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Jul 31, 2007 09:03 AM

Noyau - advice on roasting apricot kernels, please

I'm trying to make noyau parfait, loosely following the Chez Panisse Desserts instructions. I've bought a little bag of apricot kernels from a health food store (refrigerated but otherwise unprocessed, I believe), and I know I'm supposed to toast them in a medium oven for 5-10 minutes to denature the cyanide components, which might make a consumer ill. But here's the problem - even two minutes at 350F/180C is over-toasting them. They don't taste like bitter almonds - which they most certainly do when raw - but rather like too-toasted hazelnuts. Has anyone had this problem, and does anyone actually know the temperature they need to reach to denature the cyanide?

My oven temperature is accurate. While poisoning due to apricot kernels is very rare, I'd feel better if anyone could shed some light on this!

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  1. I've made Shere's Noyau Ice Cream without toasting. I've never seen instructions to do that but if you want to go ahead, I would lower the temp to 300 - 325 to slow down the roasting. You don't want to change the delicate flavor.
    The ice cream is incredibly delicious, by the way.

    2 Replies
    1. re: meta

      I've eaten it before, just never made it - it is amazing, isn't it? One of those flavours that no amount of 'extracts' can imitate perfectly.

      I've done some more reading about it online - apparently up until one isolated incident of cyanide poisoning, Cancer groups were reccommending a daily dose of TEN kernels per person, to boost the immune system. Which makes me feel a bit better - if thousands of people have been taking ten a day, then using a couple tablespoons to make a big batch of parfait is unlikely to hurt anyone!

      1. re: Gooseberry

        Well, it's important to feel comfortable about enjoying the product. But I honestly never heard of anyone suffering any consequences. Good luck!

    2. I believe the roasting is when you are starting with the apricot pit, before the kernel is removed.

      2 Replies
      1. re: wally

        The recipe says to roast the whole pit for ten minutes, crack open and roast foranother five.

        1. re: Gooseberry

          In the original recipe for the noyau ice cream in the first edition of the book, there is no roasting at all of the either cherry pits or apricot pits. You simply get the kernel out and steep it. The Chez Panisse Fruit book has a variation on the procedure you have just listed. I would imagine that litigation is the impetus for the deactivation of whatever it is that makes prussic acid (hydrogen cyanide) in the pit.

      2. I've made a ton of stuff with the Noyaux from Apricot pits and never gotten sick, nor have I caused others to do so.
        I do indeed roast the pits briefly to burn off any fruit sticking to them before freezing them for a later use, but when it comes time to put them into jam, ice cream, cookies or panna cotta, just grind up the kernel as is.
        I generally keep them whole and crack the pits as I need them. In fact, my supply is getting a little out of control, thanks to some family members who save their pits for me.