HOW TO BLANCH ALMONDS AND HAZELNUTS

Blanched Almonds & HazelnutsWhile 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.

BLANCHING ALMONDS

almond3Cooking: 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 Blanched Almondsbetween 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.

BLANCHING HAZELNUTS

hazelnutThe 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.

Peeling: Then, keeping the towel closed, rub the nuts like the dickens, rubbing firmly for a Blanched hazelnutsfull minute or two. You can also use a rolling motion while pressing firmly down on the nuts.

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.

TASTE THE OMG PIE OF THE HOLIDAY SEASON!

Apricot Date Hazelnut Sticky Pie 1APRICOT, DATE, AND HAZELNUT STICKY PIE

Everyone has a favorite dessert they love to serve guests at a festive holiday meal. For some, it’s good, old-fashioned apple pie with plenty of cinnamon, for others it a rich, crunchy pecan pie. Some cling to cheesecake, while others just love a moist, two-layer dark chocolate cake topped with chocolate frosting.

For me, the OMG dessert of the season (actually, there are several) is this awesome creation I assembled and served several years ago. Everyone loved it–said it was a keeper, their favorite dessert, the best dessert they ever tasted, couldn’t get enough of it, etc.! Reviews don’t get much better than that! So, naturally, I kept it and am excited about sharing it.

Something new I can add to the list of compliments is that this dessert won 1st place in a dessert contest at Melissas.com. Actually, it was a 3-way tie for 1st place and I was one of the top three.

Sticky Pie side

For that even when I needed 30 servings, I doubled the recipe and prepared it in a 9 x 13-inch pan. I pressed only one recipe of the crust  mixture into the bottom of the pan.

Sticky Pie close up 2

So what’s the big deal–why all the fuss? It’s just simply a great tasting pie with an exceptionally appealing texture and encompasses all the good stuff the holiday season has to offer.

And, really, any time you join together dried fruit, like raisins, dates, cranberries, and apricots, you’ve combined the seductive elements of an exceptional sweet treat. But, then, mingle the merry makings of those four fruits with the crunchy, roasted, chunky nuts, spice them up, bind them with a magical medley of sweeteners, and voila!–a stunning pie for the festive holiday!

The pleasantly chewy texture of the pie is reminiscent of nougat, so be sure to use a firm, serrated knife to cut into servings. You’ll need to apply a little muscle when cutting into the pie because of its very firm, and rather sticky nature. It’s quite sweet and rich, so thin slices are best–and that makes the dessert go a little farther.

I’ve actually gotten 12 serving from this pie for several reasons. First, after a large meal, the guests are too full for big servings. Second, because the pie is super sweet, small servings are very satisfying. And, third, so many people are watching the waistlines, they’re happy to be served a small piece.

It’s also the perfect make-ahead dessert that keeps well in the refrigerator for up to five days. This is one dessert that’s a dinner host’s dream because there’s no last minute fuss and everyone loves it. For the best results, bring the pie to room temperature before serving.

For best results, make the pie a day or two ahead, cover it with plastic wrap, and refrigerate it. Then, bring the pie to room temperature several hours before serving. Refrigerating the pie adds a touch of needed moisture, while bringing it to room temperature makes it easier to cut.

 Apricot Date Hazelnut Sticky Pie pieceAPRICOT, DATE, AND HAZELNUT STICKY PIE

 Yield: 1 (9-inch) pie; 8 to 12 servings

1 recipe Oatmeal Crumb Crust (recipe below)

1 1/2 cups blanched hazelnuts (See How to Blanch Hazelnuts)Apricot, Date, and Hazelnut Sticky Pie 2

3/4 cup toasted pecans (I used Melissa’s pecans)

 

1 cup golden raisins (I used Melissa’s)

3/4 cup diced dates

2/3 cup diced dried apricots (I used Melissa’s)

1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries (I used Melissa’s)

1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon minced orange or lemon zest

1/8 teaspoon salt

 

1 cup brown rice syrup

1/4 cup organic sugar

1/4 cup maple syrup

1/3 cup tapioca flour

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice

1/2 teaspoon maple extract

 

Prepare the Oatmeal Crumb Crust and set aside.

To make the filling, pour the blanched hazelnuts into a heavy-duty ziplock bag, place the bag on a cutting board, and use a hammer to gently break the nuts into coarse pieces. Transfer the hazelnuts to a large bowl. Break the pecans into pieces and add them to the hazelnuts.

Add the raisins, dates, apricots, cranberries, cinnamon, orange zest, and salt to the nuts and toss well to distribute the ingredients evenly.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Combine the brown rice syrup, organic sugar, and maple syrup in a 2-quart saucepan. Add the tapioca flour and stir well with a wooden spoon until the flour is completely incorporated. Set aside for 5 minutes to allow the tapioca flour to absorb some of the moisture.

Bring the syrup mixture to a boil over medium heat. Boil for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir the lime juice and maple extract into the syrup mixture and mix well.

Pour the syrup into the fruit-nut mixture and stir and mix thoroughly to coat all the ingredients. (The mixture will be very thick and sticky, and combining it completely will likely take the place of your daily workout.)

