While it’s always best to eat the whole nuts and enjoy the benefits of their high fiber and high levels of antioxidants, some recipes call for blanched nuts, that is, nuts with their skins removed. Some call these naked nuts.
I’ll have to admit that sometimes, their bright white appearance adds to the eye appeal of the final dish.
So, here are the easy methods for blanching. Surprisingly, the process is quite different for almonds than it is for hazelnuts. Yet, both are easy, but can be a bit time consuming if you have a large quantity.
Cooking: Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the almonds and boil for 1 minute, then use a slotted spoon to transfer the nuts to a double-thick towel. Fold the towel and enclose the nuts completely. Let them sweat for 1 or 2 minutes.
Alternatively, put the nuts in a deep bowl, and pour boiling water over them to cover. Allow them to stand for 3 to 5 minutes. Then, sweat them in a towel for 1 or 2 minutes.
Peeling: Now, it’s a one-nut-at-a-time peeling project. Hold the wider end of the almond between your thumb and index finger and pinch. The skins should come off easily, with the nut sliding out from the pointed end. Try not to pinch too hard! Too much pressure may send those naked little almonds flying across the room. After a few of these, you’ll begin to judge just how much pressure to apply to the pinch. It’s a patient process–pour yourself a cup of tea and enjoy a few sips between nut pinching.
The old-fashioned method of blanching hazelnuts (removing the skins) was to use a small, firm paring knife and peel the skins off with a pulling motion. But thankfully, some clever chefs have given us a much easier method.
Cooking: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Roast the hazelnuts on a baking sheet for 10 to 12 minutes. Pour the nuts onto a thick, double layer terrycloth towel and seal them up tightly to sweat for about 5 minutes.
It takes a vigorous rubbing. Open the towel and you will see that many, but not all the skins have been rubbed off. Don’t worry about the skins that cling to the nuts–they provide excellent fiber and some antioxidants as well. Some find the speckled nuts quite attractive.
If you want the nuts perfectly clean, put them back in the oven for about 10 minutes and repeat the rubbing to remove the remaining skins.