 teaspoon / 2 grams kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
3 1/4 cups / 480 grams / 17 ounces chopped 70% tempered chocolate
1/2 cup Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread (recipe follows)
Flaky sea salt, for sprinkling
In a large saucepan set over medium heat, melt the butter and continue to cook, whisking constantly. The butter will start to foam. Eventually, dark golden flecks (browned milk solids) will appear in the melted butter, which will start to smell nutty and toasty. Continue to cook the butter until it turns deep golden brown; this happens fast, and shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and cool completely.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the cooled browned butter with both sugars on medium speed for 2 minutes, until fully combined. Add the eggs, yolks, vanilla, and crème fraîche, and mix on medium speed until combined, about 1 minute.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and allspice. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in two additions, mixing on low speed after each addition to combine fully. Add the chopped chocolate, and mix on low speed until just combined. Set the dough aside or chill in the fridge until you’re ready to assemble the cookies.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Dollop a generous teaspoonful of chocolate-hazelnut spread onto the prepared baking sheet, creating a round “puck.” Line up 24 of these on the baking sheet, and place the baking sheet in the fridge or freezer to allow the “pucks” to firm up, at least 30 minutes.
Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Scoop out the cookie dough using a ⅛-cup (2-tablespoon) ice cream scoop, and flatten each ball of dough with your hands to form a disk; the flattened dough disks should be about ½ inch thick and 2 to 3 inches in diameter. Make 48 of them. Place half of the dough disks on the prepared baking sheets, spacing them at least 2 inches apart. Set aside the other half of the dough disks.
Center one chilled chocolate-hazelnut puck on each of the flattened dough disks on the baking sheets. Place the reserved dough disks on top of each puck, creating a sandwich. Firmly press each cookie together with your hands, ensuring that the circumference of the cookie is sealed on the edges to completely envelop the enclosed filling. Cover and chill the filled dough disks overnight in the fridge. This will allow the flavors to develop and help to ensure that the filling doesn’t leak from the cookies during baking.
Preheat the oven to 350°F (176.7°C). Sprinkle the top of each cookie with a pinch of sea salt. Bake the cookies for 12 to 16 minutes, until golden brown, rotating the baking sheets 180 degrees halfway through to ensure even coloring. These cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for several days, but we strongly recommend eating them straight out of the oven.
Yield: About 2 cups
1 cup / 140 grams / 5 ounces blanched hazelnuts
3/4 cup / 212 grams / 7 1/2 ounces melted 70% chocolate
1/2 cup / 100 grams / 3 1/2 ounces sugar
1/2 teaspoon / 2 grams kosher salt
Preheat the oven to 350°F (176.7°C). Spread the hazelnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast them in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes, until golden brown. Cool completely, then chop the nuts coarsely.
In a heavy-duty food processor, combine the hazelnuts, chocolate, sugar, and salt, blending them until completely smooth. The longer the mixture is processed, the smoother your filling will be; we recommend blending for at least 5 minutes on high speed. Enjoy on toast or waffles, or spread it on your favorite slices of fruit. The mixture can be stored in an airtight container or jar at room temperature for several weeks.
NOTE: At Dandelion, we make our version of “Nutella” with a mini melanger. If you have one at home, simply add all the ingredients to the stone grinder, and let it grind for at least 30 minutes.