Spoon the filling into the prepared crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool for 4 to 6 hours to set completely. To store, cover the pie with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Bring the pie to room temperature before serving.

Oatmeal Crumb Crust

 Yield: Makes 1 (9-inch) pie crust

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

3/4 cup walnuts

4 1/2 tablespoons canola oil

3 tablespoons organic sugar

3 tablespoons maple syrup

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

3/4 teaspoon salt

Pour the oats into a food processor. Pulse 15 to 20 times. Add the walnuts, oil, sugar, syrup, lemon juice, and salt. Process until the mixture becomes a fine, crumbly meal and holds together when pinched. Scrape down the workbowl as needed. If needed, add 1 tablespoon of water to help the mixture hold together.

Spoon the mixture into a 9 or 10-inch pie pan and press it firmly and evenly into the bottom and up the sides of the pan with your fingers. Press on the edges to firm.

Sticky Pie Melissa's

 

A HOMESPUN DESSERT–DELICIOUS AND FESTIVE!!!

Hazelnut Cranberry Bread PuddingHAZELNUT-CRANBERRY BREAD PUDDING

To some, an old-fashioned bread pudding may not seem special enough to serve guests at a festive holiday meal. But they haven’t tasted THIS delicious bread pudding. Admittedly, it’s still a simple dessert, but with the addition of fresh cranberries and fresh pears, spiced to the max and sweetened just right to take the tart edge off the cranberries, it will taste just as elegant as any fussy dessert.

Add a ladle full of rich, creamy Crème Anglaise to each serving and who wouldn’t love this dessert that’s a bit old-fashioned, but never outdated.

And with plenty of servings for a large gathering, this colorful, homespun dessert delivers Vegan Holidays lowrespleasing bursts of juicy, divinely sweet and tart flavors with each delicious spoonful. Credit the blend of tasty fruits that are so special to this cold-weather season. Many people think of bread pudding as comfort food–I call it just plain delicious! And it just so happens to be one of the tasty recipes in my Vegan for the Holidays cookbook, a cookbook packed with autumn and winter recipes perfect to carry you through the whole holiday season.

This dessert is a good keeper, so you can actually prepare it as much as two days ahead and keep it refrigerated until shortly before you’re ready to serve.

To spoil your guests completely, bring the bread pudding to room temperature and gently warm in a 350-degree F. oven for about 15 minutes. Warming the bread pudding has a magical way of elevating the fruity flavors.

If you take the bread pudding directly from the refrigerator, put it in a cold oven. Set the temperature at 350 degrees F. and check the pudding in 15 to 20 minutes to see if it’s gently warmed through. ALTERNATIVELY, you can simply serve the desert at room temperature.

Hazelnut Cranberry Bread PuddingHAZELNUT-CRANBERRY BREAD PUDDING

 Yield: 10 to 12 servings

Bread Pudding

3/4 cup whole blanched hazelnuts or slivered almonds (See How to Blanch Hazelnuts)

8 slices whole wheat bread

1 pound fresh cranberries

3 large Bosc or Anjou pears, cored, and sliced

1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons brown sugar, firmly packed

1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons water

2 (3-inch) cinnamon sticksHazelnut Cranberry Bread Pudding

3/4 cup golden raisins

1/2 cup vanilla or plain soymilk

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

 

Crème Anglaise

2 cups unsweetened soymilk

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons organic sugar

3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pinch salt

3 tablespoons cornstarch

3 tablespoons water

Fresh mint sprigs

TO MAKE THE BREAD PUDDING, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and lightly oil a 13 x 9-inch baking pan.

Hazelnut Cranberry Bread PuddingPour the hazelnuts into a heavy-duty ziplock bag, place the bag on a cutting board, and use a hammer to gently break them into coarse pieces. Set aside. If using slivered almonds, measure them and set aside.

Break the bread into 1-inch pieces and put them in a very large bowl. Add the cranberries and pears.

Combine the brown sugar, water, and cinnamon sticks in a 2-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Decrease the heat to medium-high and simmer for 5 minutes to create a syrup. Let cool and add it to the bread mixture.

Add the raisins, soymilk, lemon juice, ground cinnamon, and nutmeg and mix well.

Spoon the bread mixture into the prepared baking pan and cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil, and stir the mixture to break up the cranberries. Sprinkle with the chopped hazelnuts, cover with the foil, and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes.

TO MAKE THE CRÈME ANGLAISE, combine the soymilk, sugar, vanilla extract, and salt in a 2-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and decrease the heat to medium.

Combine the cornstarch and water in a small bowl or cup and stir until smooth. Stir the paste into the simmering soymilk mixture a little at a time, stirring constantly for 1 minute, or until slightly thickened. Remove from the heat and let cool. If not using immediately, cover and refrigerate for 8 to 12 hours to firm. Stir gently before using. Tightly covered and refrigerated, Crème Anglaise will keep for 5 days. Makes about 2 1/4 cups.

TO SERVE, spoon the bread pudding into dessert dishes and ladle a generous spoonful of the Crème Anglaise over each serving. The finishing touch is a small sprig of mint to make it look extra special. Pass the remainder of the sauce at the table.