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Crunchy chocolate meringue sandwich cookies, a crisp cookie flavored with cocoa and filled with chocolate-hazelnut spread.
I think the first time I tasted the perfect-for-each-other combination of chocolate and hazelnuts was at my grandmother’s house.
It was probably around the holiday season, where I’d find pretty little boxes of Italian sweets like torrone and bowls of multicolored foil milk chocolates to explore.
I unwrapped what looked to me like a chocolate kiss and popped it into my mouth, only to be surprised that the crunchy nut under the chocolate shell wasn’t a peanut and the creamy nougat was surprisingly different from the filling in my favorite 3 Musketeers candy bar.
That was my introduction to Baci, the Italian chocolate kiss and I fell right then and there.
I learned that Baci were a special treat, and hard to find if it wasn’t Christmas or Valentine’s day.
I had to grow up before I discovered Nutella was what European kids had on their sandwiches instead of peanut butter and jelly — what?!
By then I was ready and waiting for anything with the flavor combo of chocolate and hazelnuts, also known as gianduja.
I have to confess that these days I find Nutella is a bit too sweet, and not as deep, dark and chocolately as I want.
It must be that this 90 percent dark chocolate I’ve grown to like has changed my tolerance level. With so little sugar added you taste more of the roasted complex notes of pure chocolate.
You can find the combination just about everywhere now, but I like to make homemade chocolate-hazelnut spread.
It’s a far cry from the commercially made kind, as it’s a bit rustic with tiny bits of hazelnuts, but it’s so rich in flavor you can really taste the essence of the ingredients.
How to make perfect hazelnut chocolate meringue cookies:
- To get the best volume from the egg whites, separate the eggs straight out of the fridge, then let the egg whites come to room temperature before whipping.
- Gradually sprinkle the sugar mixture into the egg whites about a tablespoon at a time, waiting for it to melt into the egg whites before the next addition.
- Use a very clean and dry glass, ceramic or metal bowl for best results (not plastic).
- Whip the egg whites until they become glossy and hold a stiff peak, but try not to overdo it.
- To ensure a nice crisp texture, make chocolate meringue cookies on day that isn’t humid.
More chocolate hazelnut treats to bake:
Italian Hazelnut-Chocolate Meringue Cookies
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
- 2 egg whites
- ⅛ teaspoon cream of tartar
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup homemade chocolate-hazelnut spread or prepared spread such as Nutella
- Preheat oven to 225 (120 C) degrees and arrange an oven rack in the middle of oven. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Mix together the sugar and cocoa in a bowl.
- Whip the egg whites, cream of tartar and salt in the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer on medium-high speed until soft peaks form, about 1 minute.
- Gradually sprinkle the sugar mixture into the egg whites at medium-high speed, then continue to beat until the peaks are stiff and glossy, about 2 minutes.
- Scoop and drop the meringue in small blobs onto the baking sheets 1 inch apart, using (1-½ –inch) cookie scoop or 2 teaspoons. You can also use a pastry bag fitted with a plain round tip with a ½-inch opening.
- Bake about 1 hour, or until the cookies are no longer tacky, but feel dry and firm to the touch. If necessary, lower the oven temperature to keep them from browning.
- Turn off the oven, prop the door open and cool the cookies for at least 30 minutes. Peel the cookies off the paper.
- Spread one cookie with some chocolate hazelnut spread and sandwich with another; repeat until all the cookies are matched. Any odd cookies are the baker’s treat.