Oh, do we like hazelnuts. Not as much as pecans, or maybe even almonds, but they are tasty. So, imagine a cracker made almost exclusively from hazelnuts. Sounds good, right? We at least have to try it.
This is the last recipe from Ivy Manning’s Crackers & Dips: More than 50 Handmade Snacks, that we made up for the social hour. Besides liking the taste and idea of a hazelnut cracker, we noticed that these crackers are also gluten-free. We don’t really mind for ourselves, but, when you bake for others, it’s nice make something for everyone. If you find the right recipe, it’s often no more trouble, so why not?
Makes 50 crackers
You know what we think about eggs, right? No? Okay, get eggs from free-ranging hens, they taste sooo much better. Also, we always use unsalted butter, and you should too. Why? Do you let strangers salt your food at restaurants? No. Why let them salt your butter?
Procedure in detail:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone baking mats.
Roast hazelnuts. Put the hazelnuts on one of the sheets and roast for 10 to 15 minutes. The skins will crack and they will start to smell even nuttier.
Skin. Peel the skins off the hazelnuts. The skin is bitter, so you want to get rid of it. We find that most of the skins come right off, and rubbing the stubborn ones in a clean dish towel fixes up the rest. Set aside.
Brown butter. This is a skill that we need to work on. Browning butter. Why? It adds lots of flavor! Put the butter in a small skillet over medium heat and let it melt, then sizzle; after that, it will start to brown. Swirl the butter around periodically, and, once the butter is the color of light brown sugar, remove from heat and pour into a small glass bowl to let the milk solids settle.
Grind hazelnuts. Put the hazelnuts, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor, and pulse away. Keep pulsing; it’ll take about thirty 1-second pulses to get the hazelnuts ground. Then stop. Too many pulses and you might end up with hazelnut butter; not a bad thing, just not what we’re making.
Whisk egg and butter. In a small bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons of the browned butter and the egg. The butter should come from the top of the bowl so that there are very few milk solids in it. The remaining browned butter can be discarded — we hate to waste food, so we had squash and pasta in a brown butter sauce that night.
Make dough. Turn on the processor and slowly add the egg-butter mixture. Watch carefully, because before you use all the egg and butter, you’ll have a dough that rides on the blades, and, at that point, you should stop. You won’t use all the egg and butter mixture; just discard the rest. Sorry, we didn’t use those leftovers, but perhaps an omelet?
Roll out. Take about half of the dough, place it between two sheets of plastic wrap, and roll out to a thickness of 1/16-inch. Don’t worry, this dough is very soft and it should roll out easily.
Cut. Cut squares about 2 inches on a side, transfer them carefully to the prepared baking sheets, and slide them in the oven.
Bake. Let the crackers bake for about 15 minutes, or until they begin to brown around the edges and are firm to the touch. While baking, they will foam up a little as the oils from the hazelnuts are released. Don’t worry, it’ll go away.
Cool. Transfer to a rack and cool to room temperature. Place in an airtight container for storing.
Surprisingly, these crackers only had a mild hazelnut flavor, and, while they were pretty good, we wouldn’t consider them good enough to make again. Instead, we’d be more inclined to make something that really brings out the taste of hazelnuts, such as the Grown-up Nutella or the Chocolate Hazelnut Pie. But, for a gluten-free nut cracker, they weren’t too bad. We’d say three stars.