Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun.
Today: Nuts are pretty comfortable in their own skin, but we can help you to do a bit of cajoling to get them out.
There are a whole lot of things we can justify splurging on at the grocery store. Skinned nuts, however, are not at the top of the list. Maybe you've found yourself at the store, staring at a bag of bald hazelnuts or almonds and wondering why they are twice the price of their sheathed brothers. The answer?
Well, nuts are pretty comfortable in their own skin -- you'll have to do a bit of cajoling to get them out. But if you don't want to shell out (pun intended) the extra bucks for pre-skinned nuts, we've got a couple of easy methods for skinning hazelnuts and almonds at home.
More: Put your skinned nuts to good use in this chocolate hazelnut brittle recipe.
Before you get started, consider if you really need to skin the nuts at all. Hazelnut skins are usually removed in baked goods due to their color, texture, and taste -- a triple whammy. Blanched almonds are useful in finicky desserts, like macarons; when grinding your own almond flour, some cooks say that skinned almonds make for a lighter crumb and fairer baked goods.
If those reasons apply to you, here's how to skin nuts with as little trouble as possible:
For every cup of nuts, bring two cups of water to a boil and add 3 tablespoons of baking soda. Do not be alarmed whe the water foams up -- your fifth grade science education has prepared you for this moment.
Add the nuts to the boiling water and let them bob around in there for about 3 minutes.
While the nuts boil, make an ice bath. Use a slotted spoon to remove a test nut. Submerge the nut in the ice water and see if the skin comes off easily. If not, boil the nuts for another minute or so, then take another nut captive. When the skin comes off your test nut easily, add the rest of the nuts to the ice bath and peel with your hands.
Dry the nuts using a paper towel or a kitchen cloth. If you want to toast the nuts, heat the oven to 350° F and cook for about 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to about 350° F and spread the nuts in a single layer on a baking pan. Bake for about 15 minutes, stirring or shaking every five minutes, until the nuts are fragrant and brown with papery skins.
Remove the pan from the oven and let the nuts sit until they’re cool enough to handle.
Rub the nuts between two sacrificial kitchen towels. The skins will come off with the friction of the towels, leaving clean, toasted nuts (and blackened towels). Try to turn down any obessive compulsive tendencies at this point: It’s normal for a small amount of skin to remain.
To blanch whole almonds, bring a pot of water to a boil. Let the water boil for 1 to 2 minutes, then add the raw almonds and boil for one minute (no longer or your almonds will start to cook and soften!).
Drain the almonds immediately and rinse with cold water. Blot the nuts dry with a paper towel -- their skins should be shrively. Use your fingers to squeeze and loosen the skin, just like you did with the hazelnuts.
Photos by James Ransom