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Last updated December 01, 2006

Cooking hazelnuts

First, crack out and clean the nuts. Discard any that are discolored or questionable. Lots of folks just eat them raw, of course, but they do develop a lot of flavor when they are cooked, and often nuts that are bland raw will be highly flavored once cooked.


Roasted or Toasted? These hazelnuts cook extremely quickly. For most uses, you will want to put them into any item you are cooking as raw nuts; they will cook just fine. If you are just making toasted nuts, be aware that brief roasting at low oven temperatures (about 5 minutes at 250° F), spread out on a cookie sheet, will give them the flavor we refer to as "roasted". It is distinctively different from raw—crunchy, more highly flavored, and with a more intense "hazel" taste. Cooking just a little longer, or hotter (5 minutes at 350° F) yields a "toasted" flavor. It is quite good; they'll taste like the best toasted almonds you ever had, but much of the aromatic "hazel" character will have disappeared.

Blanching is the process of removing the brown skins from the nuts before they are included in cooking. It is more a matter of taste than necessity; the flavor of the skins is barely noticeable in most cases, and rarely objectionable. The ability to blanch cleanly is genetic—some of our nuts do, some of them don't. To blanch them, place them on a cookie sheet, and just barely make them hot in the oven, about 3 minutes at 250° F. Remove from the oven, and place the nuts between two clean towels or tough paper towels, and rub them moderately. Most of the skins should rub free, and the white nuts can be easily separated from the brown chaff.

Oiling is a good idea if you are going to be putting hazels into any dish that is very moist. If hazels are in contact with water for very long, they may become soggy and disappointing. A light layer of any oil, either flavored or neutral, will greatly slow the sogging process. Dipping or rolling them, slightly warmed, in butter, then allowing the excess to drain off, is our favorite way.

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