Every week, baking expert Alice Medrich will be going rogue on Food52 -- with shortcuts, hacks, and game-changing recipes.
Today: Your nutty holiday baked goods will taste better if you follow Alice's three simple rules.
Along with chocolate, nuts are among the superstar ingredients of holiday baking. Here’s a tip sheet for buying, storing, and toasting your own.
1. Buy Nuts in Bulk
Pass up the little packages of nuts in the baking aisle. Buy nuts in bulk from stores that sell plenty, and always taste before you buy. Buy what you can use in a few weeks. Keep nuts in an airtight container in a cool dry place or in the fridge or freezer if you know you won’t be using them.
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2. Chop Nuts Yourself
Whole nuts and large pieces stay fresh longer than little pieces: Even if a recipe calls for chopped nuts, buy whole or large pieces (whole almonds and hazelnuts, walnuts, and pecan halves or halves and pieces) and chop them yourself. (Slivered and sliced almonds are an exception -- not possible to make yourself!)
3. Toast Nuts Yourself (and How)
Freshly roasted nuts taste better than store-bought. Even if a recipe calls for toasted nuts, buy raw nuts and toast them yourself. Here's how:
Spread nuts (before chopping) in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet in a preheated oven (350° F for almonds and hazelnuts, 325° F for pecans and walnuts) for 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the type of nut and whether they are whole, half, sliced, or slivered.
Check the nuts frequently and redistribute them on the pan. Almonds and hazelnuts are done when they are golden brown inside. Pecans and walnuts are done when they are fragrant and lightly colored.
To rub skins from toasted hazelnuts, cool them thoroughly, then rub them together in your hands or in a tea towel, or place them in a large coarse-mesh strainer and run them against the mesh until most of the skins flake off.
Alice's new book Seriously Bitter Sweet is a complete revision of her IACP award-winning Bittersweet, updated for the 54%, 61%, and 72% (and beyond) bars available today. It's packed with tricks, techniques, and answers to every chocolate question, plus 150 seriously delicious recipes -- both savory and sweet.
My career was sparked by a single bite of a chocolate truffle, made by my Paris landlady in 1972. I returned home to open this country’s first chocolate bakery and dessert shop, Cocolat, and I am often “blamed” for introducing chocolate truffles to America. Today I am the James Beard Foundation and IACP award-winning author of ten cookbooks, teach a chocolate dessert class on Craftsy.com, and work with some of the world’s best chocolate companies. In 2018, I won the IACP Award for Best Food-Focused Column (this one!).