Don’t tell almonds, but I think hazelnuts might just be my all-time favorite nut. They make everything better. Salads, pastas, cookies, nut butters, ice cream, coffee, CHOCOLATE. In fact, I’m having a hard time thinking of something that isn’t made better by hazelnuts. The only catch is, they need a little help, in the form of roasting, to reach their full tasty potential.
I know roasting your own nuts seems like a pain in the behind, but really, it doesn’t get much easier. Hazelnuts in particular go through a huge transformation from raw to roasted. In their raw state, they’re on the bland, slightly bitter, nothing-special-to-see-here side. I adore raw nuts, but hazelnuts? Not so much. It’s amazing what just a few minutes in the oven can do. It’s like the difference between regular butter and browned butter. That is, if butter kind of sucked to begin with, which it doesn’t. But you get the idea.
UPDATE: since writing this post, I’ve discovered a new way to skin hazelnuts that is easier, and more thorough! This method is still a good standby, but I highly recommend you check out the new tutorial HERE.
Rumor has it you can buy hazelnuts already roasted in some stores, and if you can find those, more power to you. I’ve never seen them around here, though, and I’m guessing that if I did, they’d cost a pretty penny more than the raw ones. Plus, fresh hazelnuts have a better shelf life than roasted, so buying them raw means you’re less likely to be getting a stale product – score one for raw hazelnuts.
Fortunately roasting your own nuts is super easy. You could adapt this technique for just about any nuts you’re wanting to roast yourself. The only difference with hazelnuts is the slightly annoying part where you have to remove the bitter, papery outer skins, but even that isn’t too bad when you know how. So let’s get into it, shall we?
Step 1 — Get your oven preheating to 350 degrees F. (or 170 degrees C.), and spread your hazelnuts into a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. You can roast as many or as few nuts as you’d like, as long as they all fit in a single layer with a bit of wiggle room in the pan (if you’re wanting to roast a crazy big batch, split the nuts into two trays, or do separate batches).
Place the pan on the center rack of the preheated oven and let those babies roast for 10-15 minutes. Set your timer for 5 minute intervals, and give them a stir or a shake around the pan to keep them roasting evenly, and to prevent burning. You’ll know they’re done when the papery skin has started to loosen or flake away from some of the nuts, the flesh of the nuts have started to turn golden brown, and (the most important sign of all) they smell roasty-toasty and delicious.
Step 2 — Remove the pan from the oven, and immediately dump the hot nuts (hot nuts!) into the center of a clean kitchen towel. (I suggest using an older towel for this, as the process of removing the skins from the hazelnuts can stain a bit.) Fold the edges of the towel over the nuts to create a sealed pouch, and let them sit for 5-10 minutes to allow the heat to loosen the skins. (This will also give them a chance to cool down a bit so you don’t burn yourself in the next step — your patience will be rewarded.)
Step 3 — Grip the towel around the top with one hand to secure the pouch and keep the hazelnuts from falling out, and start scrunching and squeezing the towel vigorously with the other hand. This will rub the hazelnuts together inside the towel, and slough off their skins. Unwrap the towel to check your progress. Most of the skins should have rubbed off and fallen to the bottom of the towel. Don’t fret if they aren’t all gone — there will always be a few stubborn ones, but that’s okay. It doesn’t have to be perfect, you just want to get rid of as much of the skins as you easily can.
(If most of the skins are still on, you may need to rub them around in the towel a bit more. I know that for a lot of people this is the worst part of working with hazelnuts, but don’t let it stop you. Removing the skins doesn’t have to take a lot of time and energy — I wouldn’t spend more than five minutes, here, unless I’m working with a very large batch. This method works best with smaller batches, so if you are doing a large batch, I suggest taking it in chunks, or removing the nuts that have been successfully skinned so you can focus your energies on the ones that need it. Some batches of hazelnuts will peel easier than others, and if this batch doesn’t want to give up their skins, don’t fight it. Just remove as much as you can, and move on.)
Step 4 — Remove the nuts from the towel, leaving behind as much of the skins as you can. I like to scoop the nuts out of the towel with my hands, rather than just dumping them out, as this creates less mess and leaves behind almost all of the skins you just worked so hard to remove. Discard the skins carefully by unfolding the towel over the trash, sink, or shaking it out outside. (Whatever you do, do not bunch up the towel and leave it on the kitchen counter, because you WILL pick it up later to dry your hands, which will result in tiny flakes of hazelnut skin all over the kitchen and yourself. Trust me on this.)
Now that the nuts are roasted and skinned, they’re ready to be eaten, or used in whatever recipe you want. (Homemade nutella, anyone?)
Some of my favorite things to do are give them a rough chop and sprinkle them over salads, toss them with pasta, bake them into cookies, or steep them in milk to make ice cream. Looking back through the history of this blog, I am amazed by how few recipes I’ve shared for hazelnuts. (Just two? How is this even possible?) You can bet I’m going to have to do something about that, and soon!
What’s your favorite way to use hazelnuts? I’d love to hear in the comments below. (And if you have any suggestions for hazelnut recipes you’d like to see around here in the future, do tell!)
Some of my favorite hazelnut recipes: