In this post we’re going to toast hazelnuts and make a crumb topping with them.
Hazelnuts are not your typical pie ingredient, but they do have a special affinity for pears, figs, and a few other fruits so we use them from time to time, in particular in this crumb topping.
When hazelnuts are used in baking, they’re normally (1) toasted to bring out their rich flavor and (2) skinned to remove their somewhat bitter tasting, paper-like coating. These are two simple steps but you have to be attentive, lest you over-toast them and have to toss $5 worth of nuts in the trash.
Begin by preheating your oven to 350°. Spread your hazelnuts on a rimmed baking sheet – you don’t want them rolling off the sheet – and place them on the center oven rack. Set your timer for 10 minutes.
While the nuts are toasting, spread a clean tea towel on your counter.
After 10 minutes – and about the time you start getting a whiff of hazelnut fragrance – open the door and take a look. Many of the nuts will have blistered skins (like in the photo above) and you will see some darkening of the nut meats. If many of the skins haven’t blistered and the nuts are still light golden, give them another minute or two – no longer. If they look ready, take them out now.
Immediately tilt the nuts onto your tea towel and fold the towel over them for a minute; covering will help steam-separate the skins from the nuts.
After a minute, vigorously rub the nuts inside the towel to remove as much skin as possible (see above.) Transfer them, one at a time, to a bowl, rubbing them individually in your fingers to remove any remaining skin that you can.
Don’t worry if some of the skins simply won’t come off. You always get a few stubborn ones.
And that’s all there is to it. When the nuts have cooled, you can proceed to make this topping.