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Jan 26, 2008 01:51 PM


My family loves deserts with hazelnuts...my mother got us addicted. She passed away recently so my wife and I have taken over the recipes and carried on. Most of her recipes tell us to roast the nuts for 10 minutes, remove the skins, then chop them up. I guess the skins are bitter.

Here's the problem: how do you remove the skins? I don't ever remember seeing my mom do it (no idea how I missed that). My wife heard about putting them in a kitchen towel and rolling them around, so that's what we're doing. But it takes forever and isn't very effective. Any better ideas?

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  1. There is a method that includes using baking soda, though I don't recall the details. I love hazelnuts and, being somewhat lazy, either buy them for a price already peeled, or rub them in between my hands in a kitchen towel after roasting for 12 -15 minutes and remove as much as the peel as possible and then proceed. Lately I've been using them to make Goin's hazelnut cake, and have not discerned any difference between using my lazy method versus the ones I've bought already peeled.

    What recipes are you using them for?

    2 Replies
    1. re: MMRuth

      It's a spice cake...cinnamon, cloves, cocoa being the main ingredients, besides hazelnuts. Basically a Bavarian coffee cake. Kind of a different flavor than what most people are used to, and I grew up eating it once a month.

      Baking soda, huh. I've had some crazy thoughts: putting sandpaper in with the nuts; using one of those garlic skin removers (the plastic tube you roll); wire bristle. Maybe best is to buy them skinned, as you say.

      1. re: MMRuth

        I never skin hazelnuts either. No flavor difference that I can descern.

        Ground hazelnuts add a "certain something" to almost any cake. Back when I first started baking from scratch I used 1/2 to 1 cup ground hazelnuts (spice grinder) to doctor boxed cake mix and what a difference! So feel free to add to almost any butter type cake.

      2. We use hazelnuts all the time at work, and never bother to remove the skins. It is simply a cosmetic consideration; it looks untidy because skins tend to flake off and leave brown bits, but has no effect on flavor. The method you describe is standard. You will never get all of the skins. Just rub it in a towel, and be glad that you got some, but not all, of the skins.

        5 Replies
        1. re: jerry i h

          Now that's a great solution. I'll try it next time, thanks.

          For those interested:

          2 sticks butter, room temperature
          2 cups sugar
          4 eggs
          1 tsp vanilla
          1 cup buttermilk
          1 3/4 cup flour
          pinch of salt
          1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
          1/4 tsp clove
          1 tsp baking powder
          1/4 tsp baking soda
          1/2 cup cocoa
          1 cup toasted, finely ground hazelnuts

          Sift together: flour, salt, cinnamon, cloves, baking powder & soda, cocoa and nuts.
          Mix butter and sugar on high for 5 minutes.
          Add eggs slowly, then vanilla
          Add dry mix alternately with buttermilk
          mix gently
          pour into buttered, floured Bundt pan and bake 325 for 1 hr or until skewer comes out clean.

          1. re: tbrownex

            Thank you! It just so happens that I have some excess buttermilk around - I may just make this today. Do you use any particular brand/kind of cocoa? I lived in Germany for several years as a child and love this kind of cake.

            1. re: MMRuth

              I used Hershey's last night and it came out great. My mom's notes say to use Dutch chocolate though. Mine required about one hour 15 in the oven rather than the hour stated in the recipe.


              1. re: tbrownex

                Thanks for the additional information.

                1. re: tbrownex

                  BTW - do you serve it w/ anything/add icing sugar etc.? I'm about to make it.

          2. I *think* the technique for removing the skins with baking soda involves boiling water, too. I'ts been forever since I bothered to actually use that method so that I had perfectly blanched nuts for a recipe. I can't remember the technique exactly, but I do remember the pan was black afterwards.

            Most of the time, I just do what everyone has thus far mentioned, roast them and remove what I can of the skins. It's fine for almost any recipe.

            7 Replies
            1. re: amyzan

              I just do the towel thing. I dump my very well toasted nuts on a clean kitchen towel (one with a little texture) and I rub them with the towel and against each other.

              Mmmm hazelnuts...

              1. re: Vetter

                I live right outside Wash DC and just last week was looking for hazelnuts for a recipe. No grocer in my area that I went to had them (Giant & Shoppers Food). They said it was seasonal. Is that true - only Xmas time? One store had a big display of Ann's Nut House products - no hazelnuts.

