Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Candied Hazelnuts

Hazelnuts, also called filberts, are an Oregon specialty. According to Wikipedia the nut producing trees are found all over Europe, Turkey, and the Caucasus, but Oregon is one of the top hazelnut producers in the United States.
Hazelnut fields are absolutely beautiful. Trees are planted in a grid form, so as you drive or walk by there are shaded "halls" between the trees which go as far as your eye can see. It is my favorite part of driving to the Willamette Valley wine country.

Last week, Justin and I stumbled upon a huge bin of local hazelnuts on sale. Neither of us eat a lot of nuts. Justin is picky about them, and I think I am slightly allergic, but I couldn't pass them up.

This morning the nuts were calling for me to do something with them. I decided to try my hand at a candied nut.
After making a paste of powdered sugar, salt and water roll the nuts in it until they are covered. These are then popped into the oven for a few minutes until the sugar becomes dark and caramelized. Whatever you do, NO NOT PICK UP A HOT CANDIED NUT, even if it falls on the floor and your furry organic vaccum cleaner is diving for it too. I have 2 large blisters on my thumb and pointer finger. But, the pug is fine.

Candied, Salted Hazelnuts
2 cups of whole or halved hazelnuts
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt

Parchment paper is also helpful.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a medium bowl rinse off the hazelnuts and drain most of the water. Dump the sugar and a teaspoon of salt on top of the nuts. Using your hands mix it all up until the sugar forms a sticky paste that is coating the nuts. Spread the nuts on a rimmed cookie sheet.

Bake for 8 minutes. Then carefully stir the nuts and sugar. If the sugar is not dark and bubbling put it back in the oven for another 5-8 minutes.

When done, carefully stir the mix again, and then while still hot spread the nuts onto the parchment paper. Please be careful, molten sugar is dangerous!
Sprinkle the rest of the salt over the nuts and let cool.

When cool wrap up in pretty paper and give to friends and neighbors or mail it to the poor folks that don't live in hazelnut country!

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