Q: What’s the best way to toast nuts?
— Jean Hull, Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich.
A: You can toast nuts by roasting them in the oven or toaster oven or in a dry skillet. You can toast nuts in the microwave, too. But I find that latter method, although good in a pinch, doesn’t produce as intense a nut flavor. And that’s the goal of toasting nuts, to intensify their flavor.
The important thing to remember when toasting nuts is that you need to watch them carefully. It’s not a set-it-and-forget-it thing. Because of the oil in nuts, they can easily burn. And some nuts, like sliced or slivered almonds, toast a lot quicker than others.
To toast the nuts, spread them out in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Don’t use a cookie sheet without sides because you run the risk of the nuts sliding off.
Place the nuts in a 350-degree oven; preheat if you like, but it’s not necessary.
Roast shelled, whole nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts) about 8 minutes. Once the nuts start becoming aromatic, check to see if they are done. Look at their color; they should be a few shades darker than their original color. Sliced or slivered almonds, pine nuts and skinned hazelnuts should be a nice golden or honey color.
Once the nuts are toasted, remove them from the oven and immediately transfer them to a separate plate to cool before chopping them or using them in a recipe. If you leave the nuts on the hot baking sheet, they can continue to toast and burn.
Using a toaster oven is one of my favorite ways to toast a small amount of nuts. I place them on a sheet of foil and pop them in for about 6-8 minutes, depending on the nuts.
If you choose to toast them in a skillet, use a large skillet set over medium heat. This will take a few minutes, but you will need to shake the pan while toasting to prevent the nuts from burning.
If using a microwave, spread the nuts on a microwave-safe plate or shallow dish. Microwave on 100 percent power about 2 to 3 minutes. The nuts will be fragrant.
Toasting skin-on hazelnuts and pistachios is a great way to remove the skins. Use the same oven temperature to toast them for the same time. But when you remove them from the oven, place them on a clean kitchen towel and use the towel to rub the skins off.
When using toasted nuts in place of untoasted in recipes, use half the amount called for. For example, if a bread recipe calls for 1 cup of untoasted walnuts, you can use 1/2 cup toasted. But in recipes for baked goods like cookies, you may not want to toast the nuts and use less because the nuts won’t be as visible.
Most nuts, untoasted or toasted, chopped or whole, will keep several months in an airtight container in the refrigerator. They can be frozen for about one year for best quality.
Try this recipe for Pumpkin-Pecan Streusel Pie. Toasted pecans are rolled into the crust (using store-bought crust is just fine) and in the streusel. It’s an easy spin on traditional pumpkin pie.
PUMPKIN-PECAN STREUSEL PIE
Serves: 8 servings / Preparation time: 25 minutes / Total time: 1 hour, 45 minutes
Vegetable cooking spray
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
½ package refrigerated pie crust (1 crust)
3 tablespoons finely chopped toasted pecans
1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin
1¼ cups half-and-half
½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
¼ teaspoon table salt
PECAN STREUSEL TOPPING
1½ cups pecan halves and pieces
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup butter, melted
½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
Toasted pecan halves
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat a 9-inch pie plate with cooking spray; set aside. Sprinkle the work surface with powdered sugar. Unroll pie crust and place on powdered sugar-prepared surface. Sprinkle pie crust with chopped pecans. Place a piece of wax paper over pie crust and pecans, and lightly roll pecans into crust. Fit pie crust, pecan side up, into the prepared pie plate.
Fold edges under and crimp.
In a large bowl, whisk together pumpkin, half-and-half, brown sugar, eggs, flour, pumpkin pie spice and salt until smooth and well incorporated; pour into prepared piecrust. Bake the pie for 45 minutes, covering edges with foil after 20 minutes, if needed, to prevent excessive browning.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, stir together all Pecan Streusel ingredients and set aside.
Carefully top pie with Pecan Streusel Topping. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees and bake 25 minutes more, covering pie with foil after 5 to 10 minutes to prevent excessive browning. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack. Cool pie completely, about 2 hours before slicing and serving.
From Southern Living Magazine, November 2015 issue. Tested by Susan Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen. Nutrition information not available.
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