                1. re: Vera

                  I had trouble finding them in Eastern NC this Christmas, and only found them in the shell at a Piggly Wiggly - my mother was sweet enough to shell them all for me! Here in Manhattan, I find them shelled (and in some cases peeled) at many of the "gourmet" markets. Don't know if you are near a Baluducci's, but they might have them (I remember one in the general Bethesda area, and they are in NOVA as well - http://www.balduccis.com/locations ).

              2. re: amyzan

                Yes, the technique for removing skins using baking soda involves boiling water. RLB has the instructions in "The Cake Bible." For 1/2 cup of nuts, add 2 tablespoons of baking soda to 1-1/2 cups of boiling water and boil the nuts for 3 minutes. Test one by running it under cold water and if the skin doesn't slip off easily, boil them for another few minutes. You then rinse them and crisp them in a 350 oven for about 20 minutes. I've used this method and it works very well, although it's a bit of a mess because the skins kinda stick to everything.

                RLB says, by the way, that the skins are very bitter, so it's not just a question of aesthetics. Gina de Palma, in "Dolce Italiano," disagrees. She says either do it or don't, your choice. If you leave the skin on, your finished dessert will be flecked with bits of skin. If you don't mind the look, don't bother to skin.

                1. re: JoanN

                  I'm going with Gina de Palma on this one. I've always found skinning them to be a royal pain.

                  1. re: NYCkaren

                    Having eaten raw un-skinned hazelnuts for years, I don't believe the skins are bitter. Most recipes I've seen recommend rubbing off "as much skin as possible" after toasting, or words to the same effect.

                    1. re: cmkdvs

                      I do really like roasted skinned ones in salads - but for that I buy them skinned.

              3. I use a ground hazelnut quantity in one of my cheesecake recipes, and i buy this already ground...it has flecks in it, so it doesn't look particularly well skinned.....the cake is definitly not bitter ! However, i have also purchased them skinned, which is so much easier for some things, but i havent always found them.

                I had to do a quantity of these not too long ago when making the epicurious hazelnut and butternut squash lasagna. I did the toasting, then into the dish towel...and still only half the skins came off....major pain in the butt and i gave up halfway through...using them like they were. Next time i'm trying the baking soda method!!

                2 Replies
                1. re: im_nomad

                  MMRuth, did you make the cake? How did it turn out? My mother usually dusted it with powdered sugar, but I never found that necessary...I serve it "naked".

                  Re the bitterness, sounds like we need to experiment. Someone call ATK. Thanks to JoanN for the method specifics.

                  1. re: tbrownex

                    I just finished cleaning up from dinner, and dessert was your cake - wonderful!! Rich, nice spicy flavors, but not too heavy, by any means. I see some for breakfast tomorrow! I did whip some cream with a little vanilla - just a v. gentle whipped cream. We need a name for it - was this your grandmother's recipe?

                    It took just an hour, and my only comment for next time is that instead of flouring the pan, I would use cocoa - maybe I used too much butter and flour, but I ended up with a lot of it on the cake - sort of a lightish brown coating in places.

                2. I've perfected my hazelnut peeling technique recently. It's a variation on the kitchen-towl theme:

                  Toast hazelnuts in oven. Place in a colander, take outside, and toss briskly (hold colander with both hands, shake back and forth vigorously, careful not to spill hazelnuts out the colander. Ten second rule applies should you do so, however!). Place in kitchen towel, and whirl around your head like a helicopter. Again, try not to spill hazelnuts on the ground, and again, ten second rule applies.

                  This works quite well in loosening the skins. The helicopter thing is also good for washed salad leaves, if you don't have a salad spinner, by the way.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Gooseberry

                    So, how do you fold the towel before you whirl it around your head? I'd be concerned about sending lettuce or hazelnuts in a nice concentric circle around me! Other than figuring the right fold to hold it all in, this is a brilliant sub for a salad spinner.

                    1. re: amyzan

                      Let's just say I've spilled plenty of hazelnuts in my time! You want to use a large, absorbant tea towel and gently wrap the leaves/hazelnuts in it like a money pouch (you know when caterers wrap little balls of ricotta and spinach in a square of phyllo pastry, twirl the ends shut and secure with a blade of chive, so that the ends all stick upward? well, like that!). Then your hand holds the corners shut, and you spin it like that. You will probably have to do the leaves/hazelnuts in two batches, since you can't fit massive amounts of stuff in a 'money pouch' parcel, but it's worth the two batches so you don't spill the contents.

                      Arg. I feel very inarticulate. Can anyone else think of a better way to describe a money pouch?