There’s something funny about decorating with turkeys for Thanksgiving, if you ask me. For one, they’re generally not too cute; plus, their very carcasses are the center of the momentous meal. But for some reason, I bought a turkey cookie cutter a few years ago. I remember laughing as the odd shape evoked a sense of welcome goofiness. And I guess I thought maybe the purchase would bring me one step closer to hosting my very own Thanksgiving dinner someday (which I still haven’t done). So, I may not have made a traditional turkey supper, but at least I can say I’ve made dozens of little turkeys, right?
The truth is, I like eating cookies far more than eating turkey. And after making my own turkey-shaped cookies each year, I can say with confidence that turkeys can be cute, after all. Made with my hazelnut brown sugar cookie dough, these turkeys are delightfully flavorful and hearty with fall character. So forget pies and plates full of poultry; my Thanksgiving tradition is all about cookies. Here’s the recipe.
Hazelnut Brown Sugar Cookies (makes about 1.5 dozen large cut-out cookies*)
- 1/2 cup (3 ounces) ground roasted hazelnuts
- 1 and 3/4 cup flour plus extra for rolling
- 1 and 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup butter at room temperature
- 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
- 1 medium to large egg
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
In a small/medium bowl, whisk together first four ingredients; set aside. In a separate, larger bowl, beat the remaining ingredients until smooth, pale caramel colored, and fluffy. Fold in dry ingredients until incorporated, then knead with hands until dough holds together in a large, cohesive ball. Split dough in half. On a floured work surface with floured rolling pin, roll out one half of dough at a time to about 1/6″ thick. Cut out cookies using a floured cookie cutter, then transfer to parchment lined cookie sheets with a spatula. Freeze cookies on sheets for about 10 minutes; meanwhile preheat oven to 375 F. Bake for 10-12 minutes (start checking at 8 minutes if cookie cutters are small), one sheet at a time, until edges and bottoms become golden brown. Let cool completely on sheets.
If desired, made a decorative icing as follows. Mix 4 cups powdered sugar with one or two whisked egg whites. Gradually stir in teaspoons of lemon or orange juice until mixture is whisk-able and not grainy, but thick. Split into bowls and add drops of food coloring or natural dye: carrot or beet juice, cocoa powder, etc. (Note: you may need to add more sugar if using juice as dye, or omit the lemon/orange juice). Transfer colored icing to pastry bags or plastic bags with the corners snipped off. On the cooled cookies, carefully pipe outlines first, then fill in each colored area, smoothing with a knife or finger dipped in water. Melted chocolate also works well for eyes and details. Icing will dry and stiffen as it sits out at room temperature.
Nutty and buttery with a hint of molasses, hazelnut brown sugar cookies are rich with delicious flavor that’s absent from traditional sugar cookies. To take their distinctiveness even further, try adding ground cinnamon and nutmeg or some finely grated orange zest. And if it’s too late to make yours turkey-shaped for Thanksgiving, these cookies are equally wonderful in other shapes — like, say, those meant for certain looming holidays…
*Maybe next time… This recipe works very well for roll-and-cut cookies, but it’s also fabulous when the dough is simply rolled into balls that are a little less than a tablespoon of dough a piece — see the detailed recipe here. Similarly, smaller cutters than my turkey cutter (which is about 3″ x 4″) will make more cookies and bake in a shorter time than noted above. Cinnamon and/or other favorite sweet spices are welcome additions. If you don’t want to decorate the cookies, they are delicious plain or with a simple dusting of powdered sugar or drizzle of melted chocolate.