Sunday, May 26, 2013

Fresh hazelnut cream (dairy-free)

Hazelnuts are quite possibly my favorite nut. They remind me of old Europe, where they were cultivated and used in cooking throughout time. Most people I know who've traveled to Europe will readily mention the way that history seems to permeate everything there, from the old stone buildings to the ancient twisting trees. Everything looks like how fairy tales are set in your head. And I don't know why, but the little round nuts look to me as if they fell straight off of old tree on the skirts of a European forest and were packaged up and sent straight to me. I guess it sounds weird when I say it out loud, but I can't help but be enchanted by anything that reminds me of another age.

But hazelnuts can be quite enchanting in and of themselves! The flavor has such a unique heaviness. What's more, they're very rarely used in American cuisine, making their flavor seem exotic to me whenever I taste it. When I started making nut milks, hazelnuts seemed like an obvious choice... but you could never guess radiance of the aha! moment I had when I realized I could make not only hazelnut milk, but also hazelnut cream. You see, in the process of making nut milks, you can control the amount of water in the finished product. To make a nut cream, all you have to do is use about a fourth of the water you would normally use, and voilĂ , cream!

This recipe could be used to replace heavy cream in many different kinds of recipes, but I love to use it as a coffee creamer. I add about a tablespoon of honey and a dash of nutmeg to the recipe below, and the result was nearly exactly like a sweetened coffeemate creamer. Whether you're trying to remove cow's milk from your diet or not, I think this recipe is definitely worth trying for its own sake. Believe me, it will shock you how much like cream it is. If you give it a go, let me know what you think!

Fresh hazelnut cream

1 cup raw hazelnuts
1 cup water
1 tbsp honey or other sweetener (optional)
dash cinnamon or nutmeg (optional)

Soak hazelnuts in water for 6 hours or overnight. If you can, agitate the nuts occasionally as they tend to float. Drain soaking water.

Place hazelnuts, 1 cup of fresh water, spices, and sweetener (if using) in a blender or food processor. Blend until hazelnuts are of a very fine consistency. Pour mixture through a nut milk bag, cheesecloth, or fine mesh sieve and collect fresh cream in a bowl or jar. (If you can, save the nut pulp for use in other recipes -- you can dehydrate it and make a meal, or mix it into porridge.)

Store hazelnut cream in the refrigerator in an airtight jar. Be sure to report back here to tell me what recipes you use it in!

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