Link to original article: http://www.chicagotribune.com/dining/foodfocus/sc-food-hazelnut-flour-italian-1006-story.html
Amy BizzarriChicago Tribune
In autumn, hazel trees dress up in their best fall colors, then begin to drop their precious nuts, one by one, onto the orchard ground below. That makes hazelnuts one of the easiest crops to gather: Farmers wait for them to fall, then collect them with low-to-the-ground sweeping machines.
It’s a sight seen all over Italy, which boasts the world’s second largest production. No surprise there, as Italians are nuts about hazelnuts, using them in many traditional dishes, from hand-rolled hazelnut flour fettuccine to hazelnut pesto, not to mention a little chocolate and hazelnut spread that has knocked peanut butter off toast the world over.
In northern Italy, nutrient-rich hazelnut flour, made from grinding the nuts, replaces white flour in both salty and sweet dishes, especially in the gourmand paradise that is the region of Piedmont. The Tonda Gentile del Piemonte (literally, “round noble from Piedmont”), also known as the nocciola Piemonte boasts a protected geographical indication (PGI or IGP). This special status highlights the Italian love of hazelnuts.
Nocciola Piemonte pairs well with chocolate and is best known for its appearance in gianduja, the traditional, creamy chocolate and hazelnut spread. Invented by a chocolatier from Turin in the late 1700s, the decadent spread was later popularized by Nutella, which was crafted from the original gianduja recipe by Pietro Ferraro, a baker from Alba, Piedmont, in 1963.
Here in the U.S., hazelnuts are a highlight of the autumnal harvest in Oregon, where 800 small farms along the length of the Willamette Valley, from Roseburg into Washington, produce 99.9 percent of the U.S. hazelnut crop.
“Oregon boasts the perfect climate for growing hazelnuts,” explains Troy Johnson, chair of the Oregon Hazelnut Board. “The temperate ocean, mountain and river climates, together with the rich volcanic soils, produce hazelnuts that are large in size and rich in flavor.” Indeed, Oregon’s hazelnuts are bigger than their Italian cousins.
Whether you purchase it ready-made or grind your own, hazelnut flour offers a fiber-rich, gluten-free, grain-free flour option that’s lower in carbohydrates than white flour. It’s also packed with nutrients, including potassium, while the skins are high in folates and proanthocyanidin, a flavonoid beneficial to cardiovascular health, says Johnson.
If you’re looking to add richness and a nutty texture to your baked goods, replace 50 percent of the flour in your recipe with hazelnut flour. Sarah House, innovation chef of Bob’s Red Mill, which grinds its hazelnut flour from whole hazelnuts grown by local Oregon farmers, also suggests stirring hazelnut meal into your hot cereals, breading chicken or fish with it, and adding it to your favorite smoothie to boost nutrition.
To make your own hazelnut flour, follow the directions below, then use it in one of these traditional Italian dishes. Your house will smell like fall as you work, and the flavors will transport you to Italy.
Amy Bizzarri is a freelance writer.
How to make hazelnut flour
You can find both whole hazelnuts and hazelnut flour at several area grocers, including some Whole Foods and Treasure Island stores. Bob’s Red Mill and Amoretti both produce excellent hazelnut flours, which can be found online at amazon.com. Freddy Guys, a family-run hazelnut orchard in Oregon's Willamette Valley, sells orchard-fresh hazelnuts as well as hazelnut flour and oils at freddyguys.com.
Spread whole hazelnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake at 250 degrees for 20 minutes. Hazelnut skins add nutrients and fiber, but if you prefer a finer flour, remove the skins by wrapping the warm hazelnuts in a dish towel and rubbing vigorously until the skins peel off. Allow the nuts to cool completely.
Grind the cooled toasted nuts in a food processor fitted with a steel blade until it has the consistency of cornmeal. Be careful not to overgrind, or your hazelnut meal will transform into hazelnut butter.
Fettuccine fresca alla nocciola
(aka hazelnut flour fettuccine)
Prep: 1 hour
Cook: 3-5 minutes
Makes: 4 servings
This autumnal take on classic hand-rolled pasta is richer and more nutritious than flour-based doughs and pairs well with creamy sauces, especially those featuring mushrooms. Double zero flour, or 00 flour, can be found in some Italian specialty markets and cooking supply stores. All-purpose flour can sub.
1 3/4 cups 00 flour (or all-purpose flour)
1 cup hazelnut flour
1 tablespoon finely grated Parmesan
Semolina, for dusting
1 Combine the 00 flour, hazelnut flour and Parmesan in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a blade attachment. Pulse a few times to combine.
2 Add the eggs, and process for 30-60 seconds until the dough forms a rough ball. If the dough remains dry, add cold water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and process between each addition until it forms a rough ball.
