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Foolproof way to remove hazelnut skins

Decided to make Hazelnut Brown Butter Cake from Suzanne Goins' Sunday Suppers at Lucques this morning, and after trying a new (to me) way of skinning hazelnuts I wanted to share it with y'all.

Found it in Rose Levy Beranbaum's Pie and Pastry Bible, who was taught the method by Carl Sontheimer, of Cuisinarts fame.

For 1/2 cup of nuts, bring 1 1/2 cups of water to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons of baking soda and the nuts and boil them for 3 minutes. The water will turn black from the nut skins. Rinse the nuts well under cold running water, then use your fingers to remove the skins. The skins slip right off, easy as can be. I put the nuts on a kitchen towel as I removed each skin, rubbed them a bit to make sure they were dry, and then toasted them in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes.

This method works! I've tried the other methods that entail toasting the nuts and rubbing them in various ways to remove the skin, but none remove all the skin like the boiling water and baking soda from Sontheimer. Not one bit of skin remained.

BONUS: When I added the baking soda to the boiling water it spit something furious, spitting a soda/water spray over my ceramic cooktop, which once wiped away left the cooktop sparkling with no effort. Beats all the other cooktop cleaners I've been using to try to get rid of the last little bit of stain.

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  1. This is a great tip. Thanks. Doing hazelnuts the usual way is such a pain!

    1. Thanks, jannie. Now I can get excited about the skinless hazelnut recipes I've been avoiding!

      1 Reply
      1. re: bear

        It's a great method, but I have to confess to becoming more lenient w/ myself about hazelnut skins and have not noticed any deterioration in the cakes I've made!

      2. Thanks for the public service!

        1. Best tip is on cleaning stove top!

          1. Thanks! I made pecan caramel tartlets today because I didn't want to bother with skinning hazelnuts - now I can try the recipe the way it was written :)

            Thanks for the tip about cleaning the cooktop too...sounds like it's easier/cheaper than Ceramabryte.

            1. The same recipe from Sunday Suppers sent me looking for a hazelnut skin removal method. Just tried this one and it's remarkably thorough. (And the hazelnut torte, served with her coconut flan, was great.)

              1. My biscotti recipe called for 1.5 cups of hazelnuts so I tripled the above recipe and ended up with a bubbling cauldron of continuous foam, which I skimmed off. Didn't seem like the way to go. Also, I assume you start counting the 3 minutes once it returns to a boil. Any advice out there?
                Thanks in advance.

                1 Reply
                1. re: local649

                  After three minutes, test a nut by running it under cold water. The skin should slip off easily, and if it doesn't, boil a few minutes longer. No need to skim off the foam, if you find it is near to overflowing, next time just do 1/2 cups of nuts at a time, or use a deeper pot.

                2. This tip for removing hazelnut skins just changed my life.

                  I routinely use baking soda for all sorts of cleaning jobs around the house.

                  1. This was so easy it was ridiculous. Thanks

                    1. Adding thanks for sharing this wonderful tip! Using a deep pot was definintely a good idea. Incidentally, I'm making this very same cake for a friend's birthday tomorrow. :)

                      1. I learned about this many years ago, via Martha Stewart, if memory serves. But I didn't like the results. The flavor of the nuts was not as good, and they didn't have the firmness of crunch that unboiled hazelnuts have. For me, it's a no-go. I'd rather rub, and ignore a few bits of remaining skin.

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: greygarious

                          It is absolutely necessary to toast the nuts in the oven after they've been dried. Without toasting the nuts are soggy and bland, but toasting brings out the flavor and crisps the nuts.

                          1. re: greygarious

                            Lots of crunch in these after oven roasting.

                            1. re: ChrisOfStumptown

                              Probably a dumb question, chris, but is that after the baking soda bath? They look great.

                              1. re: bear

                                Yeah, started with raw hazelnuts. First they got the baking soda bath, then the skin peel, and then 350F oven until golden (I didn't time it). Oh, and I brushed a bit of walnut oil on them about halfway through the roasting time, but I don't think it's absolutely necessary.

                          2. So where do you all get hazelnuts in bulk? I can only find them in a can of mixed nuts...

                            8 Replies
                            1. re: thymetobake

                              In my area (southern coast of US) hazelnuts tend to be sold only around the Christmas holidays; the chain supermarkets, walmart, sam's club, costco, all carry bags of hazelnuts then. Now, not so much.

                              1. re: janniecooks

                                Oh, so the kind you are buying require a lot of work, yes? Not just buying like dried almonds still in their skin. That's how i was reading this thread. You're actually removing the husk, am I correct? Or what I would call a husk or shell, anyway. Not skin.

                                Sorry, I'm a novice about hazlenuts.

                                1. re: thymetobake

                                  No, the hazelnuts are not in their shells. They have a dark brown skin which is thinner than that of dried skin-on almonds, but it is a tad bitter and the texture is unpleasant, so it needs to come off, unlike almond skin.

                                  1. re: thymetobake

                                    They're sold shelled just "like dried almonds still in their skin" - Diamond brand is the brand I see at my market.

                                    Some cooks leave the skins on because they can be difficult to remove, and are bitter. Whether to leave them on I guess would depend on how you're using them. For Suzanne Goin's hazelnut brown butter cake, the skins definitely should be removed. Same for use in a salad. But for certain cookies, like biscotti, you could try leaving them on. My preference is to always remove the skins.

                                2. re: thymetobake

                                  i pick mine up at superior nut in cambridge, so i'm not sure how much shipping costs, but the quality is great.


                                  i think there are also some places in oregon.

                                  1. re: wonderwoman

                                    Thanks for the link. Nice to have a source.

                                  2. re: thymetobake

                                    Also known as Filberts. Bagged in the baking aisle, usually smaller-sized bags hanging above the walnuts/pecans.

                                    1. re: thymetobake

                                      If you have a trader joes nearby, they have raw hazelnuts for the same price per lb as almonds.

                                    2. Do you think this method would work on walnuts too? Removing the skins is the bane of my existence :P

                                      1. BUT, woe be unto you who uses her husband's Calphalon. Beware, this method STRIPS the finish off Calphalon!!

                                        1. Do you suppose this method would also work for almonds?

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: ohmyyum

                                            You don't need the baking soda on almonds. I boil for 1 minute, drain, cool as needed, and rub skin off.