Tree nuts, while high in calories, pack a powerful punch in terms of health benefits. They are high in protein and fiber, as well as vitamins and minerals and various antioxidants like carotenoids and phytosterols. This month we will explore current research into the health benefits offered by various tree nuts while tasting some delicious recipes along the way.
Almonds and hazelnuts have been shown to help lower LDL cholesterol and may help prevent cancer, and this week’s recipe is chock-full of both.
The recipe below was sent to CCSA as part of a series of emails from our resident chef, Dr. Linda Doody. She has been sharing her extensive collection of favorite recipes with friends, family, and the CCSA team as a means of maintaining connections during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Food is everything we are” – Anthony Bourdain
- 1 cup hazelnuts (raw shelled hazelnuts are bland; roasting intensifies their unique flavor. Hazelnuts are also covered in a slightly bitter brown skin that can be difficult to remove. Two methods for skinning them are provided below. Alternatively, you can buy roasted skinned hazelnuts at some stores)
- 1 cup blanched almonds (whole roasted, not blanched, almonds can be substituted
- 1 cup dried figs, chopped
- 1 cup candied orange peel, chopped or cut into strips (dried pear, peach, etc. + 1 Tbsp grated fresh orange or lemon peel can be substituted)
- 3 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon each ground nutmeg and cloves
- ¾ teaspoon ground ginger (some recipes include ground coriander instead)
- ½ to 1 teaspoon white pepper (Optional. From a panforte recipe in Eating Well [September/October 1995]. Some recipes use black pepper instead)
- ½ cup cake flour (the more protein in flour, the more gluten develops. Cake flour from soft wheat has low protein content [7–9%] so is used in soft, tender baked goods. All-purpose flour has moderate protein content [10–12%] from a mixture of soft and hard wheat; the higher gluten adds strength, volume, and elasticity to baked goods)
- ¾ cup sugar
- ¾ cup honey
- 2 Tbsp butter
- Preheat oven to 325°F. Line bottom and sides of an 8-inch springform pan with lightly greased parchment. Place hazelnuts in one baking pan and almonds in another; bake 10 minutes. (Note: Skip this step if roasted nuts are purchased.) Remove nuts from oven and reduce oven temperature to 300°F. Rub the hazelnuts in a clean kitchen towel to remove most of the skins. When cool, coarsely chop nuts and combine with fruit, cocoa, spices, and flour in a large bowl.
- Heat sugar, honey, and butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Cook until syrup registers 242°F–248°F on a candy thermometer. Pour syrup into dry ingredients and mix, working quickly because the batter becomes sticky very fast. Using a dampened spatula, scrape batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 45–50 minutes; cake will not be firm. Place on rack to cool. Remove from pan, remove parchment, and dust with powdered sugar if desired. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
- Notes: Panforte, or “strong bread,” originated in Siena, Italy. Although typically eaten at Christmas, it is commercially available year-round.
- Strangely, the greatest variability between recipes is in the baking time, which varies from 25 to 60 minutes. When done, the top should no longer be sticky; the confection will appear soft but will firm as it cools.
- How to Roast and Skin Hazelnuts
- Toast and rub method
- The Oregon Hazelnut Industry recommends roasting hazelnuts at a lower temperature for a longer time than other nuts. Preheat oven to 275°F. Spread hazelnuts in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and place the sheet in the middle of the oven. Roast the nuts for 15–20 minutes, or until lightly colored. Take care not to over roast since the nuts can scorch quickly. To remove the skins, wrap the warm nuts in a kitchen towel and let them steam 5 to 10 minutes. Rub vigorously in the towel to remove loose skins (do not worry about skins that do not come off) and cool completely.
- Boil, pinch, and roast method (Alice Medrich, Cocolat)
- Bring a saucepan half-filled with water to a boil. Once boiling, add 3 Tbsp baking soda (the pot will bubble up rapidly!), then the raw hazelnuts. Let the nuts boil for 3–4 minutes. The water will turn inky black, and a reddish foam will start to appear on the surface. To check if done, use a slotted spoon to remove one nut and transfer it into a bowl of cold water. The skin should slip off between your fingers as you “pinch” the nut. If not, let the nuts boil for another few seconds and try again. Put the skinned nuts aside to cool and dry completely. Roast the nuts as above until golden brown in color; they should have a rich nutty flavor with no bitterness.
Adapted from Il Talismano Della Felicita (Ada Boni) by the San Francisco Chronicle (1995)