3 Knead the dough on a lightly floured wooden surface into a smooth ball. Divide the dough into four equal portions. Allow to rest, wrapped in plastic wrap, 30 minutes.
4 Flatten each dough portion into a thick disk; work with one disk at a time while keeping the others wrapped. Feed the disk through a pasta machine set to the thickest setting several times until smooth, folding the sheet like an envelope between each round, and dusting lightly with 00 flour if wet. On the last time through, do not fold the sheet. Lower the setting to the next lowest and roll the pasta through two or three times; dust lightly with flour as needed. Continue until you reach desired thickness.
5 Run the sheet through your pasta machine's fettuccine cutter. Toss the finished fettuccine lightly with semolina to keep them from sticking together; allow to rest on a baking sheet dusted with more semolina. Repeat with remaining dough disks.
6 Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add fettuccine to the boiling water; cook until tender, 3-4 minutes. Drain. Toss with your favorite creamy sauce.
Nutrition information per serving: 425 calories, 21 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 94 mg cholesterol, 47 g carbohydrates, 2 g sugar, 13 g protein, 60 mg sodium, 4 g fiber
Prep: 10 minutes
Makes: 4 to 6 servings
Replacing pine nuts with hazelnuts creates a fall take on the Genovese classic.
1/2 cup hazelnut flour
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, packed
1/4 cup fresh Italian flat parsley, packed
2 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, or more to taste
1 Place hazelnut flour, Parmesan, basil, parsley, garlic and salt to taste in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade attachment. Pulse until chopped finely.
2 With motor running, slowly drizzle in 3 tablespoons olive oil until fully incorporated. For a more fluid pesto, add more olive oil, 1 tablespoon at a time, until you achieve desired consistency.
3 Use to coat 1 pound of cooked pasta. Keeps in the refrigerator in a sealed container, with the pesto surface covered with a thin layer of olive oil, for a few days. Or frozen for a couple of months.
Nutrition information per serving (for 6 servings): 150 calories, 14 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 6 mg cholesterol, 3 g carbohydrates, 0 g sugar, 3 g protein, 122 mg sodium, 1 g fiber
Hazelnut biscotti dipped in dark chocolate
Prep: 20 minutes
Cool: 1 hour
Cook: 40 minutes
Makes: about 3 dozen
Ideal for dipping in a cappuccino, these classic biscotti feature the quintessential pairing of dark chocolate and hazelnuts.
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups hazelnut flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped hazelnuts
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
4 ounces bittersweet baking chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon butter
1 Heat the oven to 325 degrees. In a large mixing bowl or stand mixer, mix eggs, honey, butter and vanilla until well blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together the hazelnut and all-purpose flours, chopped hazelnuts, baking soda and salt.
2 Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture and stir until the ingredients are thoroughly combined. Form the dough into two flat loaves, each about 10 inches long and 1-inch high.
3 Bake on a parchment-lined cookie sheet until lightly browned, 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, place on a rack to cool, about 1 hour. Reduce the oven temperature to 250 degrees.
4 When the loaves have cooled enough to handle, slice into 1/2-inch pieces with a serrated knife. Place the slices on the baking sheet and return to the oven for an additional 20 minutes.
5 For the dipping chocolate: In the microwave or in a heatproof bowl over a pan of boiling water, stir and melt the chocolate and butter together until melted and combined. When the biscotti have cooled, dip the top halves in the melted chocolate. Set them chocolate side up on parchment paper or on wire racks until cool.
Nutrition information per cookie: 142 calories, 11 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 18 mg cholesterol, 10 g carbohydrates, 5 g sugar, 3 g protein, 104 mg sodium, 2 g fiber
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 5 minutes
Makes: 4 cups
Gianduja, Nutella’s grandfather, is richer and more decadent than his popular grandson.
2 cups whole, roasted hazelnuts, skin
1/3 cup sugar
1 pound dark chocolate
½ cup butter
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 Grind the hazelnuts and sugar in a food processor fitted with a steel blade attachment until it turns into a creamy hazelnut butter, about 5 minutes.
2 In the microwave or in a heatproof bowl over a pan of boiling water, stir and melt the dark chocolate and butter together until melted and combined. Pulse the chocolate/butter mixture, followed by the heavy cream, into the hazelnut butter. Add the salt. Process until all the ingredients are combined and smooth, about 1 minute. Do not overmix or the mixture may separate.
3 Transfer to a jar or other seal-able container; allow to cool before serving. Cover and refrigerate for up to 4 weeks.
Nutrition information per tablespoon: 94 calories, 8 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 8 mg cholesterol, 5 g carbohydrates, 3 g sugar, 1 g protein, 46 mg sodium, 1 g fiber