How to incorporate hazelnuts into your pastries

Hazelnut is a flavor that’s taking off, and not only when tied to a certain chocolatey spread. A survey from newspaper Capital Press found that nearly half of respondents were eating whole hazelnuts at least once per month in 2017, up from just one-third who said the same in 2006. Even more said they wanted to try them.

This is good news for pastry chefs: A food trend sparking curiosity in consumers is good reason to begin exploring new ways to incorporate it into your menu. Here’s how you can add hazelnuts to your pastry recipes:

First: Peel your hazelnuts

The skins of your hazelnuts will begin to peel away as you cook them, adding texture and color you might not want in your final dish. There are two methods to peel them before you begin baking: roasting or boiling.

To roast the skins off, scatter your hazelnuts on a baking sheet and place it in an oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit, Epicurious instructed. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the skins begin to brown and blister.

Transfer the hazelnuts to a kitchen towel, wrap and let sit for about a minute. Pick up the folded towel and rub it together vigorously. Open it up and pour your hazelnuts into a bowl. Most of the skins should be removed; a few stray flecks are fine.

To boil the skins off, bring 2 cups of water to a boil, then add 3 tablespoons of baking soda. Add the nuts and let boil for three minutes, My Baking Addiction explained.

Meanwhile, prepare a bowl of ice water. Remove one and drop it in the ice water. If you can easily peel back away the skins, transfer the rest of the nuts to your ice water and use your fingers to remove the skins.

Hazelnuts as a topping

Hazelnuts offer a good crunch and a earthy-sweet flavor. Halve or coarsely chop them, then toss them on top of a dish of yogurt, ice cream or pie. At Momofuku in Toronto, for example, an exquisite ice cream sandwich is topped with chocolate syrup, toasted marshmallows and chopped hazelnuts.

An ice cream sandwich topped with chocolate, hazelnuts and marshmallows sits on a white china plate.An ice cream sandwich is enhanced with chopped hazelnuts, toasted marshmallows and chocolate sauce.

Hazelnuts as a crust

A nutty meal provides a tasty base for desserts like cheesecake, key lime pie or cookie bars. For her vegan key lime pie bars, the Cake Merchant combined hazelnuts and macadamia nuts in a food processor and blended until she got a mealy consistency. Next, she added shredded coconut, dates that had been soaked in warm water, coconut oil and a pinch of salt and processed until thoroughly mixed. Finally, she pressed the dough into her pie pan and added her key lime pie filling.

Hazelnuts as a flour

Hazelnut flour, also known as hazelnut meal, is easy to make in a blender or food processor. Simply blend for about 10-12 seconds, or until they reach a flour-like consistency. Don’t overblend them, or you’ll risk winding up with a pasty texture.

Since nut flours aren’t as starchy as grain flours and don’t contain gluten, they’ll result in a crumbly texture if used to replace all-purpose or other flours. It’s best to stick to a recipe that calls specifically for hazelnut flour, Bob’s Red Mill explained.

Nut flours can also be used on their own for a unique crust for fish, baked cheese or pork loin.

Hazelnuts as a sauce

Pureed with liquid and other flavors, hazelnuts can become a decadent sauce to pour onto your dishes. Processing hazelnuts, warm water, garlic, salt, cilantro, red-wine vinegar, cayenne and olive oil will produce a spicy hazelnut sauce that Epicurious suggested pairing with white-fleshed fish dishes. Adjust the ingredients or add your own flavors to create a sauce that adds depth of flavor to your desserts.

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