Hazelnuts are at their sweetest right now. Crack them open, roast them, rub off the skins and then make this sublime spread for breakfast
I don't often think of nuts having a specific season. They are so readily available all year around, roasted, salted, and stored. But of course, specific nuts have a specific season. Anyone who has eaten an old rancid hazelnut, bitter and awful in the mouth, can compare it to the world away taste of a fresh hazelnut, which is so creamy and sweet. Store hazelnuts in the refrigerator for the freshest taste.
New season hazelnuts are currently being harvested in alpine Victoria, and should be available at farmers markets, or direct from the supplier. Mount Buffalo hazelnut farm were kind enough to send us some of their freshly harvested crop. Some of the nuts were still in their filigree, lime green flower husks, the golden dusky nut at their heart. As they dried the nuts fell from the filigree and we cracked and roasted the kernels. Of course you can and should buy new season, pre-cracked and roasted nuts, but there is something deeply beautiful about a bowl of nuts still in their shells, and deeply therapeutic about the cracking process.
If you are roasting the raw nuts, they should take around 10 to 15 minutes at 180C. Make sure once they're out of the oven, that you rub off the brown skins as these can be bitter. It's easy to do using a clean tea towel, rubbing the nuts between the cloth. The skins come off much easier when the nuts are still warm.
This hazelnut and chocolate spread is a perfect way to use these new season hazelnuts, and has a much stronger taste than a commercially produced spread. The taste of the nuts holds its own against the dark chocolate.
Spread on a fresh croissant or a baguette for breakfast.
Chocolate hazelnut spread
200g whole, roasted almonds, with skin peeled
400ml full cream milk
2 tbsp honey
Pinch of salt
300g good quality dark chocolate, chopped
Warm the milk, honey and salt until it comes to simmering point. Stir. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Melt the chocolate in a clean, dry bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Stir the chocolate until it's smooth and glossy.
Grind your hazelnuts in a food processor, stick blender attachment, or mortar and pestle until they are as fine as possible. You want to get as close to a paste as possible. When it starts to look like hazelnut butter it's ready. This may take some time. Add the melted chocolate to the nuts and continue to process (removing to a separate bowl if you're using the mortar and pestle or stick blender attachment, and stir). Once smooth, add the warm milk and process until everything is smooth and well combined.
Jar the hazelnut paste and refrigerate until ready to use. It will spread better at room temperature, so remove from the fridge half an hour or so before you're ready to use it.
The perfect use ... chocolate hazelnut spread. Photograph: Lauren Bamford
Golden and dusky ... hazelnuts. Photograph: Lauren Bamford
Spread on baguette for the perfect breakfast: chocolate hazelnut spread. Photograph: Lauren Bamford