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A hazelnut, also familiar to many as filbert nut or cob nut, is basically the seed of hazel with a spherical or oval cob that measures 15 to 25 mm longitudinally and 10 to 15 mm diametrically. The nut has an outer husk that’s fibrous and an inner shell that’s smooth textured. These small marble-sized nuts encase the rich, sweet tasting nutmeat within a hard shell. This nut which is produced on a commercial scale in Turkey, Oregon, Washington and Italy, has dark brown, paper thin skin which is often removed before cooking. Filbert is the most popular hazelnut variety which is generally twice in length as it is in diameter. The nut which detaches from its husk when ripe is edible and can be eaten raw, roasted or grounded. These nuts are used as livestock feed and are used in cooking a wide range of delicacies. Some of the best known hazelnut recipes are hazelnut praline, chocolate hazelnut truffles and hazelnut chocolate bars.

History of Hazelnuts

Hazelnut has featured in Chinese cultivation for more than 5000 years. The nut has derived its name from the Anglo-Saxon word “heasel,” which means bonnet or headdress that very much resembles the shape of the nut’s outer shell. These nuts are popularly believed to have originated from Asia Minor, from where, it is thought to have spread to France, Germany, Spain and Italy via Greece. During the 1940s, hazelnuts were imported to U.S, but presently they are grown there commercially. Hazelnuts are often also called filberts, which many believe to be inspired by the St. Philibert's Day, around when the nuts mature. The others believe that the “filbert” word derives its name from the German word “vollbart,” which means full beard and refers to the husked shell of the nut.

Culinary Uses of the Hazelnut Recipes

Hazelnut is mostly used in baking recipes like cakes, breads and cookies. In most of these recipes, the hazelnuts are roasted and then ground before being mixed into the batter of the bakes. Often, the nuts are pressed to produce oil, which is a richly flavored and healthy gourmet cooking oil. Hazelnut oil is not only used for flavoring dishes but also used for making dips and sauces.

Popular Hazelnut Recipes

The best known hazelnut recipes come in the form of desserts and bakes. Side dish items using hazelnuts are not many in number. The popular bakes are blackberry hazelnut cookies, chocolate hazelnut torte, hazelnut loaf cake and hazelnut meringue, all of which use the nut in roasted and grounded form. Some also use the nut extract. The nut is also used in frozen desserts like the Italian gelato. The hazelnut roasted pears recipe uses the liqueur of hazelnut with roasted chopped nuts.

Cuisines Using Hazelnut Recipes

Hazelnut recipes are most popular in the American, Turkish and Italian cuisines. In America, hazelnut is often used in baking cakes and cookies like the hazelnut lace cookies and chocolate-hazelnut torte. The Americans also combine the filbert nut with other ingredients as stuffing to chicken dishes and one such popular example is chicken breasts with cranberry and hazelnut stuffing. Toasted hazelnut butter is a popular American potpourri. The Italians mostly use this nut in desserts and dips. Some popular Italian hazelnut recipes are chocolate-hazelnut spread, hazelnut gelato and chocolate hazelnut biscotti.

Preferable Cooking Methods for Hazelnuts

Hazelnut is pressed to produce gourmet oil which is considered very healthy and flavorful and thus, a little amount of oil in cooking can bring out excellent results. However, the oil should be warmed in the least heat possible to retain its maximum aroma. The oil should be used at the last step in the preparation of sauces. To get the maximum flavor from the hazelnut recipes, the nuts should be roasted and cooled before being used in cooking in the chopped or ground forms.

Nutritive Value of Hazelnuts

Hazelnut is a rich storehouse of unsaturated fat and protein, which automatically makes it a super healthy nut. The nut is also rich in vitamin B6 and thiamine, with trace amounts of other B complex vitamins, folic acid and vitamin E. The nut also contains carbohydrates, fiber and beta-sitosterol. Hazelnuts are considered effective in keeping the body and heart muscles healthy. These nuts are also good for the normal functioning of reproductive organs and RBC. Regular consumption of healthy cob nut dishes can also prevent cancer, anemia and heart diseases.

Hazelnut Buying and Storing Tips

When purchasing hazelnuts, pick up a nut and shake it. If there is a rattling noise within the shell that indicates moisture-less, stale nut. The shells of the nuts should not have holes or cracks. Unshelled hazelnut does not store more than a month. Shelled hazelnuts can be refrigerated for up to 4 months or frozen for up to a year. If the nut has been pressed to oil, it can be stored in the refrigerator where it will last for up to 3 months.

Ingredients Related to Hazelnuts

Turkish hazelnuts shouldn’t be confused with the wild hazelnut of Turkey, which is not used as a food but as a rootstock.

Hazelnuts Trivia

The hazelnut is the official state nut of Oregon, U.S.