“Training is everything. The peach was once a bitter almond; cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education.” Mark Twain
It is all too easy to overlook the simplest of ingredients, particularly those easily taken for granted, and pushed to sidelines by their exotic counterparts. Of the great variety of nuts out there, hazelnuts were always in abundance, as far as I can remember.
A hazelnut tree growing at the edge of our garden was to blame, every autumn delivering plenty of these gems, only back then they didn’t seem like gems to me. They were just another “thing” coming from our garden, lost in the variety of berries and fruits, and never truly appreciated.
However, these little nuts take the laurels for some of the most fascinating things to ever reach us. Think nutella, a chocolaty hazelnut spread, winning over hearts at every turn. Then there are most wonderful pralines, crunchy and bursting with flavour, chocolate and hazelnuts cakes, tarts, one could even say, hazelnuts and chocolate were created having each other in mind.
But the beauty and versatility of hazelnuts does not end here, there are but endless possibilities on what can be done with them, with a little imagination at hand.
Hazelnut milk is one of those rare, but wonderful treats, undeservingly trailing far behind in popularity to almond milk. While the subtle taste of almonds often mellows out and can be barely felt once milk is made, hazelnuts on the other hand, hold their flavour grounds firmly, and if the milk is made thick, cream like, it’s more of a dessert than just a casual nut milk.
There are two basic approaches for making almond milk, each with their own benefits and downfalls.
- One way to make hazelnut milk is to soak the hazelnuts in water overnight, then blend and strain, resulting in a raw hazelnut milk.
- The second option is to roast hazelnuts in the oven for 5-10 minutes, then blend them with water and strain, resulting in roasted hazelnut milk.
Raw vs roasted
Obviously roasting brings out deeper and intensive flavour in nuts, but there are theories out there, saying that roasting nuts will result in their healthy oils turning rancid, hence would make them less healthy than raw nuts.
You can sweeten hazelnut milk with either with sugar, honey or dates. I’d recommend choosing sugar as a last resort, believe it or not, honey and dates work better here.
Cocoa nibs can also be added while blending, and you’ll have a delicious chocolate hazelnut milk. Here you can add a frozen banana, a bit of orange juice (and chia seeds if you feel like being healthy) et voila, a smoothie for breakfast or afternoon break.
Why do you need to soak nuts?
Nuts contain something called enzyme inhibitors in their skins, which are there to protect the nut from the environment until it’s in the conditions to grow. However, these enzyme inhibitors can also slow down the digestive system and the best way to remove them is by soaking.
On the matter of soaking, did you know that you could just soak oats overnight and have them ready to eat in the morning? No cooking needed?
I didn’t… until recently, but it’s a good option for when you’re in a hurry and have no time to cook, also some say it’s healthier this way, as cooking takes away some of the good qualities of oats.
I suppose this could be called porridge of some sort, or rather soaked oats. No cooking involved, just your regular old-fashioned oats soaked in chocolate hazelnut milk overnight. Soaking oats overnight results in a chewy texture, which is surprisingly nice, but for an additional crunch add fresh fruit, nuts or make caramelised banana and hazelnut topping. This last part does spoil a bit the otherwise healthy nature of this dish, but it’s perfectly descent to have on weekends.
What to do with remaining pulp?
Just don’t throw it away! That would be a painful and unnecessary wasting of a great ingredient.
You can spread it on a baking sheet and leave it for 2-3 hours in the oven on the lowest setting to dry out completely, and you’ll have hazelnut flour, which can be now used in pancakes, cakes, cookies and all sort of sweet things like these hazelnut banana bars. There’s an apple in there too. Somewhere.
They are very soft, full of flavor and most of all healthy! Enjoy!
- 1 cup hazelnuts, soaked overnight or roasted in 180C oven for 5-10 minutes
- 5 dates, pitted and soaked in hot water for 5 minutes
- ⅓ vanilla bean
- 2 -3 cups water
- In a blender whiz together hazelnut, dates and vanilla with water (start with 2 cups and add more depending on taste).
- Let it stand for 10-15 minutes to infuse, then strain through a double cheesecloth.
- It will keep in a fridge for about 3 days.
- Note: you can make chocolate hazelnut milk by adding 2 tablespoons of cocoa nibs when blending.
- 250 ml chocolate hazelnut milk (1 cup)
- 1 frozen banana (2 hours in a freezer are enough)
- 1 orange juice
- 1 tablespoon chia seeds (optional)
- Note: if you don’t have ready made chocolate hazelnut milk, add 1 tablespoon of cocoa nibs when blending.
- In a blender combine all ingredients and blend till smooth. Serve immediately.
- 60 grams (a bit more than ½ cup of oats)
- 1½ cups hazelnut milk (you can also use dairy, almond, soy or rice milk)
- 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
- A small handful of hazelnuts
- 1-2 teaspoons honey
- 1 banana, sliced
- Mix hazelnut milk with cocoa powder, cover and place in the fridge for the night.
- Before serving allow to come to room temperature, or if in a hurry warm it up in a pan just till it’s no longer cold. If the oats absorbed all the milk, add more milk, divide between two bowls.
- In a deep sauce pan, toast the hazelnuts on high heat for 2-3 minutes, stir in the honey, shaking the pan until it starts to caramelize (about a minute or two).
- Stir in banana slices, coat them in caramel and top chocolate oats. Serve immediately.
- 1 cup hazelnut pulp
- 2 very ripe bananas
- 1 apple, peeled and cored
- 2 tablespoons honey
- ½ orange juice
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- pinch of salt
- ½ cup rolled oats
- 2 tablespoons flax seeds
- Note: If your bananas aren’t ripe, leave them in the oven on the lowest setting for 1 hour, they’ll come out black, but completely ripe on the inside.
- Heat the oven to 180C.
- In a food processor combine bananas and apple and whiz until you have a smooth paste.
- Add all the ingredients except for oats and flax seeds and whiz for another 30 seconds. Finally, stir in oats and flax seeds.
- Spread on a baking sheer lined with baking parchment and bake for 20-25 minutes.