Blog Hazelnut Cookies
I love baking with all kinds of nuts all year round, but the holidays call for something special and hazelnuts, or filberts, fit the bill. Though they're grown in Oregon, hazelnuts are not perhaps as widely appreciated in the States as they are in Europe. (Italy, in particular, seems to have an affinity for hazelnuts; they are the signature flavor in two Italian exports, Frangelico and Nutella.) Toasted, hazelnuts have a robust, almost smoky flavor and a beautiful golden color, and they blend beautifully with the flavors of caramel and chocolate. They make a sophisticated addition to cakes, tarts, and the cookies in this week's recipe.
While toasting enhances the flavor of most nuts, for hazelnuts, this step is a necessity. Hazelnuts are sold in their papery brown skins, which lend a slightly bitter, tannic flavor that interferes with the taste of the nuts. Toasting is the best way to remove these skins. Simply place the nuts on a rimmed baking sheet in a 300-degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until golden brown (check any broken nuts to gauge the color) and fragrant. You can do this in a regular oven or a toaster oven; either way, watch them carefully so they don't burn. Just before removing the nuts from the oven, lay a large kitchen towel on the counter. Carefully pour the hazelnuts onto the center of the towel, then wrap the towel around the nuts and let sit for 10 minutes or so. To remove the skins, rub the hazelnuts inside the towel, using your hands to pinch them. It's OK if a few skins remain. Open up the towel, hold a platter or baking sheet just below the countertop, and use your other hand to roll the nuts off the towel and onto the platter, leaving the skins